50 Japanese School Vocabulary Words You Should Know


As a foreigner who is still working on his Japanese, working in a Japanese public school can present some challenges from time to time. One such challenge is getting used to new, Japanese, school-related vocabulary. Were I teaching at American public school, I wouldn’t even give issues like this a second thought because English is my native tongue. However, being at a Japanese school everyday means becoming accustomed to new words and phrases that, prior to teaching as an ALT, I didn’t hear all that often (if at all). So let’s take a look at fifty words you should know if you are working in a Japanese school.

SCHOOL LOCATIONS IN JAPANESE

1. Teacher’s Lounge- しょくいんしつ 職員室 (Shokuinshitsu)
2. Gymnasium- たいいくかん 体育館 (Taiikukan)
3. Science Lab- りかしつ 理科室 (Rikashitsu)
4. Principal’s Office- こうちょうしつ 校長室 (Kochoshitsu)
5. Music Room- おんがくしつ 音楽室 (Ongakushitsu)
6. Library- としょしつ 図書室 (Toshoshitsu)
7. Bathroom- トイレ (Toire)
8. Office- じむしつ 事務実 (Jimushitsu)
9. Classroom- きょうしつ 教室 (Kyoshitsu)
10. Art Room- びじゅつしつ 美術室 (Bijutsushitsu)
11. Auditorium- こうどう 講堂 (Kodo)
12. Nurse’s Office- ほけんしつ 保健室 (Hokenshitsu)

*Note: I didn’t put cafeteria in this list because in my elementary school, we generally eat in the classroom. I think that’s how it is with most Japanese, public elementary schools (middle school I’m not sure, though).

SCHOOL SUBJECTS IN JAPANESE

13. Math- さんすう, 算数 (Sansu)
Science- りか, 理科 (Rika) / かがく, 科学 (Kagaku)
Another kanji for kagaku can also mean chemistry.
15. Physical Education- たいいく, 体育 (taiiku)
16. Social Studies-しゃかいか, 社会科 (Shakaika)
17. Art- びじゅつ, 美術 (Bijutsu)
18. History- れきし, 歴史 (Rekishi)
19. Homeroom- かっきゅかつどう (Kakkyukatsudo)

SCHOOL SUPPLIES AND ITEMS IN JAPANESE

20. Bookbag- おい, 笈 (Oi)
21. Pencil- えんぴつ, 鉛筆 (Empitsu)
22. Mechanical Pencil- シャーペン (Sha-pen)
23. Eraser (for pencils)- けしゴム, 消しゴム (Keshigomu)
Eraser (for chalkboard)- こくばんけし, 黒板消し (Kokubankeshi)
24. Ballpoint Pen- ボールペン (Borupen)
25. Protractor- ぶんどき 分度器 (Bundoki)
26. Chalkboard- こくばん, 黒板 (Kokuban)
27. Compass- コンパス (Konpas)
28. Paper- かみ, 紙 (Kami)
29. Magnet-じしゃく, 磁石 (Jishaku)
30. Chalk- チョーク(Cho-ku)
31. Ruler- じょうぎ, 定規 (Jougi)
32. Rubber band-わゴム輪ゴム 
33. Teacher’s desk- きょうたく, 教たく (Kyotaku)
34. Bookshelf- ほんばこ, 本箱 (Honbako)
35. Scotch tape- セロハンテープ (Serohan Ta-pu) (like cellophane tape)
36. Calculator- でんたく, 電卓 (Dentaku)
37. Pencil sharpener- えんぴつけずり, 鉛筆削り(Enpitsukezuri)
38. Stapler- ホチキス (Hochikisu)
39. Scissors- はさみ, 鋏 (Hasami)
40. Pencil Case- ふでばこ, 筆箱 (Fudebadko)

IMPORTANT SCHOOL PEOPLE IN JAPANESE

41. Principal- こうちょうせんさい, 校長先生 (Kocho Sensei)
42. Vice Principal- きょうとせんせい, 教頭先生 (Kyoto Sensei)
43. School Nurse- ようごほけんのせんせい, 予後保健の先生(Yogohoken no Sensei)
*Not 100% certain on the kanji for this one.
44. Teacher- せんせい, 先生 (Sensei)
45. Assistant Teacher- ほじょきょうゆ, 補助教諭 (Hojokyoyu)

