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Archive for the 'Working in Japan' Category

The Best Japanese Phrases - Learn Your Japanese Teacher’s Favorite Phrases

This lesson Will teach you some of the most commonly used and most hopeful expressions in Japanese.

sō ieba (そういえば)

  • “speaking of which” or “now that you mention it, and you use it when you are reminded of something and want to talk about it.

toriaezu (とりあえず)

  • A handy phrase that means, “in the meantime” or “for now.”
  • Use it to talk about some kind of action you take or decision you make “in the meantime” because for now, you feel like it’s better than doing nothing.

ryōkai desu (了解です)

  • Ryōkai is a word that means “comprehension” or “consent.” It is often used as an exclamation in the following ways: by itself (ryōkai!), with the copula desu (ryōkai desu!), and with the past tense verb shimashita (ryōkai shimashita!).
  • These are all used to show that you have understood and will comply with what someone has told you.

tekitō ni (適当に)

  •  an adjective that literally means “suitable” or “relevant.” When the particle ni (に) is added, however, it becomes an adverb.
  • the original meaning was that the action was done properly, but recently it has started to mean that the action was done “half-heartedly” or “without much care.”

tashika ni (確かに)

  • The phrase tashika ni (確かに) is often used as aizuchi, interjections that we say in response to someone who is speaking, When you use tashika ni after something that someone has said, it means that you agree with them on that point, even if you don’t agree with them on other things.

“Top Five Tips for Avoiding Common Mistakes in Japanese “

In this lesson, we’ll offer tips to help you overcome some common errors that learners of Japanese make.

Don’t Attach -san to Your Own Name!

  • One of the first things English speakers learn in Japanese is name suffixes used when addressing other people. The most common one is -san, which we attach to people’s first or last names to show respect.
  • Because we use -san to show respect for others, you should never use it to refer to yourself.

Watch Your Politeness Level!

  • One of the unique aspects of Japanese is the varying politeness levels that change according to a number of factors: age and status of the speaker and listener, the speaker’s relationship with the listener, and so on.
  • It is important to remember to speak formally to one’s teachers, elders, and anyone else who follows under the category of senpai, those who are of higher status.

Watch Your Gender!

  • In the Japanese language, the speaker’s gender plays an important role in determining word choice, tone of voice, and the types of expressions used.
  • Non-native male speakers in particular should be careful about the kind of language and intonation they pick up from female teachers as well as female friends or girlfriends.

Learn Your Long Vowels Now!

  •  In Japanese, there is a big distinction between long vowels and short vowels. In fact, the distinction is so big that the length of a vowel can change the meaning of a word!

Watch Out for Similar Sounding Words!

  • Because there are a relatively small number of possible sounds in Japanese, many words are exactly the same or almost the same but with different meanings.

Top 5 Phrases Your Teacher Will Never Teach You

The focus of this lesson is teaching you some very common Japanese expressions you might not learn from a Japanese teacher.

  • (Sugoi) - An adjective meaning “wow,” “amazing,” or “great.” This word is commonly heard and is often used when one hears or sees something interesting or unusual.


  • (Baka) -  A noun meaning “idiot” or “fool.” When used as baka na (バカな), it becomes an adjective meaning “stupid.” This word can either be insulting or playful depending on how it is used.
  • When used in a serious manner, it can come across as a strong insult, so it’s better to exercise caution with this word.


  •  (Uso!) - literally means “lie,” but when used as an exclamation, it corresponds to “No way!” or “Really!?” in English.

