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Ultimate Guide to Japanese Nouns

By Shiho Motomiya | July 30, 2022

Are you planning on starting your journey to learn Japanese? This article can help you get a head start by giving you some Japanese nouns you can use in your daily life. We will introduce you to the basics of Japanese nouns and show you common nouns that natives use in their daily life like during job hunting, dating, and more! We will also introduce to you some nouns that are possible to be in a JLPT to start your studies. And we will be leaving you some tips on how to study Japanese. Looking at some Japanese words can be overwhelming, as they have hiragana, katakana, and kanji. 

This article is a part of our series of articles on learning Japanese through online Japanese lessons

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    Function of Nouns

    The Funtion of Nouns

    Nouns have a total of five functions. Among them, the most important feature of nouns is that they can be subjects.

    Being the subject

    Nouns become subjects when they are accompanied by particles such as "は (ha)" "が (ga)" and "も (mo).”

    Examples:

    Mr. Kadokawa writes very fast.
    角川さんは文字を書くのがとても早い。
    Kadokawa-san wa moji o kaku no ga totemo hayai.

    Miso soup makes people feel relaxed.
    味噌汁は人の心をほっとさせる。
    Misoshiru wa hito no kokoro o hotto sa seru.

    Becoming a Predicate

    A predicate is the portion of a sentence or clause with a verb that expresses information about the subject or in other words it is a state of being, the verb that is done in a sentence. It tells what is said about the subject. For example the word “sweet” in “The sugar is sweet.” So the verb which is sweet defines what really is the subject all about.

    Nouns become predicates with auxiliary verbs such as "だ (da)" and "です(desu)" and particles such as "か (ka)”.

    Examples:

    The highest mountain in Japan is Mt. Fuji.
    日本で一番高い山は富士山である。
    Nihon de ichiban takai yama wa fujisandearu.

    This is the famous Great Lakes.
    これが有名な五大湖です
    Kore ga yuumei na godaigo desu.

    Becoming an Independent Word

    Nouns become independent words of presentation or invocation, which means that there is an appeal from higher authority. In the case of an invocation, it may be accompanied by a particle such as "や (ya)" or "よ (yo).”

    Examples:

    Oh Romeo, why are you Romeo?
    おおロミオ、あなたはどうしてロミオなの。
    Oo Romio, anata wa doushite Romio na no.

    O sky, why are you so wide and big?
    空よ、どうしてそんなに広く大きいの。
    Sorayo, doushite sonnani hiroku ookii no.

    Becoming a Modifier of a Noun

    Nouns can be serial modifiers with particles such as "に (ni)" "を (wo)" "へ (he)" "と (to)" "で (de)" "から (kara)" "より (yori)" and so on. A serial modifier is a clause that modifies an object (verb, adjective, or adjectival verb) clause.

    Examples:

    Eat an apple.
    りんごを食べる。
    ringo wo taberu.

    It comes out of my mouth.
    口からでまかせが出る。
    kuchikara de makase ga deru

    Becoming a serial modifier

    Nouns can be combined with particles such as "の (no)," "に (ni)," and "を (wo)" to form a coordinating modifier. A modifier is a clause that modifies a corporeal (noun) clause.

    Examples:

    There is a park by Tanaka's house.
    田中さんの家のそばには公園がある。
    tanaka san no ie no soba ni wa kouen ga aru.

    There's a lodge at the bottom of the slope.
    斜面の下にはロッジがあるよ。
    joumen no shita ni wa rojji ga aru yo.


    Want to know more about Japanese? Also check out:
    Ultimate Guide to Beginner Japanese


    Types of Nouns

    Nouns can be classified into five categories in the national language: common nouns, proper nouns, numerals, formal nouns, and pronouns.

    Common nouns

    Common nouns are nouns that name common things.

    Kanji

    Hiragana/Katakana

    Romaji

    Meaning

    飛行機

    ひこうき

    hikouki

    airplane

    つくえ

    tsukue

    des

    こころ

    kokoro

    mind / heart

    知識

    ちしき

    chishiki

    knowledge

    時間

    じかん

    jikann

    time

    あい

    ai

    love

    Proper nouns

    Nouns that refer to basically one and only one person, thing, or place.

