Japanese nouns – Useful vocabulary to learn

We’re back with another chapter on 90DayJapanese with Japanese nouns! If you want to speak a new language, you must learn the vocabulary. After all, you can’t properly use verbs, particles, adjectives, adverbs, and other aspects of grammar without a single noun!

Illustrations of a rainbow, cupcake, flower, pencil, car, and house

These Japanese words are one of the biggest categories of the vocabulary of any language, just like English nouns. Think of this as a non-exhaustive list to find the most useful and basic Japanese nouns for your studying.

We also provide plenty of example sentences so you can see how these words go together with other parts of Japanese grammar. Moreover, the nouns are broken down into sections – so scroll down, find a section that interests you, and get to learning!

Popular Common Nouns in Japanese

There are a few different types of Japanese nouns, the first of which are common nouns. Common nouns name general items rather than specific ones. This section has the best Japanese common nouns to learn and master for any Japanese student!

Japanese Nouns on Time and Date

It’s essential that we know how to say the date and time in Japanese. Otherwise, how can we make plans to hang out with our new Japanese friends!?

EnglishHiraganaKanjiRomaji
Todayきょう今日kyou
Tomorrowあした明日ashita
Yesterdayきのう昨日kinou
Sundayにちようび日曜日nichi youbi
Mondayげつようび月曜日getsu youbi
Tuesdayかようび火曜日ka youbi
Wednesdayすいようび水曜日sui youbi
Thursdayもくようび木曜日moku youbi
Fridayきにょうび金曜日kin youbi
Saturdayどようび土曜日do youbi
Dayにち・ひnichi/hi
Weekしゅうshuu
Monthげつgetsu
Yearとし・ねんtoshi/nen
Secondびょうbyou
Minuteふんfun
Hourじかん時間jikan
Morningあさasa
Afternoonひるhiru
Nightよるyoru
Nowいまima
Beforeまえmae
Laterあとato
A.M.ごぜん午前gozen
P.M.ごご午後gogo

*Day before yesterday (おととい | 一昨日 | ototoi)

*Day after tomorrow (あさって | 明後日 | asatte)

We added those last two words not only because they’re useful but also because their equivalent does not exist in the English language. Due to the use of Chinese characters in the Japanese language, simplifications like these can be found everywhere, so keep your ears up!

Sentence Example:

あしたはかようびです(ashita ha ka youbi desu | 明日は火曜日です)

Tomorrow is Tuesday.

はっぴょうのにじかんまえにひるねをします(happyou no ni jikan mae ni hirune wo shimasu | 発表の二時間前に昼寝をします)

I will take a nap two hours before the presentation.

Japanese Nouns on Transportation

Learning about transportation is important in any language. While there’s a lot to delve into when it comes to this topic, here are some basic important Japanese nouns for different modes of transportation.

EnglishHiragana/KatakanaKanjiRomaji
Carくるまkuruma
Vehicleのりもの乗り物norimono
Shipふねfune
Trainでんしゃ電車densha
Subwayちかてつ地下鉄chikatetsu
Busバスbasu
Automobileじどうしゃ自動車jidousha
Taxiタクシーtakushii
Bicycleじてんしゃ自転車jitensha
Ferryフェリーferii
Bullet Trainしんかんせん新幹線shinkansen
Truckトラックtorakku
Strollerベビーカーbebiikaa
Airplaneひこうき飛行機hikouki
Ticketきっぷ切符kippu

Sentence Examples:

きのうのよるくるまでいえにかえった(kinou no yoru kuruma de ie ni kaetta | 昨日の夜車で家に帰った)

I went home by car last night

ニューヨークにとちゅうバス(nyuuyouku ni tochuu basu | ニューヨークに途中バス)

The bus to New York

Japanese Nouns on Placement and Direction

Learning the basic Japanese words for placement and directions early on is a great way to boost your communication and comprehension skills. Doing so can literally help to orient you in the language!

