Expressing Feelings In Japanese

Expressing feelings in Japanese is sometimes as simple as just stating the obvious – ‘I’m happy’ (嬉しい!). But quite often we hear many colourful variations that range from onomatopoeic words to verbs and even different dialects! Here are a few of them.

The phrase at the top of the poster reads:


(In hiragana: いまどんなきもち?)

Basically: How are you feeling right now?

Below it you’ll see a variety of words with their accompanying physical expressions. Associating words with pictures and emotions is one of the strongest ways you can really remember things, so we advise you try to picture these things happening in your head as you practice the words. Even better if you find examples of them in drama, anime, manga or best of all, real life!


This is like tut-tutting (sucking your tongue against your teeth in disapproval). We wouldn’t usually say the word ちぇっ in Japanese, but for example, when talking about somebody who made the sound, we can use it to express their action:

男の人はちぇっと舌打ちした。 The man tutted (in disapproval).

When the word is clearly said and not sounded by someone, it’s more like a ‘Damn it!’, or ‘By gum!’ if you’re still living in old England.


Here is example of a word usually used on its own to draw attention. As you can tell by the picture, it expresses smugness or pride. ‘Look what I did!‘ or ‘Take notice!‘. It also might be used as えっへへ to show smug laughter. Apparently this is the 顔文字 (かおもじ – emoticon) to express it: ( ̄^ ̄).

A) ああ!ゴールだ!すごいね、さとしくん!
B) えっへん。大したことじゃないよ。

A) Ah! Goal! You’re great, Satoshi!
B) Heh. It was nothing.


This is regularly heard every day in Japan. Used more often by women (and especially girls of the younger generation in high-pitched tones), it expresses shock or disbelief. ‘What!?‘ or ‘Really!?‘. Even if the speaker isn’t really shocked, they may say え〜〜!! anyway just to fit-in with the crowd and continue the conversation. It’s almost relegated to be a filler in some conversations with no deep meaning attached at all.

A) かおりちゃん、彼氏できたって
B) え〜〜!うそ、マジで!?

A) I heard Kaori got a new boyfriend.
B) What!? No way!

(マジで is slang for 本当に?(ほんとうに) – Really?)


びくびく is an onomatopoeic word that symbolises being afraid or timid. You might imagine it to be the sound of a person shaking in fear.

I watched with my heart in my mouth.

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9 Responses to Gakuu. Studying with Real Japanese

  1. Sabrina September 29, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    This is pretty cool! Right now I’m studying on Textfugu which is great! I belive Gakuu can be really helpul too. What I like most is that its for pre-intermediate to advanced level students. So you can’t say its the same thing over and over again… students can actually improve their knowledge here. Thank you very much for creating this site. Have a nice day :)

    • Gakuranman September 30, 2010 at 1:09 am #

      Hi Sabrina! Thank you for your comment :).

      That’s definitely our aim. I love Textfugu for beginners and really getting students a solid grounding in the language, but afterwards (and even while) studying the basics, it can really help to encounter raw Japanese material. You don’t have to understand everything at first, but feeling challenged and picking up little bits here and there that are extra to your learning the basics helps expand your mind. Let me know if you have any more questions! More demonstration material will be up soon! We are currently having a special launch sale price for early adopters, so check out the pricing page if interested :).

      • Sabrina September 30, 2010 at 5:14 pm #

        Thanks for your reply. :) Unfortunately I’m even still miles away from the intermediate level. But I’ll definetly return to Gakuu when I get to this point. Anyway, I’m looking forward to the extra demonstration material. :) Keep up the good work.

        • Gakuranman October 1, 2010 at 12:21 am #

          Sure thing :). Let me know if you have any other questions or suggestions for things you’d like to see on Gakuu!

  2. missingno15 October 1, 2010 at 7:31 pm #

    When I looked at this, I first thought to myself, “aw hell no, gakuranman is doing the same thing as koichi…even the website layout is similar”. But then I realized “it’s aimed at pre-intermediate to advanced level students” which is perfect for my situation right now because I now really want to excel way past beginner. So basically, Gakuu really complements Textfugu. Can’t wait for more lessons to see how this is gonna be like so I can decide if its worth getting.

    • Gakuranman October 1, 2010 at 7:37 pm #

      Hey there! Thanks for dropping by :). No way – Koichi and I are buds. I’ve always loved teaching the more advanced stuff so it worked out perfectly. I’ll be adding more stuff in the coming days, so please stay tuned!

      • Lee Aloy October 23, 2016 at 5:20 am #


        I am sorry to ask this silly question. Are you Japanese?
        am hoping to find a Japanese friends here please shot me an email:

  3. DumbOtaku (percent20) October 3, 2010 at 12:58 am #

    This is really cool. I am glad to see more online content going beyond just teaching hirigana and katakana. That is what I try to do on my blog, but with to little consistency. Glad to see an expert do it, btw already a signed-up paid member now. :)

    • Gakuranman October 3, 2010 at 2:24 pm #

      Glad to have you man! Look forward to hearing any suggestions you have for the site and future lessons :)

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