    Kanji

    Hiragana/Katakana

    Romaji

    Meaning

    吉本ばなな

    よしもとバナナ

    Yoshimoto Banana

    Yoshimoto Banana (Name)

    バリ

    バリ

    Bari

    Bali (Place)

    エッフェル塔 

    エッフェルとう

    Efferu tou

    Eiffel Tower (Monument)

    日経新聞

    にっけいしんぶん

    Nikkei shinbun

    Nikkei Shinbun

    (Company Name)

    Numerals

    Nouns that express the number, quantity, or order of things.

    Kanji

    Hiragana/Katakana

    Romaji

    Meaning

    一つ

    ひとつ

    hitotsu

    one

    五番目

    ごばんめ

    gobannme

    number five

    二人

    ふたり

    futari

    two people

    Formal nouns

    Nouns that always receive a modifier to express their meaning. Typical examples are 「こと (koto)」「もの (mono)」「ところ (tokoro)」「ため (tame)」「つもり (tsumori)」「はず (hazu)」

    Kanji

    Hiragana/Katakana

    Romaji

    Meaning

    行くこと

    と ご

    ikukoto

    to go

    着るもの

    きる

    kirumono

    to wear

    来るはず

    と cおめ

    kuruhazu

    to come

    Pronouns

    Nouns that refer to people, things, places, directions, etc.

    Kanji

    Hiragana/Katakana

    Romaji

    Meaning

    わたし

    watashi

    I

    あなた 

    あなた

    anata

    you

    これ

    これ

    kore

    this

    だれ

    だれ

    dare

    who

    それ

    それ

    sore

    that

    あちら

    あちら

    achira

    that way

    Pronouns can be described either as part of a noun type or separately from a noun, but here they are introduced as part of a noun.

    If you want to expand your vocabulary more, visit our Top 1000 Japanese Words You Need to KnowTop 1000 Japanese Words You Need to Know

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    Types of Pronouns

    This section provides a more detailed explanation of one of the types of nouns, pronouns. Pronouns are words that describe a person, thing, or thing instead of a noun.

    There are two types of pronouns: personal pronouns and indicative pronouns

    Personal pronouns

    Personal pronouns are pronouns that refer to a person.

    Kanji

    Hiragana/Katakana

    Romaji

    Meaning

    わたし

    watashi

    I

    きみ

    kimi

    You 

    あの人

    あのひと

    anohito

    That person

    かれ

    kare

    him

    だれ

    dare

    who

    Indicative pronouns

    Indicative pronouns are pronouns that refer to things, places, and directions.

    Kanji

    Hiragana/Katakana

    Romaji

    Meaning

    ここ

    ここ

    koko

    Here 

    そこ

    そこ

    soko

    There  

    それ

    それ

    sore

    That 

    どこ

    どこ

    doko

    Where 

    あそこ

    あそこ

    asoko

    Over there

    Transitive Nouns

    Some nouns are easy to distinguish. The way to identify them is: if it is a subject with the particles "が (ga)" and "は (ha)."  は is usually read as wa and not as ha.

    However, there are some nouns that can be confusing to distinguish from others. These nouns are transitive nouns.

    A transitive noun (転成名詞 tennsei-meishi) is a word that was originally used as a verb(動詞 doushi) or adjective(形容詞 keiyoushi), but has been turned into a noun.

    Verb:
    I'm going home from school. 
    学校から帰る
    gakkou kara kaeru.

    Verb transposed into a Noun:
    I will stop by on my way home from school.
    学校からの帰りに立ち寄る。
    gakkou kara no kaeri ni tachiyoru.

    Examples of verbs becoming transitive nouns:

     

    Verb

    Transitive Nouns

    Kanji

    泳ぐ

    泳ぎ

    Hiragana

    およぐ

    およぎ

    Romaji 

    oyogu

    oyogi

    Meaning

    swim

    swimming

     

    Verb

    Transitive Nouns

    Kanji

    帰る

    帰り

    Hiragana

    かえる

    かえり

    Romaji 

    kaeru

    kaeri

    Meaning

    Go home 

    Return

     

    Verb

    Transitive Nouns

    Kanji

    喜ぶ

    喜び

    Hiragana

    よろこぶ

    よろこび

    Romaji 

    yorokobu

    yorokobi

    Meaning

    Be happy 

    Joy 

    Examples of adjectives turned into transitive nouns:

     

    Adjective

    Transitive Nouns

    Kanji

    美しい

    美しさ

    Hiragana

    うつくしい

    うつくしさ

    Romaji 

    utsukushii

    utsukushisa

    Meaning

    Beautiful

    Beauty 

     

    Adjective

    Transitive Nouns

    Kanji

    重い

    重み

    Hiragana

    おもい

    おもみ

    Romaji 

    omoi

    omomi

    Meaning

    Heavy 

    Weight 

     

    Adjective

    Transitive Nouns

    Kanji

    楽しい

    楽しげ

    Hiragana

    たのしい

    たのしげ

    Romaji 

    tanoshii

    tanoshige

    Meaning

    Fun 

    Joyful 

    How can you identify transitive nouns?

