If you have not done so by now, you should seriously consider learning Japanese as a means to more fully learn and understand Ninjutsu as a whole.  Here are some basics to Japanese to get you started. 

Japanese vowels are like English vowels, but their sounds are consistent and never change like they do in English.  A, I, U, E, O, in that order. 

A as in Karate, Atago. 
I as in kimono, sushi. 
U as in sushi, Suzuki. 
E as in metsubushi, men. 
O as in Ohayo, onna. 

Long vowels and consonants are pronounced the same as short ones but are held for double time and are written in Romaji (English based sound of Japanese characters) with diacritics over them such as ā, ī, ū, ē, ō.  You might see them written like this if a book printer is lazy:  aa, ii, uueeoo, but the sound is the same. 

Ā as in obāsan. 
Ī as in chīzu. 
Ū as in pūru. 
Ē as in sēnta. 
Ō as in kōkō. 

When vowels are placed together, they are separate and distinct sounds and are not blended together like they can be in English. 

Samurai.  The last 2 vowels are pronounced as an A and an I independently. 
Geisha.  The E and I are pronounced independently of each other also. 

Consonants are pronounced the same as in English with a couple small exceptions.  F is pronounced much lighter where your teeth don’t actually touch your lip.  Try it with Fuji San and tōfu.  R is a combination of the sounds of R, D, and L.  Many would argue this, but in my opinion, the closest approximation sound is like a rolling R, but only a single roll, if that makes sense. 

Japanese has three alphabets.  Kanji are similar to Egyptian hieroglyphics where they represent ideas and not sounds, and there are approximately 50,000 of these.  The interesting thing about these is that they are the same alphabet as Chinese and can be understood by the Chinese as well.  It can also be read backward and will still make sense.  The second alphabet is hiragana.  These are characters that represent a sound, and usually make up one consonant and a vowel together.  There are 46 hiragana, or 71 if you include diacritics.  The 3rd alphabet is called Katakana.  These represent the same sounds as in Hiragana but are used exclusively for foreign imported words. 

In Japan, the last name comes first. The first name is not always included, and depends on the situation. Finally, keep in mind that Japanese people usually don't shake hands. 

When it comes to learning Japanese (or any skill), putting your goal down on paper increases your chances of success by 90%.  How do you stay motivated and productive enough that you’re still improving yourself months later?  Learning goals fail because they’re unspecific and unmeasurable.  Is your goal measurable?  They’re unrealistic.  There is no action plan.  If you have a specific and realistic goal, but you’re still not on the path to success, the problem is that (Japanese) learners will fail even with specific, realistic goals unless they can answer the following questions:  When will you study?  How long will you study for every day?  Where do you plan to study?  How will you study?  What is your study schedule?  Remember that with setting goals, you need deadlines and you need to break them up into specific and realistic action steps. Break up your goal into a month-to-month plan and ask yourself what you want to get done by the 1st of a specific month?  100 new words in 2 month's time is very doable. One hundred words can be learned even in a single month. Divide it over 4 weeks, which is 25 words a week, and then again daily which is 5-6 words a day.  Start small with monthly goals, and write those monthly goals down.  After you’re done your first month, reward yourself. Psychological studies have long proven that getting rewards for achieving goals (called positive reinforcement) is the key to creating lasting habits. In this case, it’s the habit of Japanese learning.  Next, analyze your month.  Was it too easy or too hard?  Adjust it for your next goal.   

It's said that Japanese pronunciation is one of the simplest parts of the language. Despite everything, it takes some training.  Consider stress in English for a moment. Try saying the words "investigate" and "entrance" out loud. When you say these words out loud, you stress certain syllables. In "investigate," the stress is on the "ves" syllable. In "entrance," the stress is on the "en" syllable. It's probably something that just comes naturally that you've never noticed, but because English pronunciation emphasizes certain syllables, English is known as a stress language.  Japanese doesn't have stress! It's a stress-free language! In Japanese, each syllable is held the same length of time and given equal stress. Keep this in mind when pronouncing Japanese.  Let's look at a word in Japanese and compare how it is pronounced in both Japanese and English. Let's take the word sayonara, the word meaning "goodbye". English pronunciation: [ sa-yo-NA-ra ] Note how the third syllable is stressed.  Japanese pronunciation: [sa-yo-na-ra ].  In Japanese, each syllable receives the same amount of stress.  This might sound like a lot to consider, but remember that learning good pronunciation is one of the easiest parts of learning Japanese. 