Words used by young people:

  •  超(Chō) - a slangy adverb that usually comes before adjectives to emphasize them, making this word the equivalent of “very,” “so,” or “really.”
  • や ばい(Yabai) - a very slangy word that has a few different meanings. When used as an exclamation (yabai!), it usually indicates that something is wrong and roughly means “oh no!” or “shoot!”
  •  When used to describe something, it can have both a good meaning and a bad meaning depending on the context.
  • マ ジ(Maji) - similar to chō in that it often comes before adjectives to emphasize them. When used as “maji de?!”(マジで?!), it becomes an exclamation meaning “Really?!” or “Are you serious?!”
  •  す げー(Sugē) - a colloquial version of the above-mentioned sugoi. In young people’s speech (and particularly in young male speech), the “-oi” and “-ai” word endings turn into an “eh” sound.
  • あいづち (Aizuchi) - frequent interjections listeners make during a Japanese conversation that show the listener is paying attention to and understanding the speaker. They can include things such as:
  •  そうそう/だよね~(Sō sō/Da yo ne~) “Yeah” or “I know~” (expressing agreement)
  •  うんうん (un un) “Okay” or “Yeah”. Sometimes used just to show that you are listening.
  • へぇー(Hē) “Whoa!” or “Oh!”. This is often used to show that you are impressed or that you didn’t know something.

Top 5 Classroom Phrases in Japanese

In this lesson, we’ll teach you the top five useful classroom phrases in Japanese, and then some!

“Please say it.” / “Please repeat.”

  • Itte kudasai (言っ てください) means “please say it.” As a variation, you might also hear ripīto shite kudasai (リピートしてください), which means “please repeat (after me),” when teachers want you to repeat exactly what they have said.

“Please look.”

  •  Mite kudasai (見てください) means “please look,” and when an object comes before the phrase, it means “please look at (object).

“Please read.”

  •  Yonde kudasai (読んでください) means “please read.” You can expect to hear this phrase if a teacher wants you to practice reading some word, phrase, or passage.

“Please write it.”

  •  Kaite kudasai (書いてください) means “please write it.” Teachers may use this phrase when they want you to practice writing some hiragana, katakana, or even kanji!

“Do you understand?”

  •  The most direct translation is wakarimasu ka? (分かりますか?).
  • Other variations Japanese teachers often use include daijōbu desu ka? (大丈夫ですか?) and ii desu ka? (いいですか?) which both literally translate to “Is it/everything okay?”
  •  they might also ask shitsumon arimasu ka? (質問ありますか?), which means “Are there any questions?”

We hope that these phrases can help you get a head start in the classroom! please check out our other lesson series at JapanesePod101.com for more great usefull phrases!!

Top Five Tools for Learning Japanese

This lesson offers a few tools to help you learn Japanese. Some of these great tools to aid in your Japanese studies include the following:

  • a popup dictionary extension for the Firefox Internet browser that translates Japanese into English, German, French, or Russian. With this extension installed, you can easily look up the meaning of Japanese words that show up on webpages by simply hovering the cursor over the word. A box will instantly pop up with the reading and definition of the word.


Rikaichan Kanji Dictionary

  • Hover the cursor over any kanji, whether it is part of a compound or by itself, and press the Shift or Enter key to toggle between the word, kanji, and name dictionaries.
  • The kanji dictionary gives detailed information that include the kanji’s meaning, all possible readings, radicals that make up the kanji, number of strokes, and more.


Eijiro Dictionary

  • an English-Japanese/Japanese-English dictionary with an extensive database of translations and sample sentences.
  • You can buy Eijiro online at the ALC Online Shop website in the form of a CD-R or a downloadable dictionary file, and a free online version of Eijiro is available through the SpaceALC Japanese website portal.

http://shop.alc.co.jp/top/ (free version http://www.alc.co.jp/)

  • a flash card program that lets you review vocabulary, kanji, or both!
  • This kanji and vacabulary practice is based on a theory called spaced repetition, which means it presents the learner with flash cards at certain calculated intervals.



  • a Social Networking Service (SNS) created for the purpose of language exchange and international communication
  • Once you register, which is free, you can write a journal entry in the language you are studying, and other users who are native speakers of that language can correct your entry.


