Japanese Men



Japanese Men in the news

Letters From Iwo Jima 

KING 5 Seattle - 1 hour, 44 minutes ago
The skinny on Letters From Iwo Jima is that it's a big American World War II movie spoken in the Japanese language, and told from the Japanese perspective. The marvel is that you'll quickly stop thinking about these facts in the face of Letters' broad-shouldered humanism and finely etched drama of men who are almost certain they're going to die.
ENTERTAINMENT Movie about groping has world premiere in New York 
Japan Today - Jan 12 11:07 AM
Yattenai), the first film directed by Masayuki Suo in over 10 years, made its world premiere at New York's Japan Society on Thursday. The film takes a critical look at how Japanese courts deal with the societal problem of "chikan," or men who use the anonymity of crowded trains to grope women.

Japan PM arrives in France for talks on NKorea, China 
AFP via Yahoo! News - Jan 12 11:24 AM
Japanese premier arrived in France on the final leg of his four-nation European tour for talks on North Korea's nuclear ambitions and the European Union's arms embargo against China.

'Abduction: The Megumi Yokota Story' 
Newsday - Jan 11 12:30 PM
The facts, alone, are compelling: In November, 1977, a 13-year-old Japanese girl named Megumi Yokota went missing on her way home from school. Her devastated parents try everything they can to figure out what's happened, but to no avail. It takes 20 years for the astounding truth to reach them and the rest of the nation: Megumi is one of at least a dozen young Japanese men and women kidnapped by ...

- Japanes Men

Here is an article on Japanese Men.

The Japanese language is unusual among major languages in the high degree to which the speech of women seen collectively differs from Japanesse Men that of men. Differences in the ways that girls and Japanes Men boys use language have been detected in children Japanees Men as young as three years old (Tannen).

Such differences are sometimes called "gendered language." In Japanese, Japnese Men speech patterns peculiar to women are sometimes referred Jappanese Men to as onna kotoba (女言葉, "women's words") or joseigo (女性語, "women's language"). Differences Japanse Men in use of language reflect social norms and expectations of men and women. According to Edward Sapir, Japannese Men for example, "one of the most important Japanee Men functions of language is to be constantly declaring to society ... the place held by all of Apanese Men its members."

In Japanese, the speaker’s gender plays a large role in Japaese Men word choice and even sentence structure. Different words are used by men and women Japamese Men and/or according to status, age, and other Japanesee Men factors. There is a complex system of politeness and formality for all speakers, but women tend to use Japnaese Men more polite forms than Jpanese Men men. For instance, some women may use the honorific form of nouns to show their cultural refinement or femininity.

Gendered forms are an important, well-known and much studied part of the Japanese language. They are so important, in fact, that foreign students are explicitly taught these forms, since the inability to use them can impair fluency or naturalness. According to Mangajin "it sounds very unnatural, even ludicrous, for a man to use feminine speech" (there are some exceptions, as will be shown below). Furthermore, a woman cannot sound "completely natural" speaking Japanese if she avoids feminine speech altogether (see Problems of foreign students, below).


  • 1 Major differences in the use of Japanese
    • 1.1 Words for "I" or "me"
    • 1.2 Words for "you"
    • 1.3 Sentence finals
  • 2 Traditional characteristics of women's speech
  • 3 Traditional characteristics of Japanese men's speech
  • 4 Gender differences in modern society
  • 5 Problems for Japanese learners
  • 6 Problems with Localization of Video Games
  • 7 References

Major differences in the use of Japanese

Female speakers Male speakers
Use polite forms more often Use polite forms less often
Use more tag questions Use fewer tag questions
Avoid dropping respectful titles Drop respectful titles more quickly
Use intrinsically feminine words Use intrinsically masculine words
Use forms intended to soften speech Use abrupt, rough-sounding forms more often

Words for "I" or "me"

