Colors in Japanese – Complete list of useful vocabulary

In this article, we will teach you all about colors in Japanese. Nature in Japan offers a colorful landscape all year round, including the pink cherry blossom in spring and autumn leaves in various yellow and red colors.

red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple-colored crayons lined up

Let’s discover and learn Japanese color words and Japanese culture today.

Japanese Words For Basic Colors

Unlike the simple two-colored Japanese flag, nature and scenery in Japan are full of different colors.

Not to mention, spring is the time for the pink cherry blossoms. You can enjoy the lively blue and green in summer, colorful leaves in autumn, and silvery white mountains in winter. Any Japanese colors will inspire your experiences.

Colors in Japanese

To start with the vocabulary, here are some words that refer to and describes “color” in Japanese.

HiraganaRomajiKanjiEnglish
いろIroColor
いろあいIroai色合いColor
しきさいShikisai色彩Color
いろとりどりIro tori dori色とりどり、色取り取りColorful
しきさいゆたかShikisai yutaka色彩豊かColorful

Examples

いちばんすきないろはなんですか?(Ichiban suki na iro wa nan desu ka? | 一番好きな色は何ですか?)

What is your favorite color?

しきさいゆたかなかいが (Shikisai yutaka na kaiga | 色彩豊かな絵画 )

Colorful paintings

Japanese Color Words

Now, let’s learn how different colors are called in Japanese.

Japanese Word for Primary Colors and Other Colors

Here are the Japanese words for the basic colors.

Hiragana/KatakanaRomajiKanjiEnglish
あかAkaRed
あおAoBlue
KiYellow
だいだい、オレンジDaidai, Orenji橙、オレンジOrange
みどりMidoriGreen
きみどりKi midori黄緑Light green
むらさきMurasakiPurple
ももいろ、ピンクMomo iro, Pink桃色、ピンクPink
みずいろMizu iro水色Light blue
こんKonNavy blue
はいHaiGray
ちゃChaBrown
しろShiroWhite
くろKuroBlack

You can add いろ (Iro | 色 | Color) into some color words.

Hiragana/KatakanaRomajiKanjiEnglish
きいろKi iro黄色Yellow
みどりいろMidori iro緑色Green
オレンジいろOrenji iroオレンジ色Orange
はいいろHai iro灰色Gray
  • きいろ (Ki iro | 黄色 | Yellow)
  • みどりいろ (Midori iro | 緑色 | Green)
  • オレンジいろ (Orenji iro | オレンジ色 | Orange)
  • はいいろ (Hai iro | 灰色 | Gray)

Also, カタカナ (Katakana | 片仮名) color words using original English sounds are typical in Japan nowadays.

KatakanaRomajiEnglish
カラーKaraaColor
カラフルKarafuruColorful
グレーGureeGray
ベージュBeejuBeige
アイボリーAiboriiIvory
カーキKaakiKhaki

How to Use Japanese Color Names

In the Japanese culture, there are various rules for using the words for colors. We’ll discuss each of them below.

Japanese Colors as Adjectives

When using these colors as adjectives, there are three rules to keep in mibnd

Japanese Language Rule 1

The name of the colors is a noun in Japanese, and you can make adjectives by adding い (i) into each color in Japanese. However, this rule only applies to the following four colors.

  • あか (Aka | 赤 | Red) → あかい (Aka i | 赤い | Red)
  • あお (Ao | 青 | Blue) → あおい (Ao i | 青い | Blue)
  • しろ (Shiro | 白 | White) → しろい (Shiro i | 白い | White)
  • くろ (Kuro | 黒 | Black) → くろい (Kuro i | 黒い | Black)

Example

あおいそら (Aoi sora | 青い空)

Blue sky

わたしのかみはくろい。 (Watashi no kami wa kuroi. | 私の髪は黒い。)

My hair is black.

Japanese Language Rule 2

The two colors below need to have いろい (iro i | 色い).

  • きいろ → きいろい (Ki iro i | 黄色い | Yellow)
  • ちゃいろ → ちゃいろい (Cha iro i | 茶色い | Brown)

Here are some of the common mistakes that learners have when writing these colors.

