50 Japanese School Vocabulary Words You Should Know

By Donnie | Articles

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.


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).


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)


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)


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)


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)


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 😀


Donald Ash

25 Japanese School Phrases You Should Know

About the Author

  • Ai says:

    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

  • "Tokyo Five" says:

    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:


  • Deni Mon says:

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

  • Mitoguitar says:

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

  • Katherine Moser Kelly says:

    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 says:

      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 says:

    actually, slippers is スリッパ:)

  • Wafa says:

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

  • Jacqueline Solis says:

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

  • Holly says:

    Hey everyone I am new

  • Holly1324 says:

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

  • cloa513 says:

    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 says:

    also Math is not さんすう it is すがく

  • SiaF says:

    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)

    • 雨襟な says:

      Write it=Kaite kudasai
      Color it=somete kudasai
      Cut it=tate kudasai
      Read it =yomekudasai
      Dont worry, your dad will be here soon= daijoubu, anata no otosan wa sugu ni koko ni imasu
      Its time to go home = uchi o kaeru jikan dawa
      Please calm down = ochitsuku kudasai
      Is that alright= sore de ii desuka
      Dont cry = nakanai kudasai
      Im your friend = watashi wa anata no tomodachi naa

  • Viola Rose says:

    Markers, pencil crayons, clay, tissue paper…any words for art supplies. I used to buy great markers in Japan and can’t find them here 🙁

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