    If it is a subject with a particle "が (ga)" or "は ha (wa)" behind it, then it is a transitive noun.

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    Japanese Noun Daily Life

    Most Common Nouns Japanese Use in Daily Life

    Pronouns:

    Kanji

    Hiragana/Katakana

    Romaji

    Meaning

    わたし

    Watashi

    I (general term)

    ぼく

    Boku 

    I (masculine term)

    かれ

    Kare 

    He 

    彼女

    かのじょ

    Kanojo 

    She 

    私たち)

    わたしたち

    Watashitachi 

    We 

    彼ら

    かれら

    Karera

    They 

    Time, Day, Date:

    Kanji

    Hiragana/Katakana

    Romaji

    Meaning

    時間

    じかん

    jikan

    Time 

    ひ・にち

    hi・nichi

    Sun・Day 

    つき・げつ

    tsuki・getsu

    Moon・Month 

    ねん・とし

    nen・toshi

    Year 

    しゅう

    shuu

    Week 

    来週

    らいしゅう

    raishuu

    Next week

    先週

    せんしゅう

    sennshuu

    Last week

    今日

    きょう

    kyou

    Today 

    昨日

    きのう

    kinou

    Yesterday 

    明日

    あした

    ashita

    Tomorrow 

    いま

    ima

    Now 

    あさ

    asa

    Morning  

    ひる

    hiru

    Afternoon 

    よる

    yoru

    Night 

    ばん

    ban

    Night 

    Examples:
    I look at the moon every night. 
    私は毎晩、月を眺めています。
    Watashi wa maiban, tsuki wo nagameteimasu.

    They are very excited about their vacation next week. 
    彼らは来週の休暇にとても興奮しています。 
    Karera ha raishuu no kyuuka ni totemo kouhunn shiteimasu.

    Struggling to have a conversation in Japanese? Read our tips about Japanese conversation. Top 15 Japanese Conversation Tips

    Japanese Nouns Dating

    Nouns for Dating in Japan

    It can be difficult to date in a different country with a different language. Here are some nouns you can use if you are planning on looking for a romantic partner or planning on settling down in Japan. 

    Japanese Nouns for Dating

    Kanji Hiragana/Katakana Romaji Meaning
    告白 こくはく kokuhaku Confess 
    交際 こうさい kousai Dating
      デート de–to Date 
    ​彼氏​ かれし kareshi Boyfriend 
    彼女 かのじょ kanojo Girlfriend 
    相性 あいせい aisei Compatibility 
    初恋 はつこい hatsukoi First Love
    関係 かんけい kankei Relationship
    求愛 きゅうあい kyuuai Courtship
    繋がり つながり tsunagari Connection 
    一緒 いっしょ isshou Together 
    運命 うんめい unmei Destiny 
    家族 かぞく kazoku Family 

    Examples:
    Courtship and connection are the two common things I learned in knowing that the person is sincere.
    求愛とつながりは、その人が誠実であることを知ることで私が学んだ2つの一般的なことです。
    Kyuuai to tsunagari wa, sono hito ga seijitsu de aru koto wo shiru koto de watashi ga mananda futatsu no ippan-tekina kotodesu.

    Relationship is one of the things you have if you are dating someone.
    関係は、あなたが誰かと付き合っている場合、あなたが持っているものの一つである。
    Kankei wa, anata ga dare ka to tsukiatte iru baai, anata ga motte iru mono no hitotsudearu


    If you have a Japanese partner, learn about the difference of Valentine’s Day in Japan to the traditional way. Go to our Ultimate Guide to Valentine's Day in Japan

    Japanese Nouns for Job Hunting

    Nouns For Job Hunting

    If you are planning on getting a job in Japan, here are some business-used nouns that may help you when you are job hunting, when writing your resume, or during your interview.

