All About Japan

10 Ambiguous Phrases That Mean NO in Japanese

Learning Japanese Deeper Japan Life in Japan

When talking to Japanese people, you might at times be confused by certain ambiguous expressions they use. In fact, you might not realize it, but they may be disagreeing with you!

In Japan, maintaining the wa, or harmony, is extremely important to keeping a tight sense of community, so people often avoid expressing their ideas clearly. As a result, although Japanese people might understand that they are being refused in certain situations, it can be difficult for others to pick up on. So let us introduce a few phrases that almost always mean “No” in Japan!

1. "I want to go, but that day I’m a bit…"

1. "I want to go, but that day I’m a bit…"

(Ikitai kedo, sono hi wa chotto...)

One of the most common roundabout ways of saying “No” is “Chotto...” “Chotto” means “little” or “slightly,” so If a person says “Sono hi wa chotto...” it means that on that day ("sono hi"), they're not quite free or don't really feel like going.

Most importantly, the “...” at the end should be understood as a rejection, since most Japanese people prefer not to refuse clearly, and will expect you to understand the implied words that come after the silent “...”

Feeling disheartened yet? There are nine more phrases to look out for over at Tokyo Girls' Update!

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