1. Japanese Alphabet

Japanese has two types of alphabets: hiraganas and katakanas, both are phonograms (representing pronunciation). Those sets of letters were invented in Heian period over 1,000 years ago, derived from kanji characters. Each set has about 50 letters to denote the basic syllables, which are attached to with the voiced mark ( ˝ or ˚ ) to denote the voiced syllables or some of which are combined to denote choked syallables and such.

A Japanese syllable consists of a vowel or a semivowel (y- or w-sound) alone, or following only one consonant. Japanese syllables do not contain double consonants (like “trip,” “sky,” etc.) or tipple consonants (like string or “strike”).


Actually, any Japanese sentences can be written only in hiraganas, although common Japanese contains some katakanas and kanji characters. Below is the table of hiraganas; the pronunciations for the respective hiraganas are written in each box. The table is organized such that each row represents the consonant and each column corresponds with the vowel or the semivowel with which to form a syllable.

The hiraganas are classified into basic syllables, voiced syllables, and choked syallables. The basic syllables are consists of the sounds of syllables corresponding to the basic letters, none of which contains voiced consonants.

The voiced syallables are the voiced version of the basic syllables. The voiced version is denoted by attaching the voiced mark ( ˝ or ˚ ) at the upper right of the basic letter. Some readers may think it strange that the P-sound is classified as the voiced sound. This mis-classification is ascribable to Japanese ancestors' misunderstanding of pronunciation.

The choked syallbes are unfamiliar with English speakers. The unfamiliar sounds are pronounced by holding your breath quite a little and puffing out the consonant. The holding-and-puffing fashion of pronunciation makes the syllable sound like hiccup. Perhaps, it is difficult for most of the English speakers to pronounce or listen them correctly. For example, iki (= breath) and ikki (= at one stroke) are different words. The choked syllable, which do not appear at the head of a word, is denoted by starting with the letter tsu written in a quarter the size of the normal letters.

Did you find the rows of S-sound and T-sound are awkward? They should've been arranged sa-si-su-se-so and ta-ti-tu-te-to, but they are sa-shi-su-se-so and ta-chi-tsu-te-to. Such irregular arrangement is because of the sound shift that has occurred in the history of Japanese language.

Additionally, there's no L-sound in the table, because Japanese people don't discern between L and R. That's why there's no hiraganas denoting the L-sound; Japanese people write the L-sound confusedly as the R-sound.


The katakanas are the exact counterpart of the hiraganas, so it is possible to write Japanese all in katakanas; however, that might look weird. As a matter of fact, the katakanas are the special letters for non-Japanese names and sounds. If you're not a Japanese your name should be spelt in katakanas. Below is the table of katakanas.

This table includes the additional letters for denoting a non-Japanese words since katakanas are special letters to write non-Japanese sounds as is explained above. Those sounds were not originally contained in Japanese language, but they were introduced in last century with foreign words like English and French.

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2. Try Spell Names in Japanese

Having learned about Japanese alphabet, do you want to spell CCS characters' names in Japanese? Spelling in Japanese is sometimes easier than English, because hiraganas and katakanas are simply represent how they are pronounced. Below is how the major CCS characters' names are spelt.

Note that Syaoran's and Meilin's names aren't Japanese, so have to be spelt in katakanas. Spinel and Kerberos are the same. Eriol's names is complicated—his family name is Japanese, whereas his given name is non-Japanese. That's why his family name is spelt in hiraganas, and his given name in katakanas.

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3. Say Good Morning to Sakura

How many Japanese greeting phrases do you know? It may be nice to know what to say in Japanese when you see your friends in the morning, daytime, and at night. Don't you think it's cool if you can use some Japanse greeting phrases in your e-mail messages? Let's try to remember. ^_^

Hajime mashite. Nice to meet you.
Oaidekite ureshii desu. (formal) I'm pleased to meet you.
Hisashiburi. It's been a while.
Gobusata shite masu. (formal) Long time no see.
Ohayou gozaimasu. Good morning.
Ohayou. (colloq.) Morning.
Konnichiwa. Hello.
Good afternoon.
Konbanwa Good evening.
Oyasumi nasai. Good night.
Oyasumi. (colloq.) Good night.
Gokigenyou (highly formal) Hello.
Sayounara. Good-bye.
Mata ne. (colloq.) See you.
Ja ne. (colloq.) See you.

