30+ Cool Japanese Words Everyone Should Know

You may know that the Japanese language is beautiful, but did you know how unique and cool it can be? Japanese words such as typhoon, karate and tofu have made their way into English popular usage, but there are many more Japanese words that only exist in Japanese. Keep reading for more than 30 cool Japanese words that you should work into your vocabulary as soon as possible.

cool japanese word すげー cool japanese word すげー
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Cool Japanese Slang Words to Know

When you're visiting a country, you want to know the proper way to get your point across. But knowing the regional slang can be helpful too! Take a look at these cool Japanese slang words that appear on the streets of Tokyo and in social media worldwide.

cool japanese word いける
Japanese ScriptEnglish PronunciationEnglish Meaning
ちょかわいいcho kawaii
(cho kah-wah-ee)
super cute (about an attractive guy or girl you like)
ダサい

dasai
(da-si)

lame, not cool
ドンマイdonmai
(dohn-my)
I don't mind (no problem)
半端ないhanpa nai
(hawn-pah nye)
insane, crazy (an unbelievable situation)
いけるikeru
(ee-kare-oo)
cool, stylish
キモいkimoi
(kee-moy)
gross, creepy
空気読めないkuuki yomenai
(koo-ook-ee yo-men-eye)
not reading the room (being awkward)
まじmaji
(mah-jee)
Seriously?
なにするnani suru
(nah-nee soo-roo)
What are you gonna do?
オッスossu
(oh-soo)
What's up?
リア充riajuu
(ree-ah-joo)
someone who prefers the real world over being online (a "normal" person, not a nerd)
渋いshibui
(shee-boo-ee)
retro cool
すげーsu-ge

(soo-gey)

amazing, awesome
それなsore na
(
sor-ah naw)
this (I totally agree)
ウケるukeru (oo-kare-oo)haha (or "that's funny")
やばいyabai
(yah-bye)

awesome/terrible (depending on context)

Practice speaking and writing these words until you're an expert in Japanese slang. Soon you'll sound like a local!

Awesome Japanese Idioms and Expressions

The English language has lots of idiomatic sayings to get a point across. But these sayings take on a whole new meaning when condensed into Japanese yojijukugo, or idioms in four kanji (Japanese characters). Some of these sayings have moved into the Japanese languages from Chinese origins.

Take a look at some awesome idioms and expressions that don't literally mean what they say, but still say quite a lot.

cool japanese word 無我夢中
Japanese ScriptEnglish PronunciationEnglish Meaning
電光石火denkou sekka
(dane-koo say-kah)
fast as lightning (a good worker)
一期一会ichi-go ichi-e

(it-chee go it-chee-ay)

one life, one chance
異口同音iku dōon

(ee-koo doon)

saying the same sound with different mouths (unanimous)

因果応保inga-ouhou
(een-gah ow-how)
bad behavior gets bad results
八方美人hap-pou-bi-jin

(hap-pow-bee-jeen)

eight directions beautiful person (someone who tries to please everyone)
無我夢中ishin denshin
(ee-shin den-shin)
spoken from one heart to another (communication with no words)
弱肉強食jaku niku kyoushoku
(jah-koo nee-koo kyoo-sho-koo)
weak meat, strong food (survival of the fittest)
自業自得ji-gou-ji-toku
(jee-gow-jee-toh-koo)

self-enterprise, self-profit (you made your bed, now lie in it)

十人十色juunintoiro
(joo-oon-in-to-ee-row)
ten people, ten colors (to each their own)
花鳥風月kachōfūgetsu

(kah-chow-foo-get-soo)

flower, bird, wind, moon (love the beauties of nature and yourself)
三日坊主mikka bouzu
(mee-ka bow-zoo)
a monk for three days (someone who quits easily)
無我夢中muga muchū
(moo-gah moo-choo)
in the middle of a dream (totally absorbed in a task)
老少不定

rou-show-fu-jou
(row-show-foo-jow)

death keeps no calendar (no one knows how long they'll live)
竜頭蛇尾

ryuu-tou-da-bi
(ri-you-oo-tow-dah-bye)

head of a dragon, tail of a snake (something scary that turns out to be nothing)
四苦八苦shikuhakku
(shee-koo-haw-koo)
four sufferings, eight
取り戻すtorimodosu
(toh-ree-moh-doh-soo)
get up again when life knocks you down
羊頭狗肉yōtōkuniku
(yoh-toh-koo-nee-koo)
crying wine and selling vinegar (advertising a better product than you're selling)

These are only a few of the thousands of yojijukugo in the Japanese language. It goes to show you that Japanese is an excellent way to express yourself in both literary and figurative ways.

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The Beauty of Japan

Now that you know these cool Japanese words for nature, actions and conversation, you're ready for more! Check out these 40 powerfully beautiful Japanese words to add even more beauty to your vocabulary. You can also take a look at more words of Japanese origin that you might use in your everyday conversation.