OTHER SCHOOL NOUNS

46. Homework- しゅくだい (Shukudai)
47. School Lunch- きゅうしょく (Kyushoku)
48. Class- じゅぎょう 授業 (Jugyo)
49. Chair- いす, 椅子 (Isu)
50. Desk- つくえ, 机 (Tsukue)

FOUR BONUS WORDS

51. Textbook きょうかしょ
52. Slippers うわわき
53. Year Student ねんせい
54. Milk Carton

Any other words you’d like to tack on to the list? Go for it in the comments section below 😀

Sincerely,

Donald Ash

25 Japanese School Phrases You Should Know

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  • Ai

    Wow! You know more school words than I do.
    Just to let you know……
    School nurse = 保健養護の先生 養護is to take care
    Slippers= 上履き *履く is to wear something on your feet
    Kyoto sensei = 教頭 きょうとう先生 *教= to teach 頭= head, meaning head teacher
    Milk carton= 牛乳パック

  • I know a lot about Japan’s public school system…but from a different perspective than you—I have three kids that have gone through the school system here…kindergarten to high school. My oldest will begin college next spring.

    >we generally eat in the classroom….Japanese, public elementary schools (middle school I’m not sure, though).

    Students eat lunch in their classrooms in junior high (middle school) too.
    Many high schools have a cafeteria though.

    I wrote a post comparing Japan and America’s public schools:

    http://tokyo5.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/japanese-vs-us-schools/

  • Thank you sooooooooo much! Doumo arigatou gozaimasu! This is exactly what I needed!

  • Mitoguitar

    Damned, I find this now that my son has graduated after 10 years in J-school. Anyway, thanks a lot.

  • Katherine Moser Kelly

    Our 7 year old (almost 8 year old) will begin Japanese Elementary School here in Yokohama on August 27. None of us speak or read Japanese. I worry about the supplies and understanding her homework. A new Japanese class starts at Sacred Heart Church in Sept on Saturdays so we can do that and in November a twice a week class also begins at the Naka Ward Intl Lounge. I am feeling very anxious. If you can recommend any tutors that would be nice. We also know they will have someone come to the school for 2 hours a week to help our daughter but I wonder will the teacher give out the assignments at the beginning of the week? Maybe we could hire a tutor for Mondays and he/she could help us figure out what is going on each week at the beginning. Thoughts?

    • thejapanguy

      Sorry for the late reply. I can understand how that might make you feel a bit anxious. Honestly this is the first time I’ve gotten this question. I’m gonna have to ask around on this one, Katherine. Do you know if any other foreign students are in the same class as your child?

  • Ethan

    actually, slippers is スリッパ:)

    • Double Cross

      うわぱき, as in indoor slippers.

  • Wafa

    You are so awesome!! That saved my life!!! This list put a huge smile on my face!

  • Jacqueline Solis

    I was wondering what note cards/ index cards are called in Japan?

    • Emmy

      ノートカード

      Nōtokādo

  • Holly

    Hey everyone I am new

    • Holly

      That is creepy

  • Holly1324

    I was wondering what underwire was because I walked into a store and wanted some underwear and did not know what to say

    • Emmy

      Haha. Underwear in Japanese is 下着 (shitagi).

  • cloa513

    What is a head teacher- its a lower position than lower than principal or viceprincipal but higher than a subject head teacher? Equally how do they call a subject head teacher. Also other speciality roles like disabled students teacher.

  • Ryan

    also Math is not さんすう it is すがく

    • James

      Sansu is elementary math.
      Suugaku is jr. High school math.

  • SiaF

    I have a student in my class (she’s very young, she just turned five) who only speaks Japanese and doesn’t know any English. does anyone know any simple phrases like write or color or cut that can help me tell her what to do or things that can calm her down when she’s upset like its almost time to go home, or your dad will be here soon or it’s going to be okay? it would really be help me out a lot. (also please respond in romaji, I cant read kanji or katakana)