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4. CCS-Related Japanese Words

The table below shows the list of Japanese words closely related to Cardcaptor Sakura. Most of those words are used in the daily lives in Japan, not just in the CCS world. See how many words you can remember.

kādokyaputā= cardcaptor
sakura= cherry blossom
kyouou-byou= blossom mushiform encephalopathy (BME)
mahou= magic
majutsushi= sorcerer
gakkou= school
sansuu= math
taiiku= physical education (PE)
ongaku= music
sensei= teacher
onii-chan= big brother
imouto= little sister
otou-san= father
okaa-san= mother
kaijuu= monster (like Godzilla)
onna no ko= girl
otoko no ko= boy
kawaii= to be cute
chouzetsu kawaii= to be cuter than cutest
nuigurumi= stuffed animal
kozou= brat
keitai= cell phone

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5. Basic Descriptions with Nouns

Let's study here how to describe or explain something in Japanese in a very simple way, such as Sakura is the Cardcaptor, or Touya is Sakura's brother, or something like that.

Sakura wa kādokyaputā da. (plain form)
Sakura wa kādokyaputā desu. (polite form)
Sakura is the Cardcaptor.

Very simple, isn't it? Some of you may be wondering where the article (the) is gone? In translating into Japanese, articles (a, an, or the) have to be removed, since there's no words in Japanese corresponding to the articles.

In this manner, Touya is Sakura's brother is described in Japanese, like:

Touya wa Sakura no onii-san da. (plain form)
Touya wa Sakura no onii-san desu. (polite form)
Touya is Sakura's big brother.

Japanese has variation of distinct tones of speech: the plain form and the polite form. Actually, the plain form also have many colloquial tones, like male tone, female tone, and many more. The tone of speech can be changed if you choose appropriate particle with which to replace the da. Some typical tones of speech are of these forms:

Sakura wa kādokyaputā de aru. (thesis tone)
Sakura wa kādokyaputā da zo. (masculine tone)
Sakura wa kādokyaputā da yo. (neutral tone)
Sakura wa kādokyaputā na no. (feminine tone)
Sakura wa kādokyaputā yo. (feminine tone)

Techinically, de aru is the original form of da, which is the shorten form. However, the original form is hardly heard in speech, except in technical presentation. The tones of speech are mainly determined by the terminating particles (-zo, -yo, -no, etc.).

Interrogative Form

The interrogative form of Japanese is easy to make. For the plain form, replace da with na no, and you'll get the interrogative form. For the polite form, all you have to do is add ka to the tail of the sentence.

Sakura wa kādokyaputā na no? (plain form)
Sakura wa kādokyaputā desu ka? (polite form)
Is Sakura the Cardcaptor?

Negative Form

There's also the regular procedure to negate sentences in Japanese. For the plain form, replace da with dewa nai; whereas for the polite form, replace desu with dewa ari-masen, so you can express your negative idea in Japanese. Do you think the negation of the polite form is difficult? I almost forgot, but there's a slightly easier way; -dewa nai desu is possible to negate the polite form. It is spoken in daily lives, but it isn't used in a formal situation; that's why I call this form as the semi-polite form.

Tomoyo wa kādokyaputā dewa nai. (plain form)
Tomoyo wa kādokyaputā dewa ari-masen. (polite form)
Tomoyo wa kādokyaputā dewa nai desu. (semi-polite form)
Tomoyo is not the Cardcaptor.

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6. Basic Descriptions with i-Adjectives

Let's study next how to describe your impression in Japaese, for instance, “This flower is pretty,” or “This bag is heavy.” You need to use Japanese adjective in that case, but there's one thing to note in advance. Japanese adjecives are classified into two types: i-adjectives and na-adjectives. First, try to master i-adjectives.

The i-adjectives may seem bizarre to English speakers. Those adjectives don't need a copula (like is, are, or am) to equate the adjective and the subject. Actually, i-adjectives performs like verbs in a sentence, so they're often referred to as adjective verbs. A basic sentence with an i-adjective looks like the follows:

Sakura wa kawaii. (plain form)
Sakura wa kawaii desu. (polite form)
Sakura is cute.

kawaii [i-adj] to be cute.

