Japanese colours

Japanese Colours

Colours are one of the first things you are taught when learning a second language such as Japanese. The Japanese colours are easy to learn and teach when considering the vast amount of resources available out there to help you! A number of Japanese colours share a similar pronunciation as English as a few shades never had names in Japanese until relatively recently when English became taught in mainstream, schools around Japan. A simple example would be pink (pinku) and orange (oranji).

Japanese colours

The Japanese word for colour is iro (色). One thing that may confuse a English speaker is that some colours change when they are used as an adjective.

Japanese colours
Japanese colours – Image from 123 Japanese

What I like to do when teaching Japanese colours is teach the Japanese version of the rainbow song. I put together a Japanese graphic useful for teaching this song in Japanese below.

Japanese colours rainbow
Japanese colours rainbow

Colours practice game

A fantastic game I found to help practice the colours in japanese is this game built by Nihongo o Narau. First you press one of the three buttons at the bottom, kanji, kana or romaji (I usually use romaji for young students), then press ‘start’. You then have 30 seconds to read the colour word that pops up in whatever text you chose, and press the correct colour button. A perfect score would be 11/11. The game produces some fun sounds.

Japanese colours button game
Japanese colours button game

More advanced colours

For those of you seeking a bigger challenge than the above colours of the rainbow, the table below shares a few new colours and information on more exotic colours like light blue and green.

EnglishRomajiJapanese Characters
redaka血あか
yellowkiiro黄色きいろ
blueaoι’γ‚γŠ
greenmidori iroη·‘θ‰²γΏγ©γ‚Šγ„γ‚
purplemurasaki iro紫色むらさきいろ
orangeorenji iroγ‚ͺレンジ色γ‚ͺレンジいろ
peachhada iroθ‚Œθ‰²γ―γ γ„γ‚
pinkpinku / momo iroピンク / 摃色ピンク / ももいろ
browncha iroθŒΆθ‰²γ‘γ‚ƒγ„γ‚
blackkuro黒くろ
whiteshiro白しろ
graynezumi iro / hai iroγ­γšγΏθ‰² / η°θ‰²γ­γšγΏγ„γ‚ / はいいろ
light bluemizu iroζ°΄θ‰²γΏγšγ„γ‚
light-greenkimidori iroι»„η·‘θ‰²γγΏγ©γ‚Šγ„γ‚
colouriro色いろ
What colour is it?Nani iro desu ka.何色ですか。γͺにいろですか。
Momo iro literally means ‘peach color’ as in the color of the fruit, but the color this refers to in Japanese is not peach, but pink.
Green fruits and vegetables (for example green apples) are refered to as ao (blue) not midori iro(green). Ao also means ‘young’ or ‘unripe.’
The green light on a traffic signal is not called midori iro (green), but ao (blue).
Japanese children tend to say that tigers are yellow and black, not orange and black.
The term for ‘black and white’ is shirokuro (white and black).

Table taken from Nihongo o narau

Category: GamesResources

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Duncan Sensei

Article by: Duncan Sensei

Steven Duncan Sensei is the DuncanSensei from DuncanSensei.com! having lived in japan for over 2 years he's gained a love for the country and it shows in his teaching and photographic work.