Beginner Word of the Day – 山 [mountain]

Beginner Word of the Day – 山 [mountain]

The Japanese Page Word of The Day - Mountain

Word of the Day: August 13, 2018

noun | やま

MEANING: mountain (yama)


In the mountains of Japan, there are wild boar.(nihon no yama niwa, inoshishi ga imasu.)

[Japan’s mountains; at; wild boar; exists]  

日本 【にほん】 Japan
の [possessive marker] 山 【やま】 mountain
には as for in
イノシシ wild boar
が [particle that usually shows subject] います exists (living things)


Download Audio files here:

mountain (yama) – download
In the mountains of Japan, there are wild boar.(nihon no yama niwa, inoshishi ga imasu.) – download
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It’s a First! First Things in Japanese with the Kanji 初

It’s a First! First Things in Japanese with the Kanji 初

One advantage the student of kanji has is the ability to see broad patterns. Oftentimes, learning one kanji can quickly multiply to learning many vocabulary words.

Today, let’s look at a few–and there are many more–words that start with this kanji:

It is used for many words indicating a first. In most examples, 初 is pronounced “hatsu.”

初恋 【はつこい】 first love; puppy love
初孫 【はつまご】  first grandchild
初雪 【はつゆき】 first snow of the season
初耳 【はつみみ】 hearing something for the first time

Since New Year’s Day is huge in Japan, it’s no surprise many of these new words pertain to New Year’s Day.

初夢 【はつゆめ】 first dream of the year
初場所  【はつばしょ】New Year’s Sumo tournament held in Tokyo
初日の出 【はつひので】first sunrise of the year (New Year’s Day)

Another reading for this kanji is うい. I thought about putting this together while working on this month’s Makoto e-zine, which our Patreon supporters get automatically and at a discount each month. The reader for next month’s issue will cover the story of Takeda Shingen. In it, Yumi spoke of his 初陣,  first campaign.

Here are a few “first” words that begin with うい.

初陣 【ういじん】 first campaign; one’s first battle
初々しい 【ういういしい】 innocent; unsophisticated; fresh

かわいい x こわい Cute and Scary in Japanese

かわいい x こわい Cute and Scary in Japanese

Cute and Scary in Japanese Kawaii

OR, how to say “cute” in Japanese without being scary…

かわいい cute; adorable; charming; pretty 【kanji: 可愛い | ASCII fun: カワ(・∀・)イイ!! 】

こわい scary; frightening; dreadful 【kanji: 怖い】

Listen carefully to the difference:


I (Clay) first arrived in Japan in the late 1990s. A friend of mine, another American, told me about a scary experience he had when confronted with a Japanese coworker’s newborn baby. My friend wanted to use the little Japanese he had learned and felt confident he could at least manage a “how cute” compliment. After his attempt, however, his coworker angrily said, “It’s KAWAII not KOWAI!”

Here’s the Ninja Penguin making the same mistake:

To the Japanese ear, these two words are very different, but to the English ear, there is often room for confusion. Try your best to hear the difference.

NOTE: Cute is かわいい. Pay attention to the “ka” sound and the longer “i” sound.

Another tricky one–at least for me–was 座る suwaru (to sit) and 触る sawaru (to touch). I can imagine quite a few instances where this would also result in a slap!


One more potentially confusing word pairing:

おしり oshiri–buttocks
押し入れ oshi ire–closet

Listen to these closely:


WARNING: Be careful with the following

anata no oshiire wa totemo ookii desu ne.
Your closet is very big!

Sounds nice enough when complimenting the lady of the house on her fine closet, but if said without care, it could easily come out as “Your butt is big. Very big.”

Japanese Vocabulary Lesson: Times and Seasons

Japanese Vocabulary Lesson: Times and Seasons

Japanese Vocabulary Lesson

Today, let’s look at a large list of time and season related vocabulary words. This lesson is taken from our book, Ninja Penguin.  This book teaches the geography of Japan (learn all about Japan’s prefectures) but it also is full of short language lessons such as this. Check it out at,,, or


日曜日 nichiyoubi Sunday
月曜日 getsuyoubi Monday
火曜日 kayoubi Tuesday
水曜日 suiyoubi Wednesday
木曜日 mokuyoubi Thursday
金曜日 kinyoubi Friday
土曜日 doyoubi Saturday
shuu a week
先週 sen shuu last week
今週 kon shuu this week
来週 rai shuu next week

Like most languages, the names of the days of the week are based on planetary names or an elemental force of nature:
nichi—the sun
getsu—the moon
水 sui—water
金 kin—gold
土 do—the earth; ground


hi a day
今日 kyou today
昨日 kinou yesterday
明日 ashita tomorrow [also: あす asu]
nen a year [also とし toshi] 去年 kyonen last year
今年 kotoshi this year
来年 rainen next year


haru spring
natsu summer
aki fall; autumn
fuyu winter


There are many helpful prefixes in Japanese that will substantially increase your vocabulary with minimal effort. One such prefix is 今 which by itself means “now.” Its pronunciation is somewhat irregular, but learn these well:

