Japan is one of those countries that always seems so far away. Travelling to Japan has been on my bucket list (something you want to do) for years, and I really hope I make it there one day. Luckily for us though, there are many Japanese loan words in English that help Japan feel just a little closer.

One of my favorite things in English is how many words we have borrowed from other languages- GermanFrenchYiddishSpanishLatin and Scandinavian. They help make English unique, and may even inspire you to learn a new language!

If you’re looking for some motivation, or just curious to learn some new words, here are some Japanese loan words in English.


Have you ever had a tsunami of information at work? Or have you felt like you’ve been hit by a tsunami?

tsunami is the Japanese word for a tidal wave, which is a giant wave caused by an earthquake that can cause a huge amount of destruction (damage, broken things).

In English, we generally use the word tsunami to talk about tidal waves, but we can also use it to talk about a huge amount of something, like in the example above.

For example:

  • The island, luckily, wasn’t hit by a tsunami after the earthquake.
  • I felt like I was hit by a tsunami of emails at work when I came back from vacation. I had a ton to catch up on!


There are quite a few weather words that are Japanese loan words. Just like tsunami, another word we get is typhoon.

typhoon is just another word for a hurricane. The only difference between a typhoon and a hurricane is where it takes place. A typhoon takes place in the Northwest Pacific Ocean, and a hurricane takes place in the North Atlantic, central North Pacific, and eastern North Pacific.

For example:

  • The city prepared for the incoming typhoon by evacuating all the residents.
  • I hope we’re not hit with any typhoons this year!


Do you love sending emojis to your friends as much as I do? I think emojis can be a great way to express yourself over text, as you can help to communicate your emotions without the usual personal gestures (body language, etc.) more effectively (better, with success).

Emojis are quite simply the faces, symbols, and small drawings on your cell phone that people attach to texts. They are great for helping to show tone and emphasis, or to soften or intensify something you’ve written.

For example:

  • What emoji do you use to show you are laughing?
  • Have you ever written a whole sentence just in emojis?


Getting a massage can be a great stress reliever and a wonderful way to relax. And getting a shiatsu massage can be an even better way to relax.

shiatsu massage is a specific type of massage that’s said to help support the body’s natural defenses (ability to fight) and balance the mind, body, and spirit.

For example:

  • Want to get a shiatsu massage this weekend?
  • I got a shiatsu massage this weekend, and now I’m so relaxed!


Do you have a favorite dojo, or a place to improve your skills? The word dojo is particularly used with martial arts schools, but we like to think of Bespeaking as a sort of language dojo!

For example:

  • Where’s your dojo?
  • Did you ever take martial arts classes as a kid at a dojo?


You may already know the word sensei from movies or TV. In Japanese, a sensei is any kind of teacher, although we usually use the word to describe a martial arts teacher.

For example:

  • My sensei told me to always stay centered and calm.
  • When he was growing up, his sensei was a huge role model to him.


Practicing Zen Buddhism and the associated meditation is becoming more and more popular in Western culture. In particular, we use the word Zen in English to describe someone or something that is very calm.

For example:

  • I’m not feeling very Zen today. There’s a lot going on at work.
  • She’s going on a Zen Buddhist retreat this week. I think she’s really going to enjoy it!

We have so many Japanese loan words in English, that we’ve barely scratched the surface (started listing them all). Are there any other Japanese loan words in English that you know of? Share them with us in the comments below!

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Check out these other popular blogs: Dating Vocabulary in EnglishWhy You Could Use a Bespeaking ProofreaderItalian Loan Words in English, or these 5 Great Antonyms in English!

Erin Duffin lives in Hamburg, is an English teacher, blogger, yoga instructor, and knows that when she one day travels to Japan, she will probably need more than a few Japanese loan words! 

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