In the plain form, da is not neccessary, because the i-adjective kawaii works like a verb as is explained above.

Interrogative Form

The interrogative form of an i-adjective description is also very simple. Add no to the tail of the plain form, besides add ka for the polite form, and that's all. It's almost the same as noun descriptions.

Kero-chan wa chiisai no? (plain form)
Kero-chan wa chiisai desu ka? (polite form)
Is Kero-chan small?

chiisai [i-adj] to be small.

Negative Form

The procedure for the negaive form might look a little difficult, but it's not so hard to master. For the plain form, alter the tail of the adjective -i into -ku-nai. For the polite form, replace -i desu into -ku ari-masen. Now, let's negate Kurou Kādo wa warui (The Clow Cards are bad.) for example. As in the noun description, semi-polite form is possible in this case as well.

Kurou Kādo wa warukunai. (plain form)
Kurou Kādo wa waruku ari-masen. (polite form)
Kurou Kādo wa warukunai desu. (semi-polite form)
The Clow Cards are not bad.

warui [i-adj] to be bad.

As the last thing in this lesson, some useful i-adjectives are listed in the table below.
nagai= to be long mijikai= to be short
omoi= to be heavy karui= to be light
akarui= to be bright kurai= to be dark
atsui= to be hot samui= to be cold
hayai= to be fast osoi= to be slow
oishii= to be delicious mazui= to taste bad
yasashii= to be kind kibishii= to be strict
atarashii= to be new furui= to be old

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7. Basic Descriptions with na-Adjectives

Let's move on to the other adjectives—so-called na-adjectives. To English speakers, na-adjectives may be easier to master than i-adjectives, because they don't act like verbs. As a matter of fact, sentences with na-adjectives look very similar to noun descriptions; namely in the plain form, you need the copula da to equate the adjective with the subject.

Mizuki sensei wa kirei da. (plain form)
Mizuki sensei wa kirei desu. (polite form)
Ms. Mizuki is pretty.

sensei [noun] teacher. kirei [na-adj] pretty; beautiful.

Interrogative Form

The interrogative form is made by the same precedure as the noun description. Namely, replace da with na no for the plain form; besides for the polite form, add ka to the tail of the sentence. Below is the interrogative form of Rika wa shizuka da.

Rika wa shizuka na no? (plain form)
Rika wa shizuka desu ka? (polite form)
Is Rika quiet?

shizuka [na-adj] quiet.

Negative Form

As a matter of fact, na-adjective descriptions are negated in the same procedure as noun descriptions. For the plain form, replace da with dewa nai; whereas for the polite form, replace desu with dewa ari-masen. If we negate Meiling wa wagamama da, then we obtain:

Meiling wa wagamama dewa nai. (plain form)
Meiling wa wagamama dewa ari-masen. (polite form)
Meiling wa wagamama dewa nai desu. (semi-polite form)
Meiling is not egoistic.

wagamama = [na-adj] egoistic.

Here some useful na-adjectives are listed in the table below.

suki= fond kirai= hateful
ijiwaru= mean suteki= nice
hade= showy majime= serious minded
genki= energetic iya= annoying

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8. Modifiying Nouns

In Japansese, modification of nouns is very simple. All you have to do is place the adjective just ahead of the noun to modify. Japanese modifiers never follows the nouns to modify, unlike European languages.

As is mentioned in the previous lessons, Japanese adjectives are classified into i-adjectives and na-adjectives. Those two types of adjectives requires a slightly different procudure to modify nouns, but is very simple.


Modification with an i-adjective is quite simple. If you place the dictionary form of an i-adjective just ahead of a noun, then the adjective modifies the noun, like nagai + kami = nagai kami (long hair).

kawaii otoko-no-ko = cute boy
oishii shokuji = delicious meal
furui kādo = old card
atarashii tomodachi = new friend

Just like English, an adjective and the modefied noun forms a noun phrase, which works like a noun in the sentence. For example, modified noun can be used in a sentence like this:

Kurou Kādo wa furui kādo desu.
The Clow Cards are old cards.


