What’s the difference between sensei and kyōshi?

What’s the difference between sensei and kyōshi?

The word "sensei" is pretty well-known even among people who don't speak Japanese, but did you know that you shouldn't use sensei about yourself?

Here's what the textbook has to say:

"Use 'kyōshi' for yourself and the respectful 'sensei' for another person."

That's a pretty good starting point. But there's a bit more to it than that.

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More Ways of Counting in Japanese with "Ippon Demo Ninjin"


My student shared the funny song "Ippon Demo Ninjin" with us recently.

It's pretty pun-tastic, and very catchy.

It's also a good way to learn and practice some more counters (those words we stick on the end of numbers in Japanese, depending on what's being counted).


(Part 1)
1! いっぽん  でも  にんじん     Ichi! Ippon demo ninjin
2! にそく  でも  サンダル     Ni! Nisoku demo sandaru
3! さんそう  でも  ヨット     San! Sansou demo yotto
4!  よつぶ  でも  ごましお     Yon! Yotsubu demo gomashio
5! ごだい  でも  ロケット    Go! Godai demo roketto
6! ろくわ  でも  しちめんちょう    Roku! Rokuwa demo shichimencho
7! しちひき  でも  はち     Shichi! Shichihiki demo hachi
8! はっとう  でも  くじら     Hachi! Hattou demo kujira
9! きゅうはい  でも  ジュース     Kyuu! Kyuuhai demo juusu
10! じゅっこ  でも  いちご     Juu! Jukko demo ichigo

いちご、 にんじん、 サンダル、 ヨット、 ごましお、 ロケット、しちめんちょう 、はち、くじら、ジュース
Ichigo, ninjin, sandaru, yotto, gomashio, roketto, shichimencho, hachi, kujira, juusu
Strawberry, carrot, sandal, yacht, sesame and salt, rocket, turkey, bee, whale, juice

(Dance break)

(Repeat Part 1)

いっぽん、 にそく、 さんそう、 よつぶ、 ごだい、ろくわ、しちひき、はっとう、きゅうはい、 じゅっこ!
Ippon, nisoku, sansou, yotsubu, godai, rokuwa, shikihiki, hattou, kyuuhai, jukko!
One long thin thing, two shoes, three boats, four small round things, five vehicles, six birds, seven small animals, eight large animals, nine cups, ten small things!

The joke here is that all the numbers are "wrong"...

The beginning of ninjin (carrot) sounds like "ni" (two) but there's only one carrot.

And the beginning of sandaru (sandles) sounds like "san" (three) but...there are only two sandals!

We could translate いっぽん  でも  にんじん  Ippon demo ninjin, therefore, as:
"It's only one, but it's ninjin."
or
"Even if there's only one, a carrot is ninjin."
(Trust me, it sounds better in Japanese.)

Anyway, listen again and try and sing along.

I haven't translated the whole thing for you, just bits. See if you can work the rest of it out!

What's The Difference Between Tabemono and Ryouri?


I love a good question. Here's one I got this week:

"Why does this homework say the Japanese word for food is ryouri? I thought you said the word for food was tabemono?"

Consider the following:

Potatoes are tabemono, but they're not ryouri.

A plate of hot chips is tabemono AND ryouri.

Does that give you a clue?



食べ物 tabemono


Tabemono is food in quite a general sense.

The unprepared ingredients in your fridge are tabemono. The food on your plate is also tabemono.

For example:
好きな食べ物は?
Suki-na tabemono wa?
What's your favourite food?

体に良い食べ物ベスト10!
Karada ni ii tabemono besuto 10!
Top ten foods that are good for you!

料理 ryouri


Ryouri, on the other hand, is cooking or cuisine. Specifically, it's food which has been cooked or prepared.

The food on your plate is ryouri, but the ingredients in your fridge are not ryouri.

その店の料理は美味しかったです。
Sono mise no ryouri wa oishikatta desu.
The food at that restaurant was great. 


Ryouri can be the cuisine of a whole country:

フランス料理が大好きです。
Furansu ryouri ga daisuki desu.
I love French food.

イギリス料理はまずいと言われます。
Igirisu ryouri wa mazui to iwaremasu.
It's said that British food is disgusting.

料理をする ryouri o suru means "to cook", too:

ロバートさんはあまり料理をしません。
Robaato san wa amari ryouri o shimasen.
Robert doesn't cook very often. 

Question time! Can you answer these questions?


1. 好きな食べ物は何ですか。
 (すきな たべものは なんですか。)

2. よく料理をしますか。何を作りますか。
 (よく りょうりを しますか。なにを つくりますか。)

Or, you could hop on over to Twitter and ask me a question. I do love a good question 😊

Umbrellas Lost And Found - The Hundred Yen Shop


Did you know Japan owns the most umbrellas per person in the world?

For every person in Japan, there are 3.3 umbrellas.

At least three of them are mine, left outside shops.

In 2011, fresh off the boat in Japan, I moved into my new apartment on the outskirts of Nagoya. At the weekends I'd head to Daiso, the 100-yen shop, to buy bits and pieces for my new flat.

One day, I left my umbrella in the stand outside the 100-yen shop. It was quite a nice umbrella - a neat little folding one - and I was annoyed. I went back to the shop the next day.