EnglishHiraganaKanjiRomaji
Upうえue
Downしたshita
Leftひだりhidari
Rightみぎmigi
In frontまえmae
Behindうしろ後ろushiro
Insideなかnaka
Outsideそとsoto
Northきたkita
Southみなみminami
Eastひがしhigashi
Westにし西nishi

Sentence Examples:

わたしのまえでじけんがおこった (watashi no mae de jiken ga okotta | わたしの前で事件が起こった)

The incident/accident happened right in front of me

かのじょはひだりてのほうがつかいやすい(kanojo ha hidarite no hou ga tsukaiyasui | 彼女は左手のほうが使いやす)

It’s easier for her to use her left hand

Japanese Nouns on Body Parts

Next up on the list are the parts of the body (so you can tell the doctor what actually hurts)!

EnglishHiraganaKanjiRomaji
Bodyからだkarada
*Hairかみkami
Headあたまatama
Faceかおkao
Eyeme
Noseはなhana
Mouthくちkuchi
Earみみmimi
Armうでude
Chestむねmune
Abdomenはらhara
Buttおしりお尻oshiri
Leg/footあしashi
Fingerゆびyubi

*Note: the hair located on your head specifically is referred to as かみのけ (kami no ke | 髪の毛)

Sentence Examples:

けががあるんでからいまはうでがいたいです(kega ga arunda kara ima ha ude ga itai desu | ケガがあるんだから今は腕が痛いです)

I had an injury, so now my arm hurts

からだをうごかすうんどうはこころによいですよ(karada wo ugokasu undou ha kokoro ni yoi desu yo | 体を動かす運動は心に良いですよ)

Exercises that move your body are good for your heart

Japanese Nouns on Occupation

Here are some of the most common Japanese nouns for occupations.

EnglishHiragana/KatakanaKanjiRomaji
Doctorいしゃ医者isha
Lawyerべんごし弁護士bengoshi
Teacherせんせい先生sensei
Office workerサラリーマンsarariiman
Studentがくせい学生gakusei
Cookりょうりにん料理人ryourinin
Store workerてんいんしゃ店員者teninsha
Police officerけいさつ警察keisatsu
Nurseかんごし看護師kangoshi

Sentence Examples:

かんごしになるようしけんはむずかしいですか(kangoshi ni naru you shiken ha muzukashii desu ka | 看護師になるよう試験は難しいですか)

Is the exam to become a nurse difficult?

アメリカでのけいさつはわるいひょうばんがあるのでいろんなひとがすきじゃないですね(america de no keisatsu ha warui hyouban ga aru node ironna hito ga suki janai desu ne | アメリカでの警察は悪い評判があるから色んな人が好きじゃないですね)

The police in America have a bad reputation, so many people don’t like them

Japanese Nouns on Locations

Every Japanese student needs to know their basic Japanese locations. These locations are very often visited or spoken of in Japan (in general, really) and are definitely worth remembering!

EnglishHiraganaKanjiRomaji
Storeみせmise
Schoolかっこう学校gakkou
Roomへや部屋heya
Kitchenだいどころ台所daidokoro
*Bathroomおてあらいお手洗いotearai
Stationえきeki
Bus stopバスのりばバス乗り場basunoriba
Houseいえ・うちie/uchi
Hospitalびょういん病因byouin
Cityshi
Townまちmachi
Countrysideいなか田舎inaka

*Note: There are several names for the bathroom, among which are けしょうしつ(kesshoushitsu \ 化粧室) and トイレ (toire). The first literally means “the makeup room” while the second is just the Japanified version of the word “toilet.” Oh, and the word (otearai) comprises the kanji for hand and wash, so… you get the point!

Sentence Examples:

まいとしかぞくはいなかでなつやすみをたのしむ(maitoshi kazoku ha inaka de natsuyasumi wo tanoshimu | 毎年家族は田舎で夏休みを楽しむ)

His family enjoys their summer vacations every year in the countryside.

あのおとこのこはバスのりばでまっています(ano otoko no ko ha tomodachi ni basunoriba de matteimasu | あの男の子は友達にバス乗り場で待っています)

That boy is waiting for his friend at the bus stop.

Japanese Nouns on Family Members

Family is by far one of the most important things in Japanese society and Japanese culture. A Japanese native’s life is first centered around their family and then centered around the “societal family.” Here are the most important Japanese words associated with this topic.

