1 Easy Guide To Japanese Vocabulary For Family Members

Japanese Vocabulary For Family Members

On the hunt for the right Japanese vocabulary for family or かぞく(pronounced as kazoku)? In today’s post, we will walk you through the exact translations of the Japanese words in terms of family relationships and what you can use to describe someone else’s family.

After all, the concept of “family” is crucial in Japanese culture as it is believed to be the bedrock of someone’s reputation. If you are truly interested in connecting better and understanding their values, learning the Japanese language starting with these family words will make the whole language journey much easier. If you are up for that, then the learning begin!

As language is a social tool it’s an indispensable part of social life, so while learning Japanese you also learn about the bits of Japanese culture. If you want to learn more about Japanese society, you should first look at family.

As we have been taught in school, the family is considered the smallest unit of society. Yet, it plays an extremely important role in our development and greatly affects our perceptions, beliefs, and traditions. For this reason, it is totally normal for us to see that kids grow up and somehow acquire their parents’ taste may it be in politics, beliefs, behavior, and even their way of life. In some countries, the transfer of ideas and beliefs goes beyond a generation. For instance, family members in Japan actually have a detailed account of their ancestry, which is why many of the locals truly know about how their clans started.

Japanese family get together in the living room


How Important Is Family In Japanese Culture?

Before anything else, I want to share with you how Mr. Takahiro Miyao, a professor at the University of Southern California, defines the family structure in Japan:

“The family system in Japan can be regarded as a formal and social institution rather than a personal and emotional relationship.”

After the devastating tsunami earthquake in Japan in 2011, a foreign news reporter visited the emergency center where many elder survivors got together to live through hardships. The reporter asked,

“Why don’t you go to your son’s or daughter’s place at least temporarily, rather than staying here in this severe environment?” the older Japanese person replied,

“Well, I do have a son and a daughter, but they have their own lives, so I don’t want to disturb them. I rather stay here with people who know each other well.”

You may think Japanese people have strong family relationships, but they are more strongly loyal to their own communities, such as villages, companies, etc. So their group loyalty is more dominant than their family relationship.

Family sometimes functions like a company in Japan, the mother has her own responsibilities, the father has his own responsibilities, and the children have their own. So there is not much interaction and affection between them.

I remember a Japanese friend of mine saying, “I haven’t hugged my mom and dad since I was 10 years old.” I was really surprised. All these incidents are great clues that can answer your questions about the typical Japanese family.

Traditional Family Type In Japan

The traditional Japanese family is described as the 家 (Ie) or a family system, which literally means household. 家 (Ie) refers to a home and family’s lineage.

Each family member is expected to serve their family to get a good reputation for the family name or grow the family business if they have one. The traditional Japanese family is patriarchal and the husband is the family’s main income source.

A traditional Japanese household usually consists of grandparents, their son, his wife, and their children. The eldest son is expected to inherit the household assets and is responsible for caring for his parents when they get old.

Small Japanese family

Modern Family Type In Japan

On the other hand, in the modern Japanese family, the influence of the traditional family system isn’t as strong as it used to be. 核家族 (kaku kazoku), the nuclear family is more common and it consists of two parents and their children (usually one or two children); they don’t live with grandparents anymore but they are still respected and visited often.

However, nowadays married Japanese couples prefer to adopt pets rather than have children. So families with children are becoming less common in Japan.


Japanese Vocabulary For Family Members

In the table below, you will find all the Japanese family vocabulary that can be used when speaking about your family. There are two types of Japanese words that we are going to present here as the terms can be interchanged depending on who you are speaking with. For instance, you must use the formal version when you are around older people and in a much higher authority than you.

Family TermsJapaneseRomajiJapanese (formal)Romaji
Older brotherお兄さんoniisanani
Younger brotherotoutootouto
Older sisterお姉さん oneesan ane
Younger sisterimoutoimouto
Aunt伯母oba 叔母 oba
Child 子供 kodomo子供 kodomo
Parents両親ryōshinりょうしん otōto



Addressing Someone Else’s Family In Japanese

There is a different way of addressing or talking about family members of another person’s family. Here is a list of Japanese vocabulary to use when addressing someone else’s family members. As you can see, most of these words end with the honorific suffix さん (-san) to emphasize respect.

  • Children – お子さん – おこさん (okosan)

    Other Useful Japanese Family Words

    As we have stated before, you must use other family terms when speaking about another person’s family. Below are the best words in Japanese that you can use today.

    Family TermsJapaneseRomaji
    Child 子供kodomo
    Daughter娘 musema
    Grandpaジジ jiji
    Grannyババ baba
    Momママ mama

    How To Address Your In-laws In Japanese?

    Although, the word “in-law” is いんせき (inseki) in Japanese. When it comes to addressing your in-laws, you should add 義理 の (ぎ り の-giri no) before their relation in the family.

    • Father-in-Law – 義理の父 – ぎりのちち (giri no chichi)
    • Mother-in-Law – 義理の母 – ぎりのはは (giri no haha)
    • Brother-in-Law (Older) – 義理の兄 – ぎりのあに (giri no ani)
    • Brother-in-Law (Younger) – 義理の弟 – ぎりのおとうと (giri no otōto)
    • Sister-in-Law (Older) – ぎりのあね (giri no ane)
    • Sister-in-Law (Younger) – 義理の妹 – ぎりのいもうと (giri no imōto)
    • Son-in-Law – 義理の息子 – ぎりのむすこ (giri no musuko)
    • Daughter-in-Law – 義理の娘 – ぎりのむすめ (giri no musume)


    How To Talk About Your Family In Japanese?

    Family words in Japanese look a bit confusing at first but I’m sure you will master them after a few repetitions. Also, you need to see these newly learned Japanese words in context so here are your example sentences related to the family topic.

    Example 1:

    Q: 何人家族ですか。(Nan-nin kazoku desu ka.)

    How many family members do you have?

    A: お父さん、お母さん、私の三人家族です。(O-tō-san, o-kā-san, watashi no san-nin kazoku desu.)

    I have three family members: father, mother, and me.

    Example 2:

    Q: 兄弟はいますか。(Kyōdai wa imasu ka.)

    Do you have brothers and sisters?

    A: 私は弟がいます。(Watashi wa otōto ga imasu.)

    I have a younger brother.

    Example 3:

    Q: ご両親はお元気ですか。(Go-ryōshin wa o-genki desu ka.)

    How are your parents?

    A: 私の父と母は元気です。(Watashi no chichi to haha wa genki desu.)

    My father and mother are doing well.


    Wrapping Up

    Big japanese family

    As we reach this part of the post, we hope that you were able to learn all the right words to use when speaking about kazoku (family) in the Japanese language. Which of the following words today are you most interested in using in real life? Let us know in the comment section down below. If you think we have missed something or have questions related to this topic, feel free to send it all in through the comment section, and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

    If you enjoyed this post and would love to be updated about the other language tips related to this Asian language, be sure to check out our previous posts like how to say the colors like a native speaker, the slang words used by the locals, and how to say thank you.

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    Illustrations of Family Members in Japan and how they are called

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