  • き → きい (Ki i | 黄い | Yellow)
  • ちゃ → ちゃい (Cha i | 茶い | Brown)

Example

きいろいながぐつ (Kiiro i nagagutsu | 黄色い長靴)

Yellow boots

あのいぬはちゃいろい。 (Ano inu wa chairo i. | あの犬は茶色い。)

The dog is brown.

Japanese Language Rule 3

Other colors need to have の (no) or いろの (iro no) instead of い (i) or いろい (iro i | 色い).

Japanese learners often have these mistakes:

  • むらさき → むらさきい、むらさきいろい (Murasaki i, Murasaki iro i | 紫い、紫色い | Purple)
  • みどり → みどりい、みどりいろい (Midori i, Midori iro i | 緑い、緑色い | Green)
  • ピンク → ピンクい、ピンクいろい (Pinku i, Pinku iro i | ピンクい、ピンク色い | Pink)
  • みずいろ → みずいろい (Mizu iro i | 水色い | Light blue)

These should be written as:

  • むらさき or むらさきいろ → むらさきの、むらさきいろの (Murasaki no, Murasaki iro no | 紫の、紫色の | Purple)
  • みどり or みどりいろ → みどりの、みどりいろの (Midori no, Midori iro no | 緑の、緑色の | Green)
  • ピンク → ピンクの、 ピンクいろの(Pinku no, Pinku iro no | ピンクの、ピンク色の | Pink)
  • みずいろ → みずいろの (Mizu iro no | 水色の | Light blue)

Example

むらさきのはな、むらさきいろのはな (Murasaki no hana, Murasaki iro no hana | 紫の花、紫色の花 )

Purple flowers

みずいろのぼうし (Mizu iro no boushi | 水色の帽子 )

Light blue hat or cap

Describing Colors and Shades in Japanese

Using Adjectives and Quasi-Adjectives

When talking about specific shades, these are the words that you should use.

Hiragana/KatakanaRomajiKanjiEnglish
うすいUsui薄いpale, light, delicate
あわいAwai淡いpale, light, delicate
こいKoi濃いdark, deep, strong
あかるいAkarui明るいbright, vivid
くらいKurai暗いdark, shade, strong
あざやかなAzayaka鮮やかなclear, vivid
くすんだKusunda燻んだdull, dark

Emphasizing Color Word in Japanese

It’s only valid in four colors, but you can emphasize specific colors by using まっ (Maa | 真っ | very, genuinely).

Hiragana/KatakanaRomajiKanjiEnglish
まっしろなゆきMasshiro na yuki真っ白な雪Pure white snow
まっさおなうみMassao na umi真っ青な海Deep blue sea
まっかなたいようMakka na taiyou真っ赤な太陽Burning red sun
まっくろになる。Makkuro ni naru.真っ黒になる。It gets pitch black.

Japanese Colors and Japanese Culture

Japanese culture is a very colorful cutlure (literally). Here are some color words in Japanese that you can use to describe things related to Japan and its culture.

Meaning of Common Colors in Japan

  • The reddish-orange color named しゅいろ (Shu iro | 朱色) is typical in Japanese shrines and temples. It symbolizes longevity and the power of nature, and is believed to ward off misfortune and evil spirits.
  • しろ (Shiro | 白 | White) signifies integrity, purity, and holiness in Japan. Until Western culture and dress became the new normal, people wore white-colored attire only on special occasions.

Food Colors in Japanese

わしょく (Washoku | 和食 | Japanese cuisine) values its いろどり (Irodori | 彩、彩り | Color).

Shiny white color rice and freshly prepared colorful vegetables are essential. They often use edible garnishes or gold leaves to decorate dishes and traditional sweets.

Tea Colors in Japanese

Japanese tea りょくちゃ (Ryoku cha | 緑茶 | Green tea) and まっちゃ (Maccha | 抹茶 | Matcha) are a beautiful green, but there are more colors in their tea selections.

