42 Beautiful Japanese Words Every Japanese Learner Should Know
Since I was little, I’ve loved the cadence of the beautiful Japanese language.
I loved the way it sounds. The way it rolled off people’s tongues and the way the words carry more weight to them because of subtext. And most of all, I love how Japanese describes beautiful things and beautiful feelings.
Japanese has some really cool words and phrases that capture feelings perfectly, and in a way, the English language can’t come close. In fact, some Japanese words I often find myself wanting to use in English… Because they capture what I’m feeling better!
With so many beautiful words in the language and ways to describe beauty, it’d be a shame if you didn’t learn it!
So let’s dive into some beautiful Japanese words.
Beautiful Japanese Words and Phrases to Know
Beautiful in Japanese – 美しい
“Beautiful” in Japanese is one of my favorite words: 美しい (utsukushii). But it’s an intense word, usually used for nature and not casually thrown around. You can also use 素敵な (suteki na) for “beautiful”, which is more common when talking about a woman’s beauty.
“Beautiful woman” in Japanese could be 美少女 (bishoujo), especially when talking about the shoujo anime characters. But in everyday real life, it would be more common to say something like きれいな女性 (kirei na josei), which means “pretty woman”.
And a guy can be beautiful too! 美少年 (bishounen) are men who are incredibly beautiful, like the leading male characters in many shoujo anime.
Beauty in Japanese – 美しさ
“Beauty” in Japanese is utsukushisa. You can use it to describe many things, like nature: 自然の美しさ (shizen no utsukushisa), “beauty in nature.”
You can also use 素晴らしい (subarashii) to describe something that’s stunningly beautiful or gorgeous.
Yuuhi ga subarashii.
The sunset is stunning.
Pretty in Japanese – 綺麗な
きれいな (kireina), or written in kanji – 綺麗な – means both “clean” and “pretty.” You can use it to describe your room as clean, like: 部屋はきれいです。(heya wa kirei desu) Or, you can use it to describe a someone or something as “pretty,” such as: 彼女は本当にきれいです (Kanojo wa hontou ni kirei desu), “She’s really pretty.”
It’s more common to write this word in hiragana than kanji, but both are used.
Cute in Japanese – 可愛い
Probably one of the most well known Japanese words to foreigners. かわいい, or with its kanji 可愛い, means “cute.” You might hear something like めっちゃかわいい (meccha kawaii, “super cute”).
In Japan, everything is cute. Cuteness overload. In fact, as a culture, Japanese people highly value cuteness, even to the point of obsession sometimes. Many girl idol groups have crazed fans because of their かわいい factor.
Like with “pretty,” it’s more common to write “cute” in hiragana instead of kanji.
Love in Japanese and Other Beautiful Japanese words for Relationships
There are some lovely words for describing love and feelings of passion or respect. For example, 愛 (ai) is well known as the Japanese word and kanji for “love.” Many people get this Japanese word as a tattoo because the kanji is beautiful and elegant.
恋 (koi) also means love, but a deeper, more intense love. The radicals in the kanji (the smaller elements that make up the whole) are “red” and “heart.” So this kanji is kind of like the equivalent to the emoji ❤️.
守る means “to protect” and can be used in a romantic way. Like 守りたい (mamoritai), which gives the romantic feeling of “I want to protect you forever.”
生きがい (ikigai) translates as “reason to live,” but more or less means someone has their whole heart. But it can also talk about someone’s passion and purpose in life.
故郷 (furusato) means “hometown,” but it’s deeper than that. It gives the feeling that you used to live there, and your heart still belongs to that city. Almost like a homesick feeling.
And 憧れ (akogare) translates as “longing” or “yearning.” But again, the nuance is deeper than that, and doesn’t translate as beautifully into English. Because it’s more used to describe the wish to be like someone you admire.
Peace in Japanese and Other Beautiful Japanese Words for Feelings
The Japanese word for “peace” is 平和 (heiwa). The kanji here are interesting. The first kanji means “broad” and the second kanji means “harmony.” It gives the feeling that only when there is broad harmony among all the people, will there be peace.
And that ideology is important to Japanese culture, which values the community and their role in it. Japanese people are incredibly mindful about how their actions might be perceived or affect others around them. So they tend to be more reserved and more willing to do what’s best for others even if it’s inconvenient for themselves. This mindset actually has a word: おもてなし (omotenashi). It means “hospitality” but translates more like “mindfulness towards others.”