おはようOhayō, Good morning 
ございますgozaimasu, phrase used to add the politeness to the expression 
こんにちはKon'nichiwa, hello/good day (daytime greeting) 
ね,ne, right? 
さようならsayōnara, goodbye 
またmata, again 

Sample Sentences 

皆さん、こんにちは  Mina-san, kon'nichiwa.  Hello, everybody. 
じゃ、また。Jamata.  See you later. 

Now you will learn how to greet someone when you arrive and when you part. 

おはようございます。(Ohayō gozaimasu.) Good morning. 
こんにちは。(Kon'nichi wa.) Good day. 
またね!(Mat a ne!) See you! Informal. 
さようなら。(Sayōnara.) Goodbye. 

Cultural Insight 

When you leave your workplace, you would never say sayonara. Instead, you usually say お疲れ様でした (Otsukaresamadeshita), which means "thank you for working together." 

Here's the informal way to say "Thank you" in Japanese.  ありがとう。(arigatō) 
Let's see the formal way to say "Thank you very much." どうもありがとうございます。(Dōmo arigatō gozaimasu.) 
The following is another formal way to say "Thank you very much."  本当にありがとうございます。(Hontō ni arigatō gozaimasu.) 
Finally is a formal way to say "Thanks for everything."  いろいろありがとうございます。(Iroiro arigatō gozaimasu.) 

In Japanese, we often say dōmo, instead of "thank you." However, it's the most casual way of saying “thank you” and sometimes it even sounds very rude. So you have to be careful when you use it. 

Asking How Someone Is 

Here's the way to ask "How are you?" in Japanese. It literally means “Are you  Fine?”  元気ですか。(Genki desu ka.) 
First is a word meaning "fine."  元気 (genki) 
Next is the word meaning "are."  です(desu) 
Last is the question particle.  か(ka) 
Now, pretend you’re talking to your friend.  Here's the informal way to ask 
"How are you?"  元気?(Genki?) 
This one word expression literally means "fine." 
Here's an answer that means  "I'm fine. Thank you." or literally "Yes, I'm fine."  はい、元気です。(Hai, genki desu.) 
First is a word meaning "yes."  はい (hai) 
Next is the word meaning "fine."  元気(genki) 
Last is the word meaning "am."  です(desu) 
Here's a response meaning "not so well" or literally “no, not so well.”  いいえ、あまり。(Iieamari.) 
First is a word meaning "no."  いいえ(iie) 
Next is the word meaning "not very."  あまり(amari) 

Cultural Insight 

To reply to the greeting "How are you?" in Japanese, people sometimes say お蔭様で (Okagesama de), especially in a formal situation. It's almost the same as "I'm fine.  Thank you." in English. Okagesama de means something like "thanks to you.” 

Sample Sentences 

私はお酒があまり好きじゃない。Watashi wa osake ga amari suki janai. I don't really like alcohol. 

オッケイです。Okkei desu.  It's okay. 

いいえ、ちがいます。Iie, chigaimasu.  No, that's wrong. 

A.「お元気ですか。」   O-genki desu ka.  How are you? 
B.「はい、すごく元気です。」 Hai, sugoku genki desu.  I'm great! 


すみません  (sumimasen) excuse me, sorry 
どうもすみませ ん。(Dōmo sumimasen,)   Excuse me. / I'm sorry. (Very polite) 
ごめんなさい。 (Gomen'nasai.) I'm sorry.  (Less polite) 

When saying すみません (sumimasen) or ごめんなさい (gomen'nasai), Japanese people often bow. When you lightly say "Excuse me," you just bow by lowering your head a little bit. However, when you deeply apologize to someone, you should bend your head very low.

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