“Fire” in Japanese — Understanding its Symbol and Kanji

Today, we tackle the question of how to say fire in Japanese, including the breakdown of its kanji, when it should be used, related vocabulary, and more.

fire in japanese

If you’ve learned anything hanging with us so far, it’s that things aren’t always as they seem when it comes to Japan (usually they are cooler than they seem.)

So, without more delay, let’s get to learning some Japanese!

How to say “fire” in Japanese

The two main words for “fire” in Japanese are ひ (hi|火) and かじ (kaji|火事). You’ll notice that both of these words utilize the same kanji 火, which on its own represents the idea and object of Japanese words for fire. It’s the same as is used in Chinese and can easily be pictured as being a blazing fire dancing at its sides.

kanji radical of fire

よそくによるとらいねんはかじがたくさんありそうです (yosoku ni yoru to rainen wa kaji ga takusan arisou desu | 予測によると来年は火事がたくさんありそうです)

According to predictions, it seems like there will be a lot of fires next year.

さくばんともだちはみどりひをそらにみたよ (sakuban tomodachi wa midori hi o sora de mita yo | 昨晩友達は緑火を空で見たよ)

My friend saw a green fire in the sky last night.

Fun Fact: かようび (ka youbi | 火曜日) is the word for “Tuesday” in Japanese, which is considered the “day of fire!” As seen in this example, the character for fire can sometimes be read simply as か (ka), especially when it accompanies other words or is used as a part of compound word translations.

In truth, these two versions of Japanese fire have subtly different meanings (as is often the case in language!) Let’s check them out!

Meaning of ひ (hi)

The first of the two, ひ (hi | 火), refers to the element of fire itself. It also refers to a small fire, like the fire of a lit matchstick, illustrating how one could control fire. Considering this and the fact that this word uses the standalone character in its embodiment, this is truly the way to say fire in Japanese, representing an integral part of Japanese culture.

Meaning of かじ (kaji)

The latter of the two, かじ (kaji | 火事), is used to describe larger and wilder fires that are out of control. Think of a burning bush in the drylands of wilderness or a fire that breaks out within an apartment complex. Oh, and by the way, that second kanji used in this word (事) translates to thing in English. It can be read as こと (koto) or じ (ji), depending on the context.

Oddly enough, this character is only used with non-tangible matters and is not to be confused with the kanji 物 (mono), which is used for real-world objects! This is a bit of extra material but definitely one worth evaluating, as it’s such a common mistake made among early learners of Japanese words!

Other fire-related words

Of course, there are some other cool Japanese words and Japanese phrases related to fire that are worth considering (and learning) for any and all on their way to Japanese mastery! Here are 3 honorable mentions that should find a spot on the study list!

a line of fire at the bottom of the picture

“Flame” in Japanese

ほのお (honoo | 炎 ) is the Japanese word for “flame” or “blaze.” Like in English, the Japanese also see a blaze as a great and large fire that burns bright and can be seen from long distances afar. This blaze or flame is also used to point out the flame of passion that one can feel for a profession, their favorite anime, or intense emotions like love or anger.

And you’ve also probably noticed that the kanji for this word is literally one fire on top of another, so it won’t be too hard to remember this one!

So as not to cut you short on this adventure, there is another word for blaze in Japanese that reads as ほむら (homura | 焔). The only thing is that this word is an older Japanese word never used in conversation, but it does find its way into music and anime, especially that of an antiquated era!

Some other ways to blaze in Japanese are かえん (kaen | 火炎) and the English-borrowed equivalent, ブレイズ (bureizu). 火炎 (kaen) is mostly used in specific and rather rare words, like かえんほうしゃき (kaenhoushaki | 火炎放射器), which is a flamethrower in English.

And as we have explained before here on this site, katakana loan words are very often used for titles and names exclusively – and that is the case for ブレイズ (bureizu) as well. Here’s a sample sentence.

かぜがほのうをあおりたてた (kaze ga honou o aoritateta | 風は火脳を煽り立てた)

The wind fanned the flames.

“Conflagration” in Japanese

“Conflagration” in Japanese is かさい (kasai | 火災). Yes, we know – we were also unfamiliar with the English term “conflagration” until we decided to research it. Feel free to drop a comment if you were in the same boat and had to look it up as we did! It’s basically a simple way to describe a large fire that either destroys property or does a ton of damage.

This other common Japanese word for fire is quite exclusively used in news reporting in ways that you probably can already imagine. Every now and then, it can be found in a written form, too. It rarely takes shape as a spoken Japanese word. Here’s how it’s used in a sentence.

むらのなかではおおきなかさいがはっせいした (mura no naka deha ookina kasai ga hasseishita|村の中では大きな火災が発生した)

A huge fire broke out in the middle of the village.

Another loan word for fire in Japanese

This Japanese word ファイやあ (faiyaa) is another loan word taken from the English word fire and is pronounced as such. There are quite a few pronunciation variations of this word, with some having short sounds and some having long sounds. We don’t include them here since they are more or less the same, and once you acquire the skill to read any one variation, you can deduce the word’s meaning from there.

Again, we want to point out that this word is not to simply be used in place of the other words covered on this list as a way to say fire in Japanese. On the contrary, this word appears only in anime, manga, novels, games, and so forth.

Just a reminder: always remember to distinguish between the character of hiragana vs. katakana words in Japanese so that you never become confused about how to apply the new words/concepts you learn!

Check our site and read through Japanese articles if you ever find yourself in a bind and need clarity on any topic!

Quick question! Which anime character comes to mind when you hear ファイやあ (faiyaa)? Comment down below!

“Inferno” in Japanese

The way to say “inferno” in Japanese is もうか (mouka|猛火). This can also be pronounced as みょうか(myouka) depending on one’s preference – either way, the kanji remains the same.

An inferno can be a fire, but it also can be a place of hell or suffering. For that reason, we honor it with its own section in this piece, as it is more than just fire in Japanese.

This word addresses that raging, scorching, almost infinitely burning flame that truly is an inferno. This is not an uncommon term at all and can be used in any context that allows it, such as the burning of an entire city.

To refer to that hell realm, that is, or the underworld in the inferno, we must use the term しょうねつじごく (shounetsu jigoku | 小熱地獄). In English translations:

  • じごく (jigoku | 地獄) means prison
  • しょうねつ (shounetsu | 小熱) translates closely as fiery heat

Additionally, the loanword インフェルノ(inferuno) can be used in names and titles to mean inferno in Japanese.

Final thoughts

Learning how to say “fire” in Japanese may not seem crucial at first, but it could be a surprisingly handy word to know in critical situations.

Imagine you’re walking through a Japanese mall, and suddenly, a fire breaks out, and you’re among the first to notice it. You could alert others to the danger and help prevent a major disaster. We certainly don’t wish for such a situation, but it’s always good to be prepared!

When safety is on the line, being able to communicate effectively is essential. So, while it might not be the first word on your language learning list, knowing how to say “fire” could make a significant difference when it truly matters.

がんばってください (ganbatte kudasai)! ^^

    2 replies to "“Fire” in Japanese — Understanding its Symbol and Kanji"

    • Blaine Wells

      Awesome article! Landed here after Googling for confirmation that “kaji” means both “fire” (火事) and “household chores” (家事). It’s my first time seeing this website. I instantly bookmarked it for your outstanding use of examples, thoroughness, and clear and fun writing style! Looking forward to reading more!
      ありがとう

      • 90 Day Japanese

        Glad to hear that, Blaine! Thanks for appreciating our website. (^ω^)

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