The Japanese “Passive” – it isn’t difficult. And it isn’t passive!

Japanese passiveThe Japanese “passive” conjugation can be a real mind-bender.

The particles all seem to change places pretty much at random from what they usually do.

But the truth is that it isn’t complicated at all and it works just like every other Japanese sentence.

The particles are doing what they always do.

So what’s the problem?

The problem is the way the standard texts teach it. For a start they call it the passive conjugation.

It isn’t passive.

And it isn’t a conjugation.

Once you know what it really is, you can see that it is very simple and completely logical. There is nothing to “memorize”. If you know elementary Japanese grammar you already know how the passive works.

The books and sites just messed it up for you by describing it so confusingly.

Watch this seven-minute video to straighten out the “passive” in your mind forever.

If you have questions, please ask them in the comments on the YouTube page and the Doll will answer you!

Grammatical note

For those interested in a more detailed analysis of how the grammar of the Japanese receptive form works, this note may be of interest and help you to grasp the unfamiliar – but very simple and logical – way the Japanese works:


mizu ga inu ni nomareta
Literally “The water drink-received from the dog”
(not “the water was drunk by the dog” – the meaning is the same but the structure is completely misleading).

The water does the action of the compound verb noma-reru. Reru/rareru essentially means “receive” so when we attach it to another verb (it can’t stand alone) the newly-formed compound means “receive the action of the original verb”.

So the water is the one doing the verb nomareru, which means drink-receive. And understanding this is what makes the whole thing fall into place.

It is tempting to say that reru/rareru modifies the verb it is attached to into meaning “receive the modified verb’s action”.

However, while this may clarify the matter, I would say that it is strictly incorrect because of the rule that in Japanese the modified always follows the modifier.

In other words, if we want to “deconstruct” nomareru into its two component verbs nomu and reru, then we have to say that it is nomu that modifies reru. The head-verb, the final action of the sentence, is reru – receive. Ultimately nomu is the modifier (shuushokugo) of reru, which is the actual jutsugo, or action, of the sentence.

So just as in

watashi wa omise ni itta
“I went to the shops”

the “skeleton sentence” is:

watashi wa itta” = “I went”

and omise ni, “to the shops” is simply a modifier telling us something else about “went” (namely where I went)…

So in

mizu ga nomareta
(let’s leave the dog out for clarity) the “skeleton sentence” is:

mizu ga reta
“the water received”

the noma “drink” is simply telling us more about “received” (namely what it received).

Admittedly this is somewhat theoretical since reru/rareru is never actually used on its own in modern Japanese, but I believe this is how the sentence should be analyzed.

If it is easier to see “reru” as modifying “nomu“, I don’t think that does much harm. But in the end I think it may be easier to see “nomu” as modifying “reru“, which I think is actually the case.

The NI Particle – making sense of Japanese

The Japanese Ni ParticleThe ni particle has a dizzying array of functions.

The standard textbooks don’t make it any easier by treating each function as a random “fact” that you just have to learn.

In fact, however, most of the uses of the ni particle are bound together by a simple underlying logic.

This not only helps you to know the various functions of ni but also to get a clearer grip on how Japanese grammar as a whole is structured.

As always, Japanese turns out to be clearer, simpler and more logical than any other language you’ve encountered!

Why not invest the next nine minutes of your life in discovering how?

If you have any questions or comments, please ask them in the YouTube comments section and the Doll will reply quickly.

We also recommend that you subscribe to the KawaJapa Channel.

Japanese Sentence Structure: the simple secret

Japanese-sentence-structureJapanese sentence structure is sometimes seen as complex. Actually it is one of the world’s simplest and most consistent structures.

In this video lesson, the Doll explodes the single biggest myth that makes Japanese seem far more confusing and irregular than it actually is.

It isn’t just what the textbooks don’t tell you that makes Japanese harder than it needs to be.

Sometimes it’s also what they DO tell you.

If you want to understand Japanese correctly, you need to watch this video.

If you have any questions or comments, please ask them in the YouTube comments section and the Doll will reply quickly.

We also recommend that you subscribe to the KawaJapa Channel.

WA vs GA – Advanced/Intermediate Japanese Secrets

Everyone knows that distinguishing the use of the Japanese WA and GA particles can be tricky. A lot of subtlety and implication can be packed into the choice.