    Nouns to remember when job hunting:

    Kanji

    Hiragana/Katakana

    Romaji

    Meaning

    仕事

    しごと

    shigoto

    job

    就活

    しゅうかつ

    shuukatsu

    job hunting

    履歴書

    りれきしょう

    rirekishou

    resume

    大学

    だいがく

    daigaku

    college/university

    専門学校

    せんんもんん がkこ

    sennmonn gakkou

    technical school

    特技

    とくぎ

    tokugi

    special ability

    業界

    ごうかい

    gyouki

    industry

    求人情報

    きゅんじんじょうほう

    kyuujinn jouhou

    recruitment information

    出願

    しゅつがん

    shutugan

    application

    部門

    bu

    department

    御社

    きしゃ

    Kisha

    company

    いちいん

    ichiin

    member

    計画

    けいかく

    keikaku

    plan

    達成

    たsせい

    tassei

    achievement

    職場

    しょくば

    shokuba

    workplace

    Japanese nouns for Professions: 

    There are many different Japanese occupations but I will only list the most common ones and related terms.

    Kanji

    Hiragana/Katakana

    Romaji

    Meaning

    医者

    いしゃ

    isha

    Doctor 

    看護婦 

    かんごふ

    kango fu

    Female Nurse

    看護師 

    かんごし

    kango shi

    Nurse 

    歯科医

    しかい

    shikai

    Dentist 

    科学者

    かがくしゃ

    kagakusha

    Scientist 

    美容師

    びようし

    biyou-shi

    Hairdresser / Beauty Artist

    教師

    きょうし

    kyou-shi

    Teacher

    先生

    せんせい

    sensei

    Teacher

    歌手

    かしゅ

    kashu

    Singer 

    運転手

    うんてんしゅ

    untenshu

    Driver 

    野球選手

    やきゅうせんしゅ

    yakyuu senshu

    Baseball Player

    サッカー選手

    サッカーせんしゅ

    sakka– senshu

    Soccer Player 

    画家

    がか

    gaka

    Painter / Artist

    芸術家

    げいじゅつか

    geijutsu-ka

    Artist

    作家

    さっか

    sakka

    Author / Writer

    写真家

    しゃしんか

    shashin-ka

    Photographer 

    ​建築家​

    けんちくか

    kenchiku-ka

    Architect 

    政治家

    せいじか

    seiji-ka

    Politician 

    ​警察官​

    けいさつかん

    keisatsukan

    Policeman 

    料理人

    りょうりにん

    ryouri-nin

    Chef / Cook

     

    ウエイター

    ueita–

    Waiter 

    弁護士

    べんごし

    bengo-shi

    Lawyer 

    会計士

    かいけいし

    kaikei-shi

    Accountant 

    消防士

    しょうぼうし

    shoubou-shi

    Fireman / Firefighter

    兵士

    へいし

    hei-shi

    Soldier 

    警備員

    けいびいん

    keibi-in

    Security Guard

    女優

    じょゆう

    joyuu

    Actress 

    俳優

    はいゆう

    haiyuu

    Actor 

    監督

    かんとく

    kantoku

    Director / Coach / Supervisor

    講師

    こうし

    kou-shi

    Lecturer

    大工

    だいく

    daiku

    Carpenter

    探偵

    たんてい

    tantei

    Detective

     

    パイロット

    pairotto

    Pilot 

     

    エンジニア

    enjinia

    Engineer 

    不動産業者

    ふどうさんぎょうしゃ

    fudousan gyousha

    Real Estate Agent

    記者

    きしゃ

    kisha

    Reporter 

     

    サラリーマン

    sarari–man

    Salary Man

     

    フリーター

    furi–ta–

    Part-time Worker

     

    オーエル (OL)

    o–eru

    Office Lady

    Examples:

    He took a job as a waiter in a nearby restaurant.
    彼は近くのレストランでウェイターとして仕事をした。
    Kare wa chikaku no restoran de ueita- toshite shigoto wo shita.

    Mother is trying to make her résumé to get a new job. 
    母は新しい仕事を得るために履歴書を作ろうとしている。
    Haha wa atarashii shigoto wo eru tame ni rirekishou wo tsukurou toshiteiru.


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    Descriptive Nouns

    Nouns you can use when describing a person, place or thing or other words.

    Kanji Hiragana/Katakana Romaji Meaning
    優しい やさしい yasashii friendly
    忠実 ちゅうじつ chuujitsu loyal
    創造的 そうぞうてき souzouteki creative
    面白い おもしろい omoshiroi funny
    冒険的 ぼうけんてき boukennteki adventurous
    謙虚 けんきょ kenkyo humble
    勇気 ゆうき yuuki courageous
    信頼 しんらい shinnrai dependable
    本音 ほんね honne honest
    勤勉 きんべん kinben hardworking

    Examples:
    Tyler has a more humble personality than his brother.
    タイラーは兄より謙虚な性格である。
    Taira- wa ani yori kenkyona seikaku dearu.