EnglishHiraganaKanjiRomaji
Familyかぞく家族kazoku
Motherはは・おかあさん母・お母さんhaha/okaasan
Fatherちち・おとうさん父・お父さんchichi/otousan
Parentおやoya
Patentsりょうしん両親ryoushin
Childこども子供kodomo
Brother (older)あに・おにいさん兄・お兄さんani/oniisan
Sister (older)あね・おねえさん姉・お姉さんane/oneesan
Grandmotherおばあさんお婆さんobaasan
Grandfatherおじいさんお爺さんojiisan
Daughterむすめmusume
Sonむすこ息子musuko
Brother (younger)おとうとotouto
Sister (younger)いもうとimouto

There are a few specifics when it comes to the Japanese family, including special words, stylization, formality, and whether or not your family is the topic of discussion. These specifics are not elaborated here, but you can learn all about the Japanese family terms some other time!

Sentence Examples:

おかあさまはおげんきですか(okaasama ha ogenki desu ka |お母様はお元気ですか)

How is your mother?

はははげんきですよ。ありがとうございます。(haha ha genki desu yo. Arigatou gozaimasu | 母は元気ですよ。ありがとうございます)

My mom is good, thanks.

とみこさんはこどもがよんにんいます (tomiko san ha kodomo ga yonnin imasu | 富子さんは子供が四人います)

Tomiko has four children.

Japanese Nouns on Colors

Colors are very often used as adjectives (both in English and Japanese), but they can also take the form of a noun. In fact, colors are known as “abstract nouns” since they cannot be physically picked up or touched, like most nouns. Thusly, here are the basic Japanese colors!

EnglishHiragana/KatakanaKanjiRomaji
Blackくろkuro
Whiteしろshiro
Greenみどりmidori
Blueあおao
Redあかaka
Yellowきいろ黄色kiiro
Orangeオレンジorenji
Purpleむらさきmurasaki
Pinkももいろ桃色momoiro
Brownちゃいろ茶色chairo
Greyはいろ・グレー羽色hairo/gurei

Sentence Examples:

そのセーターのくろいろはもうきえてきました (kono seetaa no kuro iro ha mou kietekimashita | このセーターの黒色はもう消えてきました)

The black of this sweater has already faded.

にじのいろ (niji no iro | 虹の色)

The colors of the rainbow

Japanese Nouns on Seasons

In the old days, before modern joys and technology, the peoples of the Earth were more observant of nature and its cycles. Well, in places like Japan, such observations are still alive and thriving – spend a year in Japan, and you’ll see what we mean! Here are the four seasons of Japan!

EnglishHiraganaKanjiRomaji
Seasonきせつ季節kisetsu
Springはるharu
Summerなつnatsu
Fallあきaki
Winterふゆfuyu

Sentence Example:

あきのときにきのはっぱがすべておちる(aki no toki ni ki no happa ga subete ochiru | 秋の時に木の葉っぱが全て落ちる)

During the fall, all the leaves fall down

いちばんたのしいきせつはぜったいになつだよね!(ichiban tanoshii kisetsu ha zettaini natsu da yo ne! | 一番楽しい季節は絶対に夏だよね!)

Summer is definitely the most fun season!

An Important Note: Not all nouns in Japanese have just one reading. In fact, many nouns have multiple readings and pronunciations.

Each of the nouns listed here takes the standard Japanese reading (the reading they have when the word stands completely alone). Therefore, this article makes a great basic guide to Japanese nouns but is by far not the end of the story – keep building up your language!

Proper Nouns in Japanese

With our Japanese common nouns out of the way, let’s move on to some important proper nouns. These are the second classification of nouns that name items specifically. You’ll almost always find this represented as a place or personal name. Here are listed some examples of both.

Japanese Nouns on Place Names

Place names are, as the name implies, the name of a place. This differs from a general place like the bathroom or classroom and instead refers to a specific place.