今日 kyou—today
今週 konshuu—this week
今月 kongetsu—this month
今年 kotoshi—this year

Another is 来 rai meaning “to come.”
来週 raishuu—next week
来月 raigetsu—next month
来年 rainen—next year


一日 tsuitachi 1st of the month
二日 futsuka 2nd of the month; 2 days
三日 mikka 3rd of the month; 3 days
四日 yokka 4th of the month; 4 days
五日 itsuka 5th of the month; 5 days
六日 muika 6th of the month; 6 days
七日 nanoka 7th of the month; 7 days
八日 youka 8th of the month; 8 days
九日 kokonoka 9th of the month; 9 days
十日 tooka 10th of the month; 10 days
二十日 hatsuka 20th of the month; 20 days

If you learn the above, you can easily come up with the rest of the days of the month. Simply use the “Chinese” numbers with nichi. For example, the 11th is juuichi nichi.
To say a span of days—two days time, for example—simply add “kan” after the name of the day. EXCEPT—isn’t there always an exception?—one day. To say “one day,” use ichi nichi.

1 day = 一日 ichi nichi
2 days = 二日間 futsuka kan
10 days = 十日間 tooka kan
25 days = 二十五日間 nijuugo nichi kan

If you liked this lesson, Ninja Penguin has many more such lessons, covers interesting facts about Japan’s geography and culture, and includes free MP3s for all the Japanese. Get it today. It is cheap! About $4.49 for the eBook (includes downloadable MP3s) and not much more for the paperback version (also includes downloadable MP3s). Check it out at,,, or

Dialogue: Asking Someone out on a Date

Dialogue: Asking Someone out on a Date

Japanese Dialogue on a date

Here is a quick dialogue we recorded some years ago of two Japanese friends of ours.


konnichi wa. Yumi san. Hello, Yumi.


ara, konnichi wa. maiku san. Oh, hello, Mike.


ano, kyou shigoto no ato, nanika yotei ga arimasu ka? Um, after work today, do you have any plans?


kyou wa oryouri kyoushitsu ni iku yotei desu. Today, I’m planning to go to a cooking class.


ryouri o naratte irun desu ka? You are studying cooking?


hai, ryouri ga suki nan desu. Yes. You see, I like cooking.


ii desu ne. ja, konshuumatsu wa nanika suru yotei desu ka? That’s nice. Well, do you have any plans for this weekend?


shuumatsu wa nani mo nai desu kedo. I don’t have anything for the weekend…


sore ja, issho ni shokuji demo dou desu ka? Well then, how about going out to eat?


ii desu yo. That’s fine.


donna ryouri ga suki desu ka? What kind of food do you like?


furansu ryouri ga ii desu. ima choudo naratte irun desu. French food is good. That’s what I’m learning now.


sou desu ka, dewa, ii mise o sagashite okimasu. I see. Well, then, I will search for a good restaurant.


hai, onegaishimasu. Yes, please do so.
I, Me, & Thee: On Japanese Pronouns

I, Me, & Thee: On Japanese Pronouns

Japanese Pronouns

Japanese is famous for dropping pronouns. Once the topic or subject of a conversation is established, it is awkward to continually use the pronoun. And yet, ironically, there are tons of pronouns available for use—even more when considering dialects.

As mentioned above, you could, and in some cases should, avoid using pronouns altogether.

When the context is clear, drop the pronoun. When speaking to a superior, it is best to use the person’s name with an honorific such as さま sama or title such as 先生(せんせい) sensei.

But a few well-placed pronouns can enliven a conversation. Want to sound like a sixteenth-century samurai warrior? There are pronouns for that. Want to sound more masculine? No problem. Like a little girl? Sure.

General Notes on Pronouns

  • When one says “I” in English no information is conveyed other than that it is first person singular. In Japanese, however, many pronouns also carry cultural or social status connotations.
  • As long as the meaning is clear, Japanese usually omits the pronoun.
    For example:

    ka-ru san wa mise ni ikimashita.
    Carl went to the store.
    sokode, pan o kaimashita.
    There, he purchased bread.

  • Once the subject is clear, Carl, “he” is unnecessary in the second sentence even though it is required in English.
  • Single words or short sentences usually drop the pronoun as it is assumed the speaker is referring to him or herself.

    hara hetta.
    (I’m) hungry.

    (I’m) sleepy.

  • Adding the suffix, たち tachi, to the first person pronoun, makes it plural: 私たち watashi tachi we; us.
  • The suffix ら ra is a more informal version of たち tachi.
  • While you can say 彼女たち kanojo tachi when the room is full of women or girls, the norm is to use 彼ら karera for mixed groups or situations when the gender makeup of the group is unknown.


