Japanese Colors: How to Express Colors in Japanese

Japan is a nation that has always held the fascination of people worldwide, with its rich cultural history and practices and beautiful, meaningful language it’s no surprise then that it’s a nation constantly flocked with tourists trying to get a taste of this wondrous landscape. In today’s article we will be guiding you through the exciting and visually stimulating world of colour through the lens of the Japanese language. Firstly it is to be understood that the Japanese language is beautifully complex and descriptive and understanding this will provide a new way to relate to colours. One of the most important aspects to understand in this conversation is that within the Japanese culture, specific colours hold a special and often sacred meaning, originating from customs that are millennia old. This will help newcomers to the language grasp the importance of the usage of the correct terminology when using and discussing certain colours. We hope that the following article will not only provide an enlightening looking into the world of colour within the Japanese culture but also encourage those interested in the culture to gain a deeper understanding of the language with expert language lessons from the tutors at AmazingTalker.

The Primary Colors

  1. Red – Aka – 赤
  2. Blue – Aoi – 青い
  3. Yellow – Kiiro – 黄色
  4. Orange – Orenji – オレンジ
  5. Green – Midori – 緑
  6. Purple – Murasakino – 紫の
  7. Red orange – Akai orenji – 赤いオレンジ
  8. Yellow orange – Ki orenji- 黄オレンジ
  9. Yellow green- Kimidori – 黄緑
  10. Black – Kuro – 黒
  11. Brown – chairo – 茶色
  12. White – Shiro- 白

Some Exceptions

As with any language, there are exceptions for every rule. When it comes to colours in Japanese here are one or exceptions that you may find interesting to note. For example, purple in Japanese is 紫 (murasaki) but you’ll sometimes hear the English loan word (pa-puru) written in Katakana. Another alternate way to say the colour white is instead of using the traditional (shiro) you could use its loan word (howaito).

More Colors

Having explored some of the basics of the world of colour, let’s turn our minds to the fun and creative avenues we can take when combining some of these colours. When mixing colours we create an entirely new species of colour that can be used in a more varied way

Related Colors of Black, White, Grey, and Browns:

Source: Wings of the fire wiki fandom

  1. Charcoal – Mokutan- 木炭
  2. Onyx – Onikisu- オニキス
  3. Jet black- Shikkoku- 漆黒
  4. Porcelain – Jiki -磁器
  5. Ivory – Zōge- 象牙
  6. Cream- Kurīmu -クリーム
  7. Silver – Gin – 銀
  8. Pewter – Pyūtā – ピューター
  9. Slate grey – Surētogurei – スレートグレイ
  10. Chocolate brown – Chokorētoburaun – チョコレートブラウン
  11. Coffee brown – Kōhīburaun – コーヒーブラウン
  12. Tawny – Kōkasshoku -黄褐色

Related Colors of Red, Orange and Yellow

Source: Pantone

  1. Cherry red – Cherīreddo – チェリーレッド
  2. Crimson – Shinku – 真紅
  3. Scarlett- Sukāretto – スカーレット
  4. Tangerine – Tanjerin -タンジェリン
  5. Bronze – Buronzu -ブロンズ
  6. Amber – Anbā -アンバー
  7. Gold – Kin – 金
  8. Lemon – Remonkarā – レモンカラー
  9. Canary – Kanaria -カナリア
  10. Persimmon- -kakiiro- 柿色
  11. Sunflower- himawariiro- ひまわり色
  12. Vermilion- shuiro- 朱色

Related Colors of Green and Blue

Source: Dopely

  1. Chartreuse – Sharutoryūzu – シャルトリューズ
  2. Lime – Raimu -ライム
  3. Olive green – Orībugurīn – オリーブグリーン
  4. Moss green – Mosugurīn -モスグリーン
  5. Mint green – Mintogurīn- ミントグリーン
  6. Jade green – hisuiiro -翡翠色
  7. Teal- kamonohairo- 鴨の羽色
  8. Green-blue – aomidoriiro- 青緑色
  9. Navy blue – Koniro- 紺
  10. Indigo –ai – インジゴ
  11. Cyan- asagiiro -浅葱色
  12. Cobalt – Kobaruto -コバルト

Related Colors of Pink and Purple

Source: Scheme Colour

  1. Peach – Hadairo -肌色
  2. Light pink – Sakurairo -桜色
  3. Rose – Barairo – 薔薇色 / バラ色
  4. Blush pink – Koubaiiro – 紅梅色
  5. Coral – Sangoiro- 珊瑚色
  6. Magenta – Sekishishoku -赤紫色
  7. Fuscia – Fushia – フシア
  8. Plum – Umemurasaki – 梅紫
  9. Eggplant – Nasukon -茄子紺
  10. Mauve – Fujiiro- 藤色
  11. Violet – Murasaki – 紫
  12. Grape – Ebiiro -葡萄色

Adjectives to Describe Colors

Adjectives are descriptive words used to describe various nouns. As you’ll come to see, adding adjectives to your colour descriptions can bring a sense of joy and life into your conversation. Learning various Japanese adjectives will also bring the added benefit of allowing you to express yourself more completely instead of feeling stuck in the world of basic descriptors. Now when it comes to understanding Japanese adjectives for colour one also needs an understanding of Japanese grammar rules and although they seem intense to follow, they at the very least are straightforward. In the next section we will be covering some of these grammar rules so keep an eye out!