My little blue umbrella wasn't in the rack, so I asked at the register.

My Japanese was quite limited then, but I knew how to say 傘を忘れました (kasa o wasuremashita, "I left my umbrella").

The shop assistant looked a bit bemused, but wanted to help me, so she asked me what the umbrella looked like.

I told her the umbrella was 小さい (small). I gestured to show it was very small.

ああ、折りたたみですか。
Aa, oritatami desu ka?
Oh, is it "oritatami"?

I didn't know what "oritatami" meant, and I didn't have a dictionary with me (or smartphone!), so I repeated that it was small.

The shop assistant bustled about, murmuring:

"Oritatami, oritatami, oritatami..."

She went off to look somewhere else, and then came back and apologised profusely. My umbrella was gone.

I walked home. It started to rain.

At home, I pulled out my romaji dictionary. Oritatami means "folding"!

I'lll never forget that word, I thought.

I lost my little umbrella, but I gained a new word in my vocabulary. You need more than 3.3 words per person, after all...

How to Read The Japanese News


When I first moved back to Brighton I had a lot of time on my hands. I also didn't have a job, so I was desperate for free Japanese reading material.

So I started borrowing Japanese books from the library.

This plan was not exactly a success. It turns out reading Twilight in Japanese is only slightly more entertaining than reading it in English.

But we are really lucky to live in a world where, if you have internet access, you can read just about anything you want in Japanese online. And the news is a great place to start.

If you can't read fluently yet, looking at a wall of Japanese text can be intimidating. You don't know the meaning of the word, or even how to sound it out.

You need a dictionary - a really smart free one like Rikaichan.

Rikaichan is a browser add-on that works as a pop-up dictionary. I used it every day for years, and I love it. Let's take a look at how it works, and start reading the news!

How Rikaichan works


Here we are on the website of the Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan's largest national newspapers.

I hover the cursor over the word 音楽. Rikaichan's little blue pop up tells me the reading of the word (おんがく ongaku) and what it means - "music".

Rikaichan also shows us the dictionary entries for individual kanji (Chinese characters).

Here, it's showing 音, the first character in the word 音楽, and telling us that 音 means "sound".

Learn where words begin and end


Japanese doesn't have spaces between words so if you're looking at unfamiliar words, it can be hard to know where each word starts and finishes.

Rikaichan is pretty smart at doing that bit for you.

Here, it knows that 九州 (Kyushu island) is one word, and 豪雨 (torrential rain) is the next, separate word.


How to get it


So that's what Rikaichan does. Here's how to get started with it!

1) Get the right browser


Rikaichan and its "little brother" Rikaikun are for the web browsers Firefox and Chrome. If you're not using one of those programmes, you'll need to download the browser first.

It's worth it. I used Firefox religiously for years just so I could use Rikaichan to get my morning news.

As far as I know the add-on doesn't work on mobile, unfortunately. (There's a similar-looking app called Wakaru for iOS - if you've used it, let me know what you think.)

2) Install Rikaichan or Rikaikun


Which one do you need? Rikaichan and Rikaikun are the same add-on, but for Firefox and Chrome.

So, download and install Rikaichan from the Mozilla add ons page, or Rikaikun from the Chrome Web Store.

3) Download a dictionary


Rikaichan needs a dictionary to pull readings and meanings from, so after you've installed the add-on, you'll be prompted to install at least one dictionary file.


If English is your first language, you want the "Japanese - English" dictionary.

I recommend installing the "Japanese Names" dictionary too, so that Rikaichan can identify common names when they pop up.

That way, it'll know that 中田 is Nakada, a common Japanese surname, and doesn't just mean "middle of the ricefield".

4) Turn Rikaichan on


You probably won't want Rikaichan on all the time. Sometimes you'll want to read without a dictionary, and sometimes you won't be reading Japanese. You can turn it off and on when you like.

Turn Rikaichan on, and let's give it a go.

Read everything!


Years ago when I started using Rikaichan, I set myself a challenge to read one headline with it every day.

Next, I made myself read three headlines per day. Then five. Then the first paragraph of an article. Eventually I was reading entire news articles, and using the dictionary less and less.

These days I get the Asahi Shimbun news straight to my inbox, because I don't need to look up words often enough to use Rikaichan any more.

But it was a completely invaluable part of my language learning journey. And it's definitely more interesting than reading Twilight in Japanese.

Sarada at the Resutoran...Part 2: The Answers


Remember, some loanwords look and sound a bit like English - but they're not!

Last week I gave you some Japanese loanwords to guess the origins of. Did you guess what languages (not English!) these words come from?

Koohii コーヒー coffee -  Portuguese

Zero ゼロ zero - French

Pompu ポンプ pump - Dutch; Flemish

Botan ボタン button - Portuguese

Koppu コップ cup - Dutch; Flemish

Sarada サラダ salad - Portuguese

Kokku コック cook - Dutch; Flemish 
There have actually been Dutch and Portuguese loanwords in Japanese since the 16th and 17th centuries, when both countries established trade with Japan.

So, next time you see a katakana word you don't recognise, don't despair - it might not have originated from a language you speak! ;-)