All about Japanese Katakana

Posted on 17. Oct, 2014 by in Grammar


photo from tiseb from


So, you might already know that there are three styles of writing in Japanese. Basic writing is done using what we call, Hiragana (平仮名、ひらがな). We have two other forms of writing called, Katakana (カタカナ、かたかな) & Kanji (漢字、かんじ).

In today’s article, I would like to give you an overview of what is Japanese Katakana is all about. Read on!

Japanese Katakana:

Each syllable in the Japanese language is represented by one character, or kana, in each system.

The following Katakana’s are the ones you need to know.

Source: Wikipedia


Gojūon – Katakana characters with nucleus
a i u e o

There are 4 main rules about using Katakana in Japanese.

1) Sound of Animals:

When expressing sounds of animals, we use Katakana to express it.

For example:

A dog is barking Wan-Wan.

Wan- Wan is a sound expression in Japanese. (In English, for example,  “woof,  woof” is common to use.)

To write this in Japanese,

Inu ga wan wan hoeteimasu. -犬がワンワン吠えています。(いぬが ワンワン ほえています。)

Notice that barking sound “wan wan” is expressed as “ワンワン” in Katakana.

Besides the sound of dog bark, we also use:

Chun Chun (チュンチュン) for bird sound

Nya Nya (ニャー ニャー) for cats

Bu- Bu- (ブー ブー) for pigs

Mo- (モー) for cows

This is an interesting video showing you how we express animal sounds in Japanese.

YouTube Preview Image


2) Any Type of Sounds

The sound of rain drop, bells, and trains, they are all expressed in Katakana in Japanese.

For example:

Gata goto (ガタゴト) – sound of train running

bochan (ボチャン) – sound of drops, when you drop something into a water

bari-n (バリーン) – sound of breaking, when you break a glasses or mirror

gahan (ガチャン) – sound of closing doors


3) Foreign words

When we use the words that are foreign origin, we use Katakana rather than Hiragana.

for example:

Mafura- (マフラー) – scarf

Pan (パン) – bread

pasocon (パソコン) – Personal computer

sofa-(ソファ) – sofa

orugan (オルガン) – organ

piano (ピアノ) – piano


4) Name of foreign country, landmarks. Names of foreign people

Name of countries and names of foreigners are all expressed using Katakana.

for example:

Mikeru Jackson (マイケル ジャクソン) – Michael Jackson

Indo (インド) – India

piramiddo (ピラミッド)- Pyramid

grand canion (グランド キャニオン) – Grand Canyon

rasubegasu (ラスベガス) – Las Vegas


So there are the major rules you need to know when using Katakana’s. Hope you got to learn more about Katakana today.


How are you? In Japanese

Posted on 13. Oct, 2014 by in Culture, Grammar

In English, we often ask our friends, “How are you?”. Response might be, “I am doing well, thanks.” or “Well, I am not doing so well today..”  If we were to apply this for conversation in Japanese, what will be the most appropriate way of asking, “how are you?”?


photo from borkazoid on

My best advice to you is, if it’s your close friend, you simply ask

Genki? (元気?げんき?)

Believe it or not, in Japanese, we don’t say this every single time. We would greet each other by saying, good morning (おはようございます。or おはよう。) or hello(こんにちは), and go right into a conversation.

Asking Genki indicates that you might have not seen your friend recently. For example, if you just saw her yesterday, we don’t normally ask, “Genki?” since you know that you just met her yesterday.

However, depending on the closeness or situation, here are some common ways of asking how your friend is doing besides, Genki?


Choushi do? (調子どう?ちょうしどう)

Choushi wa do? (調子はどう?ちょうしはどう?)

This is a very casual way of asking how he/she is doing. You would not use this expression to someone older than you or someone you don’t know too well.


If the person is older or someone you don’t know too well, then, you can say:

Choushi wa do desuka? (調子はどうですか?ちょうしはどうですか?)

By adding “desuka”,  it will sound much more polite.


You could also ask by saying:

Gokigen ikaga? (ご機嫌いがが?ごきげんいかが?) or Gokigen ikagadesuka? (ご機嫌いかがですか?ごきげんいかがですか?)


This is probably the literal translation of “How are you?” in Japanese. However , it is not common to use this expression among close friends. It is more appropriate to use this expression with someone who is older or someone who might be in higher social status than you are. This expression has politeness built in for sure.


You could also use the expression:

Ogenki desuka? (お元気ですか?おげんきですか?)

This could be another literal translation into Japanese. This expression is mostly used in writing. For example, when you are writing a letter or an email to someone who might be living far away from you, this will be the expression to use. Again, you would not typically use this expression with someone whom you see often on a regular basis.


Hope you got an idea on how to use “how are you?” expression in Japanese language!

Learning Synonyms in Japanese

Posted on 09. Oct, 2014 by in Grammar

Often times, it is easier to build your vocabulary by grouping similar meaning words or opposite words together. In Japanese, synonyms are called, “Dougigo (同義語、どうぎご)” or “Ruigigo(類義語、るいぎご)” In today’s lesson, let’s build your Japanese vocabulary by learning synonyms!  You can use these words below interchangeably within your sentence. You pick which one to use! Read on!


photo from Mixtribe Photo on




急ぐ(いそぐ) -Isogu

あわてる ーAwateru


The following two Japanese words mean the same thing: “To hurry”. You use these words when you don’t have enough time to do something.

For example:

I hurried home from school. This English sentence can be expressed as followings in Japanese.

Gakko kara isoide ieni kaetta. 学校から急いで家に帰った。(がっこうから いそいで いえに かえった。)or

Gakko kara awatete ieni kaetta. 学校からあわてて家に帰った。(がっこうから あわてて いえに かえった。)

Let’s take a look at another example:




These two words mean, “to run”.

For example:

I ran home from school. This English sentence can be expressed as followings in Japanese.

Gakko kara hashitte ieni kaetta. 学校から走って家に帰った。(がっこうから はしって いえに かえった。)or

Gakko kara kakete ieni kaetta. 学校から駆けて家に帰った。(がっこうから かけて いえに かえった。)

These words are similar in that you can use whichever you feel comfortable using.

Below are some more examples of Japanese synonyms.


本(ほん)  – hon

書物 (しょもつ) – shomotsu

Both means “books”.


病気 (びょうき)-byo-ki

やまい  – yamai

Both means “sickness”.


夫婦 (めおと)-meoto

夫婦 (ふうふ) – fu-fu

Both means “husband & wife”.


友達 (ともだち)- tomodachi

友人 (ゆうじん)- yu-jin

Both means “friend(s)”.


探す (さがす)-sagasu

求める (もとめる)-motomeru

Both means “to seek”.


言う (いう) - yuu

話す (はなす)-hanasu

Both means “to say, to speak”.


家 (いえ) - ie

住宅 (じゅうたく) – ju-taku

Both means “house”.


Above words are just a handful examples of Japanese synonyms. The more vocabulary you know, the more expressions you can understand and create based on your conversation. Learn each word at a time, and hope you can build your vocabulary gradually! Stay tuned for upcoming Japanese lessons. :)