Quick Kanji Lesson

Directions in Japanese

A quick kanji lesson.

Here are a few kanji showing various directions in Japanese. Learn these useful characters when asking for directions or looking at a map. Only the most used readings are given.

On: ジョウ
Kun: うえ

Meaning: up; above

上手(じょうず) skilled; good at; clever
上着(うわぎ) coat; outer garment
その上(うえ)  in addition; furthermore


On: ゲ
Kun: した

Meaning: down; below

靴下(くつした) socks [lit. shoes under] 地下(ちか) underground; basement
年下(としした) junior; younger; young


On: サ
Kun: ひだり

Meaning: left

左手(ひだりて) left hand
左足(ひだりあし) left leg
机の左 (つくえ  ひだり )to the left of the desk


On: ユウ
Kun: みぎ

Meaning: right

右目(みぎめ) right eye
右(みぎ)ページ right page (of a book)
右手(みぎて) right hand


On: ゼン
Kun: まえ

Meaning: before; in front; previous

名前(なまえ) name
前書(まえが)き preface [lit. before the writing] 二年前(ふたねんまえ) two years ago


On: ゴ
Kun: うし・ろ

Meaning: behind; after

最後(さいご) the last; the end; conclusion
後(うし)ろ behind
後書(あとが)き postscript; afterword [lit. after the writing]


On: トウ
Kun: ひがし

Meaning: east

中東(ちゅうとう) the Middle East
東(ひがし)アジア East Asia
東京 (とうきょう )Tokyo

You may recognize the kanji for “east” 東 higashi in Tokyo
東京 toukyou. This is because Tokyo means “east capital.”

Nearly all kanji have at least two readings. In this case, 東 can be pronounced higashi or tou. The first, higashi, is the native Japanese pronunciation, or kun reading. Tou is the Chinese or on reading.

In general, when a kanji character is paired with another kanji, you use the on reading as in toukyou.


西

On: セイ
Kun: にし

Meaning: west

西口(にしぐち) west entrance
関西(かんさい) Osaka and surrounding area; Kansai
西(にし)ドイツ (historical) West Germany
大西洋(たいせいよう) the Atlantic


On: ナン
Kun: みなみ

Meaning: south

東南(とうなん)アジア Southeast Asia
南極(なんきょく) the South Pole; Antarctic
南米(なんべい) South America


On: ホク
Kun: きた

Meaning: north

北海道(ほっかいどう) Hokkaido (most northern part of Japan)
北(きた)アメリカ North America
北京(ぺきん) Beijing (China)
南北戦争(なんぼくせんそう) the (US) Civil War

Directions in JapaneseDownload a graphic