6 Fantastic but Untranslatable Everyday Japanese Words | Guidable - Your Guide to a Sustainable, Wellbeing-centred Life in Japan
6 Fantastic but Untranslatable Everyday Japanese Words

6 Fantastic but Untranslatable Everyday Japanese Words

By Guidable Writers Apr 26, 2017

This post is also available in: Chinese (Simplified) Spanish Chinese (Traditional)

Know these 5 Japanese Words with no English Equivalents

As a Japanese and English bilingual speaker, I feel very frustrated when I can’t find a certain English word to express what I mean in Japanese, and vice versa. In this article, I will introduce 5 Japanese words that I have consistently had trouble explaining to English speakers.

いただきます (Itadakimasu) & ごちそうさまでした (Gochisousama deshita)

You will hear these phrases a lot in restaurants, as these are used in the beginning and end of a meal. They are said by the person receiving the meal. Itadakimasu which is roughly translated to “I will enjoy the meal”, while gochisousama deshita means “Thank you for the meal”. Though this custom may not exist in some cultures, it is a great expression of gratitude and respect for the people who made and served the meal.

お邪魔します (Ojama shimasu)

Make sure to say this word when you visit another person’s home! Literally translated, ojamashimasu means “I will disturb you”, but it is actually a phrase to show respect to the owner of the house. Because the house is a private place, you should show consideration for “intruding” the space, by saying ojamashimasu when you enter the premises of the house.

よろしくお願いします (Yoroshiku onegaishimasu)

This is probably the most useful word you may learn in business (and casual) settings. After meeting someone for the first time, you can say “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” to mean “Nice to meet you”. However, it can also be used when you ask someone for a favour, to start a project, or to seek for advice, to indicate that you want to keep a good relationship with the person. Therefore, yoroshiku onegaishimasu is sometimes translated as “Please take care of me well”.

なつかしい (Natsukashii)

The closest translation that matches this word is “nostalgic”. When you feel natsukashii, you have special attachment or sentimental feelings towards the object, people, or place. You would often use this word to describe something of the past, such as things you enjoyed during childhood.


You can say it is mendoukusai to do something, if you are too lazy or can’t be bothered. Or, you can describe a person as a mendoukusai kind of person if they are very annoying to deal with. It is a versatile word that can also be used on its own, for example, in response to someone asking you for a favour.

As you can see, many of these words are used in everyday conversations. It would definitely be useful for you to keep them in your mind, so you might communicate with the Japanese people better.