How to NOT Use Pronouns

You can get by your entire life with only using 私 watashi for “I” and あなた anata for “you,” but not only would that be boring, in some situations it might actually be rude. あなた anata, for example, can, in some cases, be rude since it implies you are stating the listener is equal to or inferior to you. Saying 私 watashi too often can make one sound conceited.

Here are a few ways to get around this:

INSTEAD OF watashi

  • Point to yourself when referring to yourself

INSTEAD OF あなた anata

  • Use the person’s name with さん san
  • Use the person’s title: 先生 sensei (for teachers, doctors, pastors, and other teaching professions); 社長 shachō (for bosses or company presidents)
  • そちら sochira literally means “there” and can be used to refer to your listeners


  • Refer to everyone as みんな or みなさん
  • In short, if you can avoid using a pronoun whether through context or substitute, do it.

Pimsleur Language Programs;

Now, let’s look at actual pronouns!

+ Everyday Use Pronouns

  • watashi—I; me [formal or informal; gender-neutral]
  • うち uchi—one’s own… [usually used with の to talk about one’s household: うちの犬 uchi no inu—my (our) dog]
  • あなた anata—you [usually said to people on a similar or lower social status; often used by wives to address their husbands like “dear” or “sweetheart”]
  • kimi—you [informal; used among friends; the same kanji is used as the name suffix -kun. Often used with 僕 boku.]
  • 彼女 kanojo—she; her [can also be used to mean “girlfriend.”]
  • kare—he; him [can also be used to mean “boyfriend.” 彼氏 kareshi always means “boyfriend.”]


+ Formal Pronouns

  • watakushi—I; me [more formal then just watashi; uses the same kanji as watashi; gender-neutral]
  • ware—I; me [literary style]
  • 我ら warera—we [literary style]
  • 我が waga—my (or can be plural: our as in 我が社 wagasha—our company) [gender neutral]
  • 我々 ware ware—we [formal; used when speaking on behalf of a company or group]


+ Pronouns for Women

あたし atashi—I [a shortened form of watashi used commonly by women]

+ Pronouns for Men

  • ore—I [gives a sense of masculinity; can be rude in some situations]
  • boku—I [used by males of all ages, but particularly with boys. Can be used when calling a boy whose name you don’t know: “hey, kid” or “hey, squirt.” The kanji 僕 shimobe means “servant”]
  • washi—I [often used by older males]


+ Archaic Samurai Edo Period “the Fun” Pronouns

  • あっし asshi—I; me [Edo period slang for 私 watashi]
  • 拙者 sessha—I; me [used by males; samurai pronoun; the kanji means “clumsy person”]
  • 我が輩 wagahai—I; me [used by males; has a nuance of arrogance; Natsume Soseki’s famous book, I am a Cat is called 吾輩は猫である wagahai wa neko de aru.]
  • soregashi—I; me [used by males; used by samurai as a first person pronoun, but literally means some unknown person]
  • yo—I [used by males] Say this after a good meal:  余は満足じゃ。 yo wa manzoku ja. I am satisfied.
  • onore—I; oneself [used by males; humble when used as first person pronoun, but hostile when used as a second person pronoun (see below)]
  • 汝 nanji—you [used by males and females]


+ Pronouns for When Upset

  • あんた anta—you [rude; a shortened version of あなた anata; used when angry]
  • おまえ omae—you [can be rude or can show familiarity similar to 俺 ore. Often used by husbands when speaking to their wives]
  • てめえ temee—you [rude; used when angry; used by males; also てまえ temae; kanji: 手前]
  • きさま kisama—you [rude; historically, this was a formal pronoun the kanji, 貴様 meaning an honorable person]
  • こいつ koitsu—him; her [informal; implies contempt; used to refer to someone nearby]
  • あいつ aitsu—him; her [informal; implies contempt; used to refer to someone away from the speaker and listener.]
  • おのれ onore—you [used by males; humble when used as first person pronoun, but hostile when used as a second person pronoun]


+ Less Common Pronouns

  • おら ora—I [rural feel; used in anime or manga such as Crayon Shinchan and Dragon Ball characters]
  • 我ら warera—we [informal; like たち tachi, ら ra is a pluralizing suffix that usually shows familiarity]


+ Plural Suffixes

  • ~たち ~tachi [informal: 私たち watashi tachi—we; 君たち kimi tachi—you; can also be added to names、groups, or places: 青木さんたち aoki san tachi—the Aoki’s]
  • ~ら ~ra [informal: 彼ら karera—they; あいつら aitsura—they; ]
  • ~とも ~tomo [humble; changes to ~domo; わたくしども watakushi domo]
  • ~かた ~kata [formal; changes to ~gata; あなたがた anata gata—you (plural; more formal than あなたたち anata tachi]


+ Other

  • あの人 ano hito—he; she [literally, that person; informal to formal]
  • あの方 ano kata—he; she [literally, that person; formal / polite]
  • あの子 ano ko—she [literally, that child, but usually refers to a girl or young woman]
  • 我が社  waga sha—our company [used when representing one’s own company]