Na-adjectives perform in a different way for modifying nouns, in contrast with the case of i-adjectives. In modifying, you have to place the special word na between the adjective and the noun to modify. That's why those adjectives are called na-adjectives. For example, if you modify sensei (teacher) with a na-adjective suteki (wonderful), then you get suteki na sensei.

kirei na josei = pretty woman
fushigi na hon = mysterious book
ijiwaru na onii-chan = meanie brother
kiken na mahou = dangerous magic

Just like the case of i-adjectives, the nouns modified by na-adjectives also form a noun phrase, which acts like a noun in the sentence.

Syaoran-kun wa yuukan na otoko-no-ko desu.
Syaoran-kun is a brave boy.

yuukan [na-adj] brave.

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9. Personal Pronouns

Japanese language has many variations of pronouns, however most Japanese people hardly use pronouns in their conversations. In fact, Japanese people tends to omit the explicit subject in order to avoid repeating the same phrase again and again, whereas English speakers use pronouns for avoiding the repeat.

Even though Japanese pronouns tend to be omitted, the variations of Japanese pronouns are important to express the position or attitude of the speaker and/or the relationship with the listeners. This is hard for English speakers to understand, but there are many first personal pronuns and second pronouns in Japanese for respective situations.

watashi In a formal situation, it is used by both males and females. Supposedly spoken by Fujitaka, Clow Reed, Mr. Terada, and Sonomi.
Even in informal speech, women usually use this pronoun. Supposedly spoken by Tomoyo, Meilin, Rika, Naoko, and Ms. Mizuki.
atashiColloquial pronoun for girls, corrupted from watashi. Supposedly spoken by Sakura, Chiharu, and Nakuru.
bokuColloquial pronoun for boys. Supposedly spoken by Yukito, Eriol, and Takashi.
oreColloquial pronoun for boys in rough manner. Supposedly spoken by Syaoran and Touya.
waiColloquial pronoun for males in Osaka dialect. Supposedly spoken by Kero.
you anataBasic form of the second personal pronoun. Used toward someone unfamiliar. Sometimes supposedly spoken by Meiling toward Sakura.
Also spoken by women toward their boyfriend or husband.
antaColloquial pronoun corrupted from anata. Sometimes heard bwtween close friends, or spoken someone with hostility. Sometimes supposedly spoken by Meilin toward Sakura.
omaeColloquial pronoun used by males toward someone familiar. Supposedly spoken by Syaoran toward Sakura, and by Touya toward Sakura.
temeeViolent pronoun used by males toward someone disgusting. Supposedly spoken by Touya toward Syaoran.
kimiSometimes used by teachers toward their students. But also, an affected manner of speech when a male uses this pronoun to a female, and vice versa.
kareBasic form of the pronoun meaning "he." However this pronoun is rarely spoken in speech.
kanojoBasic form of the pronoun meaning "she." This pronoun is actually a made-up for translating European language, which is very rarely spoken.
it soreBasic form of the pronoun meaning "it." This pronoun is one of Japanese spatial pronouns, which are to be mentioned in another lesson.

Japanese pronouns have just one form for each, not having subjective, possessive, or objective form. Instead of declension, Japanese pronouns are postpositioned by an article to act like the subjecitve case or so in English. Now, some example of the adjoint postpositions are shown in the table below.

Subjective watashi wa
watashi ga
anata wa
anata ga
kare wa
kare ga
kanojo wa
kanojo ga
sore wa
sore ga
Possessive watashi no
anata no
kare no
kanojo no
sore no
Objective watashi ni
watashi o
anata ni
anata o
kare ni
kare o
kanojo ni
kanojo o
sore ni
sore o

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10. Ko-So-A-Do System

Japanese has a spacial pronoun system so-called ko-so-a-do system for representing the location of the object relative to the speaker or listener(s). The ko-so-a-do system includes the set of pronouns for impersonal objects, for place of objects, for directions, and their demonstrative adjective forms. As is shown in the table below, the system consists of ko-form, so-form, a-form, and do-form. Ko-form is used for something close to the speaker; so-form is for close to the listener(s); a-form is for not close to either the speaker or the listener(s); do-form is for unknown location that performs as an interrogative pronoun.

