The basics of Japanese nouns is similar to nouns in Western languages – it is the name of a thing or concept.

One basic thing that differ is that Japanese nouns do not have gender, they may not be modified by definite or indefinite articles, because none exist in Japanese, and the singular and plural forms are usually the same.

  • hon (本) : book, books, a book, the book, the books

Writing Nouns

When nouns are written, they can be written using kanji or kana. Most old words have kanji, but sometimes the word is still written in hiragana. Loan words are often written using katakana. For foreign use, like in passports, roomaji is sometimes used. In roomaji, the names of persons and places are capitalized as are the names of languages – except for “English”, that is written “eigo”.

  • 本 – hon : book
  • ほん – hon : book
  • パソコン – pasokon : computer, pc


Plural is usually not indicated in Japanese. In cases you would like to mark plural in Japanese you would often use a counter, stating the specific number of things, or a word like “takusan” saying that there are a lot of things.

For nouns referring to people, the suffix -tachi may be used to indicate the plural.

子供[こども] kodomo child, children
子供達[こどもたち] kodomotachi children
田中さん達 Tanaka san tachi Mr. Tanaka and his family or others


Japanese give the family name first followed by the given name.  Sometimes a comma is inserted after the family name for indication.

田中広見 Tanaka Hiromi (Tanaka, Hiromi) ←→   Hiromi Tanaka

The suffix -ya means the store where the objects are sold or the person who sells them. The suffix -ka means a person who is an expert or specialist in the designated subject.

hana hanaya
flower flower shop, florist
niku nikuya
meat butcher shop, butcher

When referring to a clerk or shopkeeper, the honorific san is used.

本屋さん honya san bookstore clerk, bookseller

Compound Nouns

Two nouns used together as a compound noun are joined by the particle no.

日本語のクラス nihongo no kurasu Japanese language class
アパートのビル apaato no biru apartment building


This page is edited by the StudyJapanese team, based on “Some Notes on Japanese Grammar” published for your personal use, with the kind permission of Keith Smillie (