Some adjectives would include:

  • Red – akai -赤い
  • Yellow – kiiroi – 黄色い 
  • Blue – aoi – 青い
  • Black – kuroi – 黒い
  • White – shiroi – 白い

Grammar Usage on Japanese Colors

Two of the main distinct grammar rules to be aware of when it comes to the use of adjectives in colours when speaking Japanese are the use of い (i) before i-adjectives. For primary colours the い (i) has to be added at the end of the word, as indicated above in order to make it an adjective. Additionally, other non-primary colours are seen as の (no) adjectives. These colours require the の (no) particle to be added after them in order to be turned into an adjective. However, in light of this rule there are two exceptions, both yellow and brown can be turned into adjectives either way, for eg: yellow can be used as (黄色い (kiiroi) OR 黄色の (kiiro no) and brown can be used as ( 茶色い (chairoi) OR 黄色の (chairo no).

Another important note is that all Japanese colours have a noun form and an adjective form. Keeping track of this, although complex will help with a better use of the colour in conversation.

The Culture behind Japanese Colors

As we know, Japan is a country steeped in deep rich history and it should come as no surprise then that colour forms an important part of this story. From the painting of holy temples and monasteries to the artful creation of kimonos, the importance of colour cannot be parted from Japanese culture. Here is a look into the interesting way colour is interwoven into the cultural significance of Japanese history.

Red and white are colours we have come to commonly associate with Japan, not only does it form a prominent part of their country’s flag but it holds significant historical importance. Although the colour red has often come to be associated with danger for many of us, in japan red as well as white are colours often associated with joy and happiness. Often used in celebratory ceremonies such as birthdays and weddings. The colour red has also become symbolic of strength and passion for the Japanese people. White is commonly a colour that denotes peace and purity but can also be used to indicate death and mourning.

Various other colours hold importance in the Japanese culture, with black generally being used to denote a sense of masculinity and is often used in men’s attire. As with many cultures, purple has come to hold a place of high nobility, and strength and is usually associated with warriors. One could assume that due to the fact that purple was a colour that was hard to come by and quite costly to produce in the early stages of history that this could have something to do with its high ranking status.

More Words Related to Colors

Now that we have extensively covered the bright and interesting world of colours, it’s a joy to bring to your attention that the fun has not yet come to an end. Exploring colours in Japanese could be endless but one more important stop on the ride of adventure are just a few more additions to your expanded colour vocabulary.  Below are some great words to keep in your pocket when using colours in Japanese.

  1. Iridescent – tamamushiiro
  2. Holographic -horogurafikku
  3. Opal – nyuuhakushoku
  4. Transparent or clear – toumei
  5. Bright – akarui
  6. Light or pale -awai
  7. Vivid – azayaka na
  8. Dark – koi
  9. Colourful – iro azayakana / shikisai yutakana
  10. Colourful – karafuru (English loan word)
  11. Rainbow – niji
  12. Colourless – mushoku
  13. Neon (English loan word for Neon)
  14. Multi-coloured – tashokuno
  15. Sparkling colour – Kirameku iro

Brighten your Japanese with colour

Source: Giphy

We know that usually in the modern world when using different colours, their deeper meaning is often not considered. However, through the reading of this article, we hope that we have encouraged all readers to use colour within their daily lives in a more thoughtful and intentional manner. Alongside this, we hope that the wonderful complexity of the Japanese language and its culture has been brought to light in a way that would encourage anyone with even the slightest interest to delve deeper into their exploration. Japan is a country that has a wealth of cultural history to offer its many visitors, however, most seek not a deeper understanding of its traditional practices, values and its language. This article seeks to change that. The exploration of colour through the lens of various cultures is one that is not most commonly explored, however, it can provide great insight into why certain practices persist to this day and why certain monuments hold the importance that they do. We hope that with this article anyone potentially interested in visiting Japan would solidify their intention to do so by taking up Japanese lessons with the certified tutors from AmazingTalker. These lessons will provide the learner with a way to more easily connect with the Japanese people and give a better understanding of their culture.

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