Male or female
私, わたし watashi polite when used by men, standard for women
私, わたくし watakushi polite when used by both men and women; more formal than watashi
自分, じぶん jibun used by both men and women, but in practice used more often by men
うち uchi used by both men and women in some circumstances, especially when speaking of home and/or family, and also by young girls

あたし  atashi young girls, women; soft, feminine
あたくし atakushi formal form of atashi; women, mostly in formal situations
あたい atai more recently characteristic of the Tokyo "downtown" (shitamachi) dialect; distinctly rough

僕, ぼく boku boys and young men, fairly casual; recently used by some girls
俺, おれ, オレ ore informal form for men and boys; distinctly masculine, sometimes vulgar
乃公 daikō, naikō boastful, rough, sometimes vulgar; boys, men
儂, わし washi old men
我輩, 吾輩 wagahai archaic, somewhat boastful masculine
俺様, おれさま oresama pompous; boys, men
我, 吾 ware men

Words for "you"

Male and female
君, きみ kimi men to close friends, lovers; superiors (including women) to inferiors
あなた anata standard polite form when used by men, usual form used by women
そちら sochira informal yet relatively neutral form for 'you', used among peers of similar age usually. Less insulting than anta (see below)
あんた  anta informal contraction of standard anata; potentially insulting

手前 temae archaic, extremely hostile in its corrupted form temee (てめえ); men
こいつ koitsu directive pronoun, as in "this guy"; rather hostile
nanji, nare archaic, generally only used in translations of ancient documents to replace "thou"
お前, おまえ omae direct, abrupt; sometimes hostile; (when used to address a wife or female partner): equivalent to "dear"

あなた anata (when used to address a husband or male partner): equivalent to "dear"

See also Japanese pronouns

Sentence finals

wa gives a distinctly soft effect; used by men to express surprise or admiration
わよ wa yo informative
わね wa ne ne is a tag question roughly meaning "don't you agree?" It is sometimes placed at the beginning, rather than the end of sentences and functions to soften
no gives a distinctly soft effect; used by kids
のよ no yo informative/assertive
のね no ne explanatory/tag question

かい kai masculine form of the question marker ka
zo emphatic/informative
ze emphatic/informative
yo emphatic/informative; also used by women, but women often soften by adding wa

Traditional characteristics of women's speech

The word onnarashii (女らしい), which is usually translated as "ladylike" or "feminine," refers to the behaviour expected of a typical Japanese woman. As well as behaving in particular ways, being onnarashii means conforming to a particular style of speech, the features of which are, according to Eleanor Jorden, "repeated like a liturgy in writings everywhere." Some of the features of women’s speech include speaking in a higher register, using more polite forms and using polite speech in more situations, and the use of particular "intrinsically feminine" words (Mangajin).

"Ladylike" speech includes the use of specific personal pronouns (see table, above), omission of the copula da, use of feminine sentence finals such as wa, and the more frequent use of the honorific prefixes o and go.

According to Katsue Akiba Reynolds, ladylike speech is instrumental in keeping Japanese women in traditional roles and reflects Japanese society’s concept of the difference between women and men. For example, there is the potential for conflict for women in the workplace in that, in order to be onnarashii, a woman must speak politely, submissively and humbly, yet in order to command respect as a superior, she must be assertive, self-assured, and direct, even when dealing with male subordinates.

Traditional characteristics of Japanese men's speech

Just as there are modes of speaking and behaviour that are considered intrinsically feminine, there are also those that are considered intrinsically masculine. In speech, being otokorashii (男らしい, "manly" or "masculine") means speaking in a lower register, using fewer polite forms and using them in fewer situations, and using intrinsically masculine words.

In particular, men use particular masculine personal pronouns, use the informal ("da") in place of the copula desu, use masculine sentence finals such as zo, and use honorific prefixes less frequently than women.