These nouns can be tricky since oftentimes they involve unusual characters or rarely used pronunciations for familiar characters. Therefore, try to become familiar with the look and sounds of any place names you come across in your daily life. Take a look:

EnglishHiragana/KatakanaKanjiRomaji
Placeところtokoro
Tokyoとうきょう東京toukyou
Kyotoきょうと京都kyouto
New Yorkニューヨークnyuuyooku
Mt. Fujiふじさん富士山fujisan
Greeceギリシャgirisha
Koreaかんこく韓国kankoku
Indiaインドindo
Lake Biwaびわこ琵琶湖biwako
Chinaちゅうごく中国chuugoku

Sentence Examples:

かんこくよりちゅうごくごのほうのじんこうがおおいです (kankoku yori chuugoku no hou no jinkou ga ooi desu | 韓国より中国のほうの人口が多いです)

The population of China is greater than that of Korea

いつかふじさんをのぼりたいです (itsuka fuji san wo nobiritai desu | いつか富士山を登りたいです)

One day, I want to climb Mt. Fuji

Japanese Nouns on Personal Names

Similar to place names, personal names provide specificity to a person or personal identity, which is important in addressing Japanese people. And remember, practicing names also counts as practicing Japanese!

EnglishHiragana/KatakanaKanji
Surnameみょうじ苗字
Personal nameなまえ名前
Barack Obamaバラック・オバマ
Michael Jacksonマイケルジャクソン
Yoko Onoオノヨーコ
Hironomiya Naruhitoひろのみやなるひと浩宮成人

Sentence Example:

かのじょのなまえがちょっとおかしいとおもいますけど。。。 (kanojo no namae ga chotto okashii to omoimasu kedo… | 彼女の名前がちょっとおかしいと思いますけど。。。)

I think her name is a little weird…

このじだいではだれもがマイケルジャクソンをしっています(kono jidai de ha daremo ga maikeru jakuson wo shitteimasu | この時代では誰もがマイケルジャクソン知っています)

In this day and age, everyone knows Michael Jackson.

Remember that in Japanese culture, the last name always comes before the first name! Also, before you develop a personal or close relationship with someone, it’s more respectful to call them by their last name, even if you omit the first name.

This varies depending on age, area, and personal preference, but remember – when in doubt, be a scout… always be respectful if you are unsure!

Foreign names and nicknames in Japanese

Remember that カタカナ(katakana) is the Japanese alphabet specifically used for foreign words and names. Oddly enough, it’s also frequently used with some Japanese words, including slang words or for Japanese nicknames… or just to make any word look cool sometimes!

That being said, the use of カタカナ is limitless, as it needs to be adaptable for new and unusual sounds – there isn’t always a hard rule.

For example, if your name is Angelina, there are a number of ways you could choose to express your Japanese name: アンジェリナ(anjerina), アンジェリーナ (anjeriina), アンジリナ (anjirina), or アンジリーナ (anjiriina).

You could even shorten it to something like アンジ(anji) or アンジー(anjii) – the choice is yours!

The reason we’re saying this is to emphasize and encourage the importance of mastering カタカナ (katakana) so that you become comfortable with each and every potential sound it has to offer!

Using お (o) before nouns in Japanese

Last but not least is the prefix (o), sometimes used before specific nouns. This お (o) adds a greater level of politeness to the speaker. Here are some popular examples:

EnglishHiraganaKanjiRomaji
healthおげんきお元気ogenki
sushiおすしお寿司osushi
lunchおひるごはんお昼ごはんohirugohan
customerおきゃくさまお客様okyakusama

Sentence Examples:

みんなさん、おげんきですか(minnasan, ogenki desu ka | 皆さん、お元気ですか)

How is everyone doing?

おすしかどうかおそばかどうかどちらたべたいですか(osushi ka dou ka osoba ka dou ka dochira tabetai desuka | お寿司かどうかお蕎麦かどうかどちら食べたいですか)

Would you prefer to eat sushi or soba?

On a final note, keep in mind that pronouns are not a part of this list, as this article only covers Japanese common and proper nouns. Check out our write-up on Japanese pronouns for all the details on that!

Learning each Japanese noun in this post can certainly improve your Japanese vocabulary. As you learn Japanese further, you’ll come across more of these Japanese words to help you form phrases and sentences.

So, what Japanese words are there to learn next? Would you like to know how to greet someone good morning, good afternoon, or good evening? If so, our article on Japanese greetings can teach you all of them. Read more about it here!

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