    Being honest and efficient at the same time can lead to a better organization.
    誠実であると同時に効率的であることは、より良い組織を作ることにつながる。
    Seijitsudearu to doujini kouritsu-tekidearu koto wa, yoriyoi soshiki o tsukuru koto ni tsunagaru.

    Material Nouns

    refers to a material or substance that is used to make things, such as plastic, iron, cotton, diamond, gold, and silver. 

    Kanji

    Hiragana/Katakana

    Romaji

    Meaning

    牛乳

    ぎゅうにゅう

    gyuunyuu

    Milk 

     

    プラスチック

    purasuchikku

    Plastic  

    きん

    kinn

    Gold 

    繊維

    せんい

    senn-i

    Fiber 

     

    アルコール

    aruko–ru

    Alcohol 

     

    ハニー

    hani–

    Honey 

    くすり

    kusuri

    Kusuri 

    綿

    わた

    wata

    Cotton 

    みず

    mizu

    Water 

     

    ガラス

    garasu

    Glass 

    すな

    suna

    Sand 

    日光

    にっこう

    nikkou

    Sunlight 

     

    ゴム

    gomu

    Rubber 

    香水

    こうすい

    kousui

    Perfume 

    石鹸

    せっけん

    sekken

    Soap 

     

    ペイント

    peinnto

    Paint 

    大理石

    だいりせき

    dairiseki

    Marble 

     

    レンガ

    renga

    Brick 

    Examples:
    Plastic is made up of molecules that are bad especially for the sea turtles. 
    プラスチックは分子でできていて、特にウミガメには悪い影響を与える。
    Purasuchikku wa bunshi de dekite ite, tokuni umigame ni wa warui eikyou wo ataeru.

    The brick and marble fell from the building. 
    建物からレンガと大理石が落下した。
    Tatemono kara renga to dairiseki ga rakka shita.

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    Tips to learn Japanese Nouns

    Our 8 Tips on Learning Japanese

    Our 8 Tips on learning Japanese:

    Learning Japanese can be overwhelming, especially with its  three alphabets you will need to remember in order to actually learn them. There are tons of kanji that Japanese people  are not able to read every single kanji they learn. So here are some tips you will need when you start learning Japanese: 

    1. In order to learn faster, it is important to surround yourself with things, or people who will be able to help you understand and learn Japanese. By having friends who can speak Japanese, they can help you with your listening skills which will eventually boost your Japanese vocabulary. Go to our Ultimate Guide to Make Japanese Friends to learn about making friends in Japan.
    2. It is also important to start with basic words you may need when you start living in Japan. It may be hard to take the first step to learn Japanese but it is easy to get the learning process. Go to our Ultimate Guide to Easy Japanese on how to learn easily.
    3. Don’t pressure yourself if you do not get it immediately, trying to learn another language is very difficult.
    4. Learn Japanese your way. It is important to learn Japanese the way you enjoy it. That way you will be able to learn it quicker.
    5. Set a goal, even if it is your goal for today or your goal for the week, be specific on what you want to learn. 
    6. Use movies, anime, and games which are popular in Japan as a tool to learn more Japanese. If you have no interest and have no favorite Japanese movies, anime, and games, here are our recommendations: Ultimate Guide to Japanese Pop Culture 
    7. Learn their songs. Japanese songs have a very deep meaning, when you understand the lyrics of the songs. Some of my favorite bands / artists are Backnumber and Aimyon. 
    8. There are also tons of online classes you are able to get in Tokyo.

    If you want more tips on how to read Japanese faster, jump to our article Top 15 Japanese Reading Tips

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    Final Thoughts

    Learning another language in general is very difficult. Nouns are very important to remember in learning not just Japanese but also other languages. When learning Japanese, it is not just important to learn the words but also the characters and alphabets used to form the words meaning  hiragana, katakana, and kanji. There are many ways to learn Japanese, you have a lot of access to learn from, so make sure to use that opportunity to learn other languages. Important words mentioned before this sentence are hiragana - which means simple, katakana - which means a japanese script used for writing words borrowed from other languages and kanji - which means also borrowed from other language but from the Chinese writing, specifically.

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