Top 5 pop culture things/icons you need to know about Japan

Japan is a country rich in pop culture that has started to gain recognition and popularity throughout the world. As popular culture changes quickly and drastically, we focus this lesson on the most recent pop culture.

Popular Music

  • Japan boasts the second largest music industry in the world after the United States.
  • Pop music is especially popular in Japan, although you can find all sorts of music in Japan done by Japanese artists-including rock, rap, hip-hop, reggae, and more.

Popular Movies

  • Recently, the popularity of domestic Japanese movies has been on the rise, with the annual box-office revenue for domestic movies hitting an all-time high in 2008.
  • Of the top Japanese films of 2008, the highest-grossing title was the animation film Gake no
  • Ue no Ponyo (”Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea̶ ;)
  • Hayao Miyazaki directed this movie as well as other popular animated titles such as My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away, which was the first anime film to win an Academy Award.

Popular Television

  • Variety shows, true to their name, feature a variety of different content-cooking segments, comedy segments, skits, and quizzes are just some of what you’ll find on a typical Japanese variety show.
  • Variety shows often feature a large panel of currently popular celebrities and sometimes a studio audience.
  • Quiz shows that feature contestants (who are almost always celebrities) answering questions on numerous subjects, such as science, history, math, the Japanese language, pop culture, and so on, also enjoy great popularity.
  • Japanese dramas are also very popular among Japanese people of all ages.
  • Many current dramas’ running in Japan are adaptations of popular movies, comics, or animated shows.

Popular Foreigners in Japan

  •  Jero, is an African-American singer who was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • He has gained popularity singing enka, a traditional type of pop music that is especially popular among older people.

Popular Japanese Men/Women Abroad

  • Actor Ken Watanabe became a recognized name after appearing alongside Tom Cruise in the 2003 war film The Last Samurai.
  • Issey Miyake is the most well-known Japanese designer in the world, and he is considered the first Asian designer to gain worldwide recognition.

Popular Sports Figures

  • Ichiro Suzuki joined the Seattle Mariners in 2000, a move that many watched with great interest, as he was the first Japanese position player to play regularly for a Major League Baseball team.
  • Shizuka Arakawa made headlines when she received a gold medal in the 2006 Winter Olympics, a first in the event for a Japanese skater.

Top 5 Important Dates in Japan

This blog focuses on the top five most important holidays in Japan.

Seijin no Hi

  • “Coming-of-Age Day.” On this
    day, people who turn twenty during the current school year, which runs between April until the following March, celebrate their coming of age. In Japan, when people turn twenty, society legally recognizes them as an adult, and they are able to drink alcohol and vote.

Golden Week

  • The period in late April and early May that contains many Japanese national holidays grouped closely together.


  • a Buddhist event where people pray for the repose of their ancestors’ souls and remember the deceased. If you are familiar with Mexico’s Day of the Dead festival, O-bon is quite similar. O-bon takes place from the 13th to the 16th of August (celebrated from July 13-15 in some areas).


  • New Year’s Eve, This day is very symbolic in Japan as it is the last day of the year and the day before New Year’s Day, the most important day of the year.
  • There are many traditions that fall on this day such as Ōsōji, or “big cleaning,” and a dinner of toshikoshi soba, New Year’s Eve Soba, a type of Japanese noodle.

O-shōgatsu or Gantan 

  • New Year’s Day, Many people spend time with their families, and people who work or live far from their families often go back to their hometown for New Year’s.

Work Culture and Politics

This is a continuation of the previous blog post Top 5 aspects of Family Life

Work Culture and Economy

  • Japan’s economy is ranked second in the world after that of the United States
  • some of its main industries include motor vehicles, electronics, industrial and transportation equipment, and chemicals.
  • Employees in their first years at a company often have to work long hours for little pay.
  • It is very common for employees to all go out drinking together after a long day at work; the Japanese see this as a way to strengthen relationships and build work camaraderie.
  • Another important part of the Japanese work economy is the custom of lifelong employment.
  • This system is becoming less common due to a decrease in the number of full-time employees and an increase in the number of part-time and contractual employees.
  • There is term, freeter, the Japanese have coined to refer to young people who work one or more part-time jobs as an alternative to obtaining full-time employment.