There are several words that describe the feeling of letting go of perfection. わびさび (wabisabi) is the mindset that there’s beauty in the imperfect. しょうがない (shouganai) means “it can’t be helped”. Rather than a phrase used to say someone is giving up on fixing something, it’s about accepting what can’t be changed and moving forward.
懐かしさ (natsukashisa) is a beautiful Japanese word that means “nostalgia”. You can feel nostalgic with the adjective form, 懐かしい (natsukashii). If you’re feeling nostalgic, you may be stuck 空想 (kuusou), or “daydreaming” about the past.
甘美な (kanbina) is a sound that’s sweet to the ear, or “luscious.” It’s something that flows off the tongue well, and you love the sound of it. In another sense, 渋い (shibui) means “cool minimalist design or style” and describes things like a KonMari aesthetic. Simple, clean, white and grey, but sophisticated and cool.
One more feeling that maybe you can relate to: 積読 (tsundoku). It’s the Japanese word to describe people who love to buy new books but never get around to reading them. I feel called out!
Sky in Japanese and Other Beautiful Japanese words for Nature
“Sky” in Japanese is 空 (sora). It’s one of my favorite Japanese words and is also a beautiful Japanese name. Sora was the lead character in the video games, Kingdom Hearts, for example. But interestingly, the same kanji, when read as 空く (aku), means to “become empty.” So the kanji 空 can refer to empty vastness, too.
Another absolutely beautiful Japanese word that perfectly captures a scene: 花吹雪 (hanafubuki). This is when falling cherry blossom petals fall so fast, it looks like snow.
And speaking of cherry blossoms, that’s 桜 (sakura) in Japanese. That’s another common name and a beloved word in Japanese culture. There’s a lot of revere for the Japanese cherry blossom trees, and many festivals center around them.
森林浴 (shinrin-yoku) means “forest bath.” You may have heard of this one because it’s become a bit trendy. But there’s evidence that “forest bathing” — AKA, walking through the forest and taking in the greenery — is beneficial for your health and wellbeing. There’s also the beautiful word 木漏れ日 (komorebi) that describes the sunlight shining through the leaves, and the slight green hue it takes on in the forest. And during autumn, you’ll see 落葉 (rakuyou), which are the colorful leaves falling to the ground.
木枯らし (kogarashi) describe the cold wintry wind felt at the beginning of the season. And 川あかり (kawa-akari) is the peaceful way lights reflect off a river in the evenings and at night.
Many Japanese find beauty in things not immediately obvious to be beautiful, so they have a word for that feeling, too. 幽玄 (yuugen) means “mysterious” but all ties into the concept of meditation and reflecting on the mysterious beauty of the universe.
Lastly, 金次 (kintsugi), which means “golden repair.” It’s another trend from Japan that’s become popular recently, and for good reason. 金次 is the art of repairing broken things, like pottery or dishes, by piecing it back together and sealing it with gold lacquer. This makes the object more beautiful and unique than it was before. It gives off the vibes that “nothing’s ever broken beyond repair” and “there’s beauty in imperfection.”
Beautiful Japanese Names and Meanings
Many Japanese names are beautiful, too! The kanji a parent picks out to make their child’s name has a lot of significance. It’s supposed to imbue some of those positive traits to the child. So many names have lovely meanings! Here are a few. I marked if they were female (f), male (m), or neutral (n).
- Aika (f) – “love song”
- Aiko (f)- “beloved one”
- Akira (n) – “bright dawn”
- Chikako (f) – “child of wisdom”
- Daisuke (m) – “great helper”
- Hanako (f) – “flower child”
- Haru (m) – “born in spring”
- Hikaru (m) – “rays of light”
- Hotaru (f) – “firefly”
- Isao (m) – “honor”
- Kichi (m) – “good luck”
- Mako (f) – “truth”
- Mamoru (m) – “protect”
- Mirai (f) – “future”
- Nobuyuki (m) – “faithful happiness”
- Sayuri (f) – “little lily”
- Yasuo (m) – “peaceful one”
You can tell by their names, that their parents take care to come up with a beautiful combo of kanji. The kanji used to write someone’s name, even if pronounced the same, can be written differently and have different meanings.
Enjoy the Beautiful Japanese Language
The Japanese language is full of beautiful, captivating words, and this list is just the tip of the iceberg. What other beautiful Japanese words do you know? Leave them for me in the comments! I’d love to hear them.
If you want to dive deeper into the language, read up on Japanese culture and all the things you need to know about Japan. Or watch some incredible Japanese movies that will give you 懐かしい (natsukashii) vibes.
Thanks for reading! And wishing you 平和 heiwa (“peace”).