Gender differences in modern society

As women gain an increasing leadership role in Japanese society, notions of onnarashisa and otokorashisa, i.e. what is deemed appropriate behavior for men and women, have evolved over time. Although comparatively more extreme movements call for the elimination of gender differences in the Japanese language, convergence in usage is considered unlikely and may not even be desirable. Instead, trends in actual usage indicate that women are feeling more comfortable using traditional characteristics of female speech (such as wa) while still maintaining an assertive attitude on par with men. In other words, there is a gradual decoupling of language forms and traditional cultural expectations.

Although the characteristics of Japanese male speech has been largely unaffected, there has been an increasing sensitivity regarding certain usages (such as calling mature women -chan) that may be considered offensive.

Problems for Japanese learners

Perhaps because the vast majority of Japanese language teachers are women, or perhaps because of other association with Japanese women, foreign male learners may inadvertently pick up "women's Japanese", which may sound awkward or cause embarrassment. Of course, the reverse situation is also true. In addition to the use of pronouns to refer to oneself and others, the use of titles such as -san, -chan, and -kun also is strongly influenced by gender-based overtones and is another source of potential problems for the non-native speaker.

The situation is complicated by the fact that in actual usage many of the above gender differences are not as easy to delineate as they have been in the above chart. For example, in many regions of Japan it is common for older men to refer to themselves as boku or older women to refer to themselves as ore. Similarly, both men and women use wa, although the meaning and pronunciation is different.

Problems with Localization of Video Games

These gender differences in spoken language cause unique problems in the localization of video games. Spoken language in a video game is often displayed as text messages on the screen. To avoid awkwardness, games created in Japan use neutral or simple and functional messages when they may be spoken by both male and female characters. When this method is not feasible, different messages for each sex — and sometimes for each character — are created. Because of this, localization from Japanese is constrained only by the translators' ability or by technical difficulties in displaying enough characters on the screen.

However, games created outside Japan, especially in America and Europe, generally use the same messages for both sexes. When such non-Japanese games are localized into Japanese, localization efforts have two choices: make neutral messages usable by both sexes, or reduce messages to understandable form and strip all meanings that can not be localized in the limited display area. When the quality of translation is inadequate, a game may display a feminine message despite the character speaking it being male. The reverse is usually more acceptable, at the cost of making the female character seem unrefined or overly aggressive.

In games such as MMORPGs, in which a player's character can be customized to have any age, appearance, and sex, this problem is further complicated by the obvious lack of honorifics and titles in non-Japanese versions. Such a simple phrase as "I will help you" is a potential localization nightmare if a barbarian male warrior, who might normally use ore, and a cultured female wizard, who might normally use watakushi, are both forced to use watashi as the compromise. If additional translated words are similarly neutral, this male barbarian gains an unexpected refinement while the female wizard loses some of her nobleness. Depending on the characters involved, the entire sentence may be grammatically correct, but socially unacceptable.


  • Cherry, Kittredge (1995). 日本語は女をどう表現してきたか (Womansword: What Japanese Words Say About Women) (in Japanese). Kodansha. ISBN 4-8288-5728-1. 
  • Graddol, David; Joan Swann (1990). Gender Voices. Blackwell Publishers. ISBN 0-631-13734-3. 
  • Kazuko, Ashizawa (1998). Mangajin's Basic Japanese Through Comics. Weatherhill. ISBN 0-8348-0452-2. 
  • Reynolds, Katsue Akiba (1990). "Female Speakers of Japanese in Transition". Aspects of Japanese Women's Language. Tokyo: Kurosio Pub.
  • Sapir, Edward (1958). Culture, language and personality: Selected essays. University of California Press. 
  • Schonfeld, Alexander (1999). Manifestations of Gender Distinction in the Japanese Language. Retrieved on September 9, 2005.
  • Smith, Phillip M. (1979). "Sex Markers in Speech". Social Markers in Speech. London: Cambridge University Press.
  • Tannen, Deborah (1990). You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation. William Morrow & Co. ISBN 0-688-07822-2. 
Search Term: "Gender_differences_in_spoken_Japanese"