As a Japanese student, what could be more important than knowing how to say “home” in Japanese?
Well, perhaps it’s not the most important, but it is an essential piece of the family unit, which means a ton in Japanese culture. It’s also a subject worth investigating if you plan on doing a homestay in Japan or if you plan to live in the country one day.
- 1 There are Different Ways to Say It!
- 2 Common Japanese Home Expressions
- 3 Proper Etiquette When visiting a Japanese Home
- 4 Conclusion
There are Different Ways to Say It!
There are quite a few ways to say home and family lives in Japanese. Be aware also that there is no distinction between the words home and house in the Japanese language! Learning these new words and their nuances can be quite enriching when understanding how Japanese culture values the concept of home and family.
How to Say “Home” in Japanese
The most common way to say home in Japanese is いえ (ie | 家). This word is used by every class, age, and status and fits the bill for most occasions:
いえにかえるまでえいごでしゃべられないじゃん (ie ni kaeru made eigo de shaberarenai jan | 家に帰るまで英語でしゃべられないじゃん)
You won’t/can’t speak English until you return home.
こんしゅうのしゅうまつはいえでパーティーであるよ (konshuu no shuumatsu ha ie de paatii de aru yo | 今週の週末は家でパーティーであるよ)
There will be a party at my house/home this weekend.
The kanji for this word originally points to where an individual lives, although it more appropriately just means house, whether it’s a personal one, a house of art, etc. Watch out, and you’ll see this character popping up everywhere.
Another Japanese word from home is かてい (katei|家庭). Unlike the previous vocabulary word, this Japanese term focuses specifically on the individuals (i.e., the family) dwelling within a home. It can also be used to refer to the family itself. Let’s take a look at the kanji for a clearer understanding:
The first character, 家, means house, as we just discussed. The second character, 庭, means garden. While it is simple, it definitely gets the job done – the family is found where there is a home and a garden! Here’s an example sentence:
ぼくたちはかていりょうりをまじでたべたいです (bokutaichi ha katei ryouri wo majide tabetai desu | 僕たちは家庭料理をマジで食べたいです)
The last and final way to say home in Japanese is うち(uchi). This word doesn’t have kanji and is only ever written in Hiragana. It can be used interchangeably with the first word on our list, 家.
Note: as there are practically no plurals in Japanese, these words can all mean either home, homes, house, or houses.
Common Japanese Home Expressions
Next, let’s talk about a few of the very useful, common Japanese expressions connected with the home while we’re on the topic. Oh, and what are the home expressions used, you might ask?
Well, remember when we said how important the family structure is for the Japanese? We weren’t exaggerating! Let’s take a look:
いってきます (ittekimasu) is the Japanese phrase said by those departing from the house or home. It literally translates as “I’ll go and come.” As a response, those who are remaining in the house are expected to reply いってらしゃい (itterashai). This most closely translates as “Please go and come back.”
On the flip side, when returning home, one should say ただいま (tadaima), which loosely means “I’m here again” or “I’m back.” The appropriate response to this is おかえり (okaeri|お帰り), which is a kind of command telling someone to return. This last phrase is often said in length, being おかえりなさい (okaerinasai|お帰りなさい), which is a bit more proper.
These terms are expected to be used by anyone who happens to be staying in a home, even if they are not the immediate family! For example, if you were to be doing a homestay exchange with a local family for a few months, these terms would definitely apply to you.
Oh, and actually, you don’t only use these words in a house! Any place that feels enough like home, whether it’s your work office where you spend countless hours every day or a homeroom classroom – these insertions are for places that are home, even the home away from home.
Bonus – Making a happy home
If you want to talk about “making a happy home” or “making a loving home,” you need the special expression あたたかいかていをきずく (atatakai katei wo kizuku | 温かい家庭を築く).
ずっとからははがほかのこといじょうにあったかいかていをきずいてみることはたいせつなんです (zutto kara haha ga hoka no koto ijou ni attakai katei wo kizuitemiru koto ha taisetsu nan desu | ずっとから他の事以上に母があったかい家庭を築いてみることは大切なんです)
Since forever, more than anything else, Mom has tried to make our home a loving home.
Note: in the sentence above, we used the shortened (attakai) in place of its long form. This version is often used because of how tongue-twisty the full word can be!
Proper Etiquette When visiting a Japanese Home
Japan is a land full of customs – what to do, when, and how to do it. Before entering any Japanese house, it’s imperative to understand home etiquette, so you’re not caught with your pants down!
Japanese Greetings Used at Home
For one, let’s talk about greetings in the Japanese home. To be polite, you can go ahead and announce the usual こんにちは (konnichiha) or こんばんは (konbanwa) or something upon entering someone’s house or home for the first time, but it’s more appropriate to say おじゃまします (ojamashimasu | お邪魔します).
This expression translates as “Sorry to bother you” and, thus, functions as a greeting. One tricky thing about this phrase is that it shouldn’t be used for the entirety of your stay within someone’s home, even if you are constantly meeting new faces.
Rather, it’s used for 10 minutes maximum after entering the house – just enough time to feel sufficiently welcomed and settled in. After that, all standard greetings are back in action.
Footwear in Japanese Homes
It’s also important to remember that in Japanese households, it’s customary to remove your outdoor shoes once you get inside. There’ll be a foyer of sorts right at the entrance where you can make this happen, especially in traditional or more lavish homes.
From there, slip into some household slippers known as うわばき (uwabaki | 上履き), and you’re good to go. Remember to keep your shoes neatly together and facing in the same direction every other footwear faces!
Be a Respectful Guest
A huge piece to being a good house guest in Japan is to prepare a てみやげ (temiyage|手土産) beforehand. These are small gifts that you bring for the host and their family as a form of reciprocity.
It’s not common to have guests over in most Japanese households, so an invitation is a big deal! Oh, and try to bring something consumable (like delicious sweets) as a courtesy, just in case the host doesn’t have a convenient spot to store a permanent gift!
Japanese Dining Etiquette
You are sure to be fed a homecooked meal when gracing any Japanese home with your presence, so try to get your chopstick game up to par before the date! A book can be written just on table manners in Japanese culture, so without too much nibbling, here are the best and most important tips:
- Wait until everyone is seated before you begin eating unless explicitly instructed to do otherwise, and even then, resist at least 3 times! (the rule of thrice denial goes a long way in Japan!)
- Before the meal, welcome your indulgence with an いただきます (itadakimasu), and wrap up the meal with a ごちそうさまでした (gochisousama deshita). These words are practically the equivalent of saying grace for the Japanese and are only used on these occasions.
- Lastly, never, ever stab your chopsticks into your rice as a rest post when they’re not being used! Instead, either rest your chopsticks lying down across your bowl or on top of your はしおき (hashi oki | 箸置き), which are designated chopstick holders.
Express Your Gratitude
Above all, to be a good guest in a Japanese home, gratitude is the attitude. Be grateful for the experience and the space that is offered to you by the hosts. Offer to help in any way you can – although your aid will most certainly be declined, the notion will be appreciated.
Think of the other and do for the other – that’s the Japanese way! It’s important to understand the cultural nuances of hospitality and politeness in Japanese homes.
There are a few ways to refer to a home in Japanese, depending on if you mean an establishment, the people of the establishment specifically, or something in between. Some expressions are exclusively used in the house and are definitely worth mastering as a student learning Japanese.
And don’t forget the importance of home etiquette in Japan, especially when it comes to learning vocabulary. It can improve your experience a lot in case you ever get invited over for dinner one evening, as understanding the cultural nuances of hospitality and politeness can greatly help in any situation.
がんばってください (ganbatte kudasai)! ^^