impersonalplacedirection demonstrative
ko-korekoko kotchikono
so-soresoko sotchisono
a- are asokoatchi ano
do-doredoko dotchidono

Impersonal Thing

This set of pronouns, kore, sore, are, and dore, are used for impersonal object. Kore is used for something close to the speaker, which means “this.” Sore is used for something close to the listener(s), which means “that.” Are is used for something not close to the speaker or listener(s), which means “that,” or more precisely “yon” in obsolete English. Dore is used for something unidentified among choices, performing as an interrogative pronoun like “which.”
Sakura Dore ga Jampu no kādo nano? Kore kana?
Which is the Jump Card? How about this?
Kero Iiya, sore wa tadano nuigurumi ya.
No, it's just a stuffed toy.
Sakura Uun... are kana?
Umm... how about that one? [Points to the other side of room]

~ kana = ~ na no; used for asking something one's self, in a manner of tag questions.
tadano [na-adj] only, mere. nuigurumi [noun] stuffed toy.

This set of pronouns are used for only impersonal objects. To use for humans, the pronoun should be replaced by the demonstrative adjective form as in kono hito (this person).


Following dialog shows how to use the ko-so-a-do system for places.
Sakura Kurou Kādo wa koko ni wa nai yo. Soko wa?
The Clow Card is not here. How about there? (points at Syaoran)
Syaoran Nai mitai da. Doko ni aru nda?
Seems not. Where the heck is it?
Sakura Mitsuketa! Asoko da!
I found it! It's over there!

nai = negative form of the verb aru (= to exist).
mitai [aux verb] to seem (to do); to appear (to do).
mitsuketa = past form of the verb mitsukeru (= find, discover).


Ko-so-a-do system for direction is used like the following dialog.
Syaoran Jampu wa dotchi ni itta? Sotchi ka?
Which way did the Jump go? This way? [Points to Sakura]
Sakura Uun, chigau yo. Atchi da yo.
No, I don't think so. Maybe that way. [Points to Tomoyo]
Tomoyo Ee, kotchi ni hashitte kite-masu wa.
Yeah, it's running toward me.

itta = past form of the verb iku (=go).
chigau [u-verb] to be wrong.
hashitte kitemasu = running and comming; namely, hashiru + -te + kuru + -te-iru + -masu.

The ko-so-a-do system for directions is also used for choices, in the way kotchi as “this one,” sotchi as “that one” (close to the listener), atchi as “that one,” dotchi as “which one.”
Sakura Dotchi ga Kurou Kādo na no?
Which is the Clow Card?
Syaoran Kotchi da.
This one.
Sakura Sotchi datta nda. Atchi dewa nai to omotte-ita kedo.
I didn't know it. I knew that wasn't, at least, though. [Points to a card across the table]
datta = past form of the copula da.
~ nda = colloquial shortened from of no da, for stressing something.
omotte-ita = past progressive form of omou (= think); namely, omou + -te-iru + -ta.
~ kedo = used in a similar situation as “~, though.”

Demonstrative Adjective

Japanese demonstrative adjective has a different form than demonstrative pronoun, unlike English. As is mentioned earlier, Japanese demonstrative pronouns can't be used for persons (or very rude to use them for persons x_x). Instead, their adjective forms should be used for that kind of cases. Below is a sample dialog including demonstrative adjectives.
Naoko Ano hito ga hyaku-mētoru-sou no yuushou-sha da yo.
That girl is the champion of 100 meter dash.
Chiharu E-? Dono hito?
Eh? Who?
Tomoyo Ano akai ribon no ko desu wa. Watashi, konomae no kyougikai de bideo ni tori-mashita wa, kono kamera de.
That girl with the red ribbons. I videotaped her at the last track meet, with this camcorder.
Sakura A, atashi sono bideo mita yo.
And I saw that video.
hito [noun] person. hyaku-mētoru-sou [noun] 100 meter dash (of a track meet).
yuushou-sha [noun] person who won the championship of a competition.
ko [noun] child, girl, boy. konomae [noun] the other day.
kyougikai [noun] competition, like international track meet, football tournament, etc.
bideo [noun] video.
tori-mashita = polite past form of toru (= to take pictures, or video); namely, toru + -masu + -ta.
mita = past form of miru (= to see something).

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