ColorHiraganaRomajiKanjiEnglish
Yellow GreenげんまいちゃGenmai cha玄米茶Green tea with roasted brown rice
Light/Dark BrownほうじちゃHouji chaほうじ茶Roasted green tea
Dark BrownむぎちゃMugi cha麦茶Barley tea
Dark RedこうちゃKoucha紅茶Black tea
Yellow BrownこんぶちゃKonbu cha昆布茶Kelp tea

Traffic Light Colors in Japanese

The Japanese traffic lights visually come in three colors, as in many other countries. However, Japanese people call them in a slightly different way. So, don’t get confused.

Instead of みどり (midori | green), あお (ao | blue) is the color used to refer to the traffic signal for “go.” This is because until the Heian period (between 794 and 1185), the Japanese language only had words for the four basic colors, which are black, white, red, and blue. And, when referring to something green, the word あお (ao | blue) was used.

HiraganaRomajiKanjiEnglish
あおしんごうAo Shingou青信号Blue traffic signal
きしんごうKi Shingou黄信号Yellow traffic signal
あかしんごうAka Shingou赤信号Red traffic signal

Blue and Green in Japanese

Similar to the traffic light facts, Japanese people sometimes have a vague boundary between blue, green, and black.

HiraganaRomajiKanjiEnglish
あおりんごAo ringo青りんご、青林檎Green apple
あおなAona青菜Green leafy vegetables
あおあおとしたみどりAoao to shita midori青々とした緑Lushly green
みどりのかみMidori no kami緑の髪Green hair
あおげのうまAoge no uma青毛の馬Blue-haired horse

Rainbow Colors in Japanese

In Japan, the number of rainbow colors is considered seven from the outside to the inside of its arch.

HiraganaRomajiKanjiEnglish
あかAkaRed
だいだいDaidaiOrange
KiYellow
みどりMidoriGreen
あおAoBlue
あいAiIndigo blue
むらさきMurasakiPurple

Example

  • なないろのにじ (Nana iro no niji | 七色の虹 | Rainbow of seven colors)
  • にじいろ (Niji iro | 虹色 | Rainbow color)
  • グラデーション、かいちょう (Guradeeshon, Kaichou | グラデーション、海調 | Gradation, Gradient)
  • こうさい (Kousai | 虹彩 | Iris)

Medal Colors in Japanese

きんメダル (Kin medaru | 金メダル | Gold medal), ぎんメダル (Gin medaru | 銀メダル | Silver medal), and どうメダル (Dou medaru | 銅メダル | Bronze medal) are the right words for the first, second, and third place medals in the Japanese language.

HiraganaRomajiKanjiEnglish
きん、きんいろKin, Kin iro金、金色Gold
ぎん、ぎんいろGin, Gin iro銀、銀色Silver
どう、どういろDou, Dou iro銅、銅色Copper
せいどう、せいどういろSeidou, Seidou iro青銅、青銅色Bronze

Traditional Japanese Colors

In ancient Japan, native Japanese used four color words to describe things.

HiraganaRomajiKanjiEnglish
あかAkaRed
あおAoBlue
しろShiroWhite
くろKuroBlack

Therefore, these colors have many related words and expressions.

HiraganaRomajiKanjiEnglish
あかちゃんAka chan赤ちゃんBaby
あかのたにんAka no tanin赤の他人Complete stranger
せいしゅんSeishun青春Springtime of life, Youth
しろくろをつけるShiro kuro wo tsukeru白黒をつけるto decide whether something is right or wrong

Yet, people have developed and created many colors over time. Currently, more than four hundred traditional Japanese colors are recognized.

Examples

HiraganaRomajiKanjiEnglish
さくらいろSakura iro桜色Cherry blossom pink
あめいろAme iro飴色Transparent amber
そらいろSora iro空色Sky blue
やまぶきいろYamabuki iro山吹色Brilliant reddish yellow
ぐんじょういろGunjou iro群青色Ultramarine blue
えどむらさきEdo murasaki江戸紫Edo purple
わさびいろWasabi iro山葵色Grayish yellow green
あさぎいろAsagi iro浅葱色Bright teal
こんいろKon iro紺色Navy blue
げっぱくGeppaku月白Moon white, White with a slight bluish touch
すみSumiInk black

Wrap Up

And that’s it for different colors in Japanese! We hope you have finished this lesson with flying colors!

がんばってください (Ganbatte kudasai)! ^^

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