Basic Japanese : How to say “I” in Japanese – Part 2 –
General, but not very often used “I” in Japanese
Several first-person singular pronouns for common people, only used by some.
- “Jibun” means “oneself”.
Can be used by anybody according to circumstances, but I guess few common people use this as a usual pronoun for themselves.
- Maybe male athletes often use this, especially in public.
- Also, I have an impression soldiers use this when they speak to their superiors because of the old manga called “Nora-kuro”.
This doesn’t seem to apply to the present “Jiei-tai” (the Japan Self-Defense Forces), considering “watashi” is used for “Oath of Service”.
- In Kansai-dialect area including Osaka and Kyoto, this is sometimes used for “you”.
[Your own first name]
- Mainly used by little children.
Sometimes used with “chan” or “san”.
- Some girls / women call themselves with their own first name, perhaps to make them look lovely as small children.
If they really look pretty, they may be accepted especially by men, but likely avoided by women.
- Sounds very “country-person” (especially from north-east areas of Japan) – simple, honest, open-minded and gentle, or just an unsophisticated person.
Nobody would assume you are in the upper-class if you use this.
- Its pronunciation is similar to a Spanish word “hola”.
- More for male than female, but some “country-girl” may use this.
- Character using “ora”:
(In Katakana) Songokuu and Chi-chi from “Dragon Ball”
Shin-chan from “Crayon Shin-chan”
- Very “country-boy”, or coming from a rather poor family.
- Similar to “ora”, but I feel it’s more for children.
- Character using “oira”:
(In Hiragana) “Dororo” from “Dororo” by Osamu Tezuka
- Derived from “watakushi”, but more casual than “watakushi”.
- Not commonly used.
I’ve never met anybody using this.
- Sounds quite posh and arrogant, an “overnight millionaire” impression to me.
- In Tokyo, this may be used by men.
In this case, it’s a general and respectful pronoun.
- Character using “atakushi”:
(In Katakana) Michiru from “Kekkaishi”
- Derived from “atashi”, but not for adults and this sounds much more flippant except for little girls (who could have got a difficulty to pronounce “shi”).
- Probably more often used in fictional world, although this is a little outdated.
I’ve never met someone using this, however I frequently saw young (bad) girls using this in many manga of 80’s.
- Can be used by men in Kagoshima prefecture as a polite pronoun.
Here are the words used in limited areas in Japan, but still widely perceived.
[Wai / Wate]
- Often heard in Kansai-dialect area.
- “Wai”, pronunciation is similar to “Y”, is perhaps more for middle-aged men.
- “Wate” is derived from “watai”, the casual form of “watashi”.
[Oi / Oidon]
- Mainly used in Kyushu area.
I assume many people have got the impression that Takamori Saigou, a very famous samurai from Kagoshima whose statue in Tokyo, called himself with “oidon”.
However, according to some Kagoshima-dialect websites, “oidon” used as singular seems to be quite rare; “Oi” is singular but “oidon” is plural.
- “Oidon” is usually written in “Hiragana”.
Never seen Katakana version myself.
- There is a manga entitled “Otoko-oidon” (lit. “The man oidon” by Reiji Matsumoto.
The main character “Ooyama”, who comes from Kyushu area, uses “oidon”.
- Literally, “uchi” means “inside” or casually “home”.
- A common pronoun for female from Kansai-dialect area.
- In genitive case, “uchi” is used by anybody, anywhere in Japan.
ex) “My dog” can be frequently referred as “uchi no inu” (“Inu” means dog, and “no” in this sentence is showing possession like “‘s” in English.
In this case, accent on “chi”, while “u” is pronounced stronger when the word is used as the subject.
- Character using “uchi”:
(In Hiragana) Lum from “Urusei Yatsura”
– Tips –
The word “uchi” for home / house often shortened to “chi” in colloquial Japanese, especially when referring to somebody’s house.
If you use “watashi” for I and “uchi” for home, “my home” can be “watashi no uchi” or “watashi n’ chi”.
However, when using “uchi” both “I” and “home”, it should be “uchi n’ chi” only, never “uchi no uchi”.
- Derived from “wate”.
Chiefly used by female in Kansai-dialect area.
In the next and last post of “I” in Japanese, I’m going to tell about old-fashioned words.
Latest posts by kara (see all)
- Basic Japanese : “Sumimasen” – “Thank you” in Japanese - June 24, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Arigatou” – “Thank you” in Japanese - May 29, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Go-chisou sama” – Phrase after meal - May 27, 2015
Old-fashioned / historical “I” in Japanese The following “I” pronouns are well-known and can be quite often heard / seen in historical stories especially those which are set in the Edo period. But, these are rarely used in the present time. Neutral [Temae] “Temae” literally means “before hand(s)”. The near side of someone / something. […]
After Michizane’s death in 903, people, who were involved with the conspiracy to frame him, died in a mysterious death one after another. Also, there were natural disasters in Kyoto. Victims of vengeance by Sugawara no Michizane Year: Person 906: Fujiwara no Sadakuni (Age: 40) 908: Fujiwara no Sugane (Age: 53) He reported to the […]
Go-chisou sama (deshita) This phrase is said after meal. It expresses appreciation to people who prepared or cooked the meal. “Chisou” literally means “running around”. The Kanji character for “chi” means “run fast” or “travel fast on horseback / by car”. The “sou” character means “run”. People used to run around (or ride around on […]
Many of Japanese honorific titles in text are the same as ones in speech. However, “sama” or “dono” is much more often used in text, especially for address. Maybe it’s because a writer is in the distance. In a letter, use the same title as one in speech. When I write a letter to my […]
In Japanese, there are many ways to call yourself. Here, I’m trying to explain the differences of each word, but please note they are my own personal impressions and other Japanese may not feel the same way. The word “I” in Japanese Although we have many words for “I”, it is frequently omitted. If you […]
I’m sure many of those who have been to Japan would agree that one of the places that got them spend money are 100 yen shops. These are shops that sell items that mostly cost 100 yen exclusive of tax. The items range from food to housewares to accessories, or in other words, there’s a […]
Old Japanese Alphabets or Historical Japanese Alphabets The two red characters in “gojyuu-on” and “iroha-uta” are out of use now. Both characters had their own sounds consisting of a consonant and a vowel, but each of them changed into the same sound as a vowel which has a similar sound. Although they couldn’t be distinguished […]
Large numbers in Japanese : Thousand to quadrillion From thousand to quadrillion, the common units you hear in everyday life in Japan including in the news. As I wrote in the previous post, for digits over ten, “4” is always read as “yon” and “9” as “kyuu”. “7” is generally “nana”. For bigger numbers than […]
“Toshi densetsu” : Japanese urban legends (3) Mary-san (Ms. Mary) A girl had an old Western doll and called it “Mary”. When her family moved to another place, she disposed it because it was old. One night, a telephone rang at her new home. The girl got it, then heard the voice saying, “Hello, I’m […]
There are mysterious legends around Sugawara no Michizane. Most of them are episodes after he was framed by his political enemy. Michizane and the flying plum tree This legend is very well-known along with the following poem. The night before he left his home in Kyoto, the capital at that time, he composed a poem […]