  • Unlike the United States or the United Kingdom, Japanese political parties tend to change constantly with one major exception-the Liberal Democratic Party, which has held power for more than fifty years-since the end of World War II.

General Trends

  • Generally speaking, the older and younger generations tend to do things differently and hold
    different ideas about things.
  • Members of the younger generation also seem to keep more of their own interests in mind as they wait longer and longer to get married and have children.

Top 5 Aspects of Family Life

This blog is a continuation of the previous blog 4 Major Cities. This blog will discuss 5 points of a standard Japanese family, but remember there are always exceptions!!

  • Families in Japan are generally traditional, and the family is a focal point of life. 
  • Immediate families are a bit smaller compared to those of other countries; it is not uncommon for Japanese parents to have only one or two children. 
  • It is also very common for adult children to continue to live with their parents well into their twenties or thirties until they get married.
  • Japanese gender roles are still quite traditional, with women expected to stay home and take care of their children and men expected to support the family financially.
  • A few problems have recently plagued Japanese family life and society. One of them is the decreasing birthrate, which hit a record low in 2005 when the number of deaths outnumbered the number of births.

For more great lessons like this one, check out our other lessons: Click Here

Valuable Information on Getting Started Living in Japan part 3

Welcome to Part 3 of our Valuable Information on Living in Japan series! This time we will go over credit cards, taxes, and insurance.

If you have any questions or information that you would like to share about living in Japan, please leave us a comment!

Valuable Information on Living in Japan part 3

  Credit Cards

Most major credit cards issued overseas can be used in Japan at major restaurants, hotels, department stores, etc. (please note, however, that Japan is still very much a cash society, and there are many stores and restaurants that do not accept credit cards) . However, it is said to be difficult for foreigners to get a Japanese credit card, and there are many stories of people getting rejected when they apply for one. It is not impossible, though - some residents have reported having luck obtaining credit cards through Citibank and Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ.


  Taxes and Insurance

RESIDENT TAX: The amount of residence tax you pay is determined by the amount of income you made the previous year. This tax is paid to your Local Ward Office, and you can either pay it by yourself (using taxation slips sent to you by the Ward Office) or through your employer (who deducts it from your monthly salary).
INCOME TAX: Income tax is paid annually, and the amount paid is calculated based on how much one made the previous year. If you are a company employee, this tax is deducted from your salary each month. At the end of the year, the amount is recalculated and adjusted depending on how much you earned from January to December of that year.

INSURANCE: Membership in one of two main health insurance systems is compulsory. The two main systems are National Health Insurance (国民健康保険, kokumin kenkō hoken), and Employees’ Health Insurance (社会健康保険, shakai kenkō hoken). Monthly premiums are based mostly on ones salary, but are calculated differently.

EMPLOYEES HEALTH INSURANCE: Under this scheme, the employer provides a health insurance certificate to employees. Broadly speaking, this applies to those who 1) work for medium/large companies, 2) work for national/local government, and 3) work for private schools. Those who join this scheme pay only 30 percent of their medical costs.
NATIONAL INSURANCE: If you are staying in Japan for a year or more and are not covered by Employees’ Insurance, you need to apply for National Health Insurance. When applying at your local word or city office, you must show your Alien Registration card. Those who join this scheme pay 30 percent of their medical costs.
For more details: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Health_care_system_in_Japan

PENSION: If you have paid into the Employees Pension Insurance system for at least six months, you are entitled to a refund when you leave Japan. You must visit your local ward or city office and get an application form, which you must send back within two years of leaving the country.

We hope you have enjoyed this information on getting started living in Japan.Please share any tips or information you have with us!