However, understanding the principles will make this a lot easier. They aren’t secrets exactly, but no one seems to have noticed (or at least taken the trouble to teach) the fact that the various functions of these particles are not just random quirks of the language. They all flow naturally and logically from the basic functions of the particles, which we learned in the previous video lesson.

Here we go a bit deeper and cover some of what ought to be taught at intermediate level but mostly isn’t.

If you aren’t intermediate yet but understood the material of the last lesson, you should give this one a try. You’ll end up knowing things most of your senpai don’t know!

KawaJapa learners are super-learners!

If you have any questions, please post them on the YouTube page and I will answer very quickly.

We also recommend that you subscribe to the channel so that you never miss a lesson in this ground-breaking course that tells you the things the textbooks never taught you!

Japanese Particles Wa vs Ga – What the Textbooks Don’t Tell You

wa vs ga particles“Choosing between wa and ga” is often considered to be one of the most difficult things for foreign learners of Japanese to master.

One of the problems is that the very concept “choosing between wa and ga” is in itself something of a misunderstanding.

Wa and ga are not two similar particles.

They are not even just two very different particles.

They are two different species of particle.

If we understand this we can get a lot closer to knowing how they really work and why one rather than the other is used in any given case.

This is a fairly complex question so we are dealing with it over two lessons. This first lesson gives the foundation of how ga and wa really work.

Part 2: How to Choose Between wa and ga


If you have any questions, please post them on the YouTube page and I will answer very quickly.

We also recommend that you subscribe to the channel so that you never miss a lesson in this ground-breaking course that tells you the things the textbooks never taught you!

The WA Particle: What it REALLY does

The WA ParticleRight from the beginning standard textbooks get us off on the wrong foot with the wa-particle.

They tend to leave its real function rather loosely defined, and in some respects misdefined, which gives rise to a whole host of misunderstandings and unnecessary complications.

These complications and misunderstandings make Japanese more difficult than it needs to be for beginners, and they often persist long after the beginner stage. So students of all levels can benefit from the information in this video.

The wa-particle really has no equivalent in English or other European grammar. That is why the textbooks, which base themselves on European grammar ideas, tend to be unclear about it.

Nevertheless it is not difficult to understand if you go about it in the right way.

In this ten-minute class you will learn how WA really works, what it does, and just as importantly, what it doesn’t do.

If you have any questions about this lesson, please ask them in the comments on the YouTube page.

We also recommend that you subscribe to the KawaJapa channel so that you never miss a lesson.

The course-book for this course of lessons is Unlocking Japanese. If you  are taking the course seriously you need to get it!

Disclaimer: This video is not intended for the absolute beginner. If you’ve never even heard of the wa-particle, this probably isn’t the place to start. However, as soon as you are aware of the basic particles, this information can save you a lot of time, trouble and confusion. However this is information that most intermediate/advanced learners don’t have because it simply isn’t taught in regular westernized “Japanese grammar”. So everyone can benefit from learning this.

Learn Japanese with Anime – New Free Resources!

Learn Japanese with animeWe’ve always advocated learning Japanese with anime here at KawaJapa. It can be done and it should be done!

However, to actually learn anything you need subtitles. Japanese subtitles. English subtitles won’t help you learn Japanese with anime, and just listening to things you don’t understand or barely understand won’t do much good either.

Back when I started, and when I started writing about it, getting quantities of Japanese-subtitled anime was a somewhat complicated business. Usually you had to find the anime and the subtitles in two different places and tie them together by hand – often re-timing them several times.

Fortunately for you (you young folks have it so easy these days) there are simpler ways to do it now.

Two sites currently stream Japanese-subtitled anime: the well-established Animelon and a newcomer simply called Anime Japanese Subtitles which is a blogger site but very nicely organized.

Stop press: there is now a new Japanese subtitled anime site called AnimeJpnSub. The layout is very bare-bones and I don’t think it has anything the others don’t. However, it is completely ad-free, which is a plus, and seems to work seamlessly.

Both sites have both Japanese and English subtitles and allow you to turn them on and off at will. I strongly advise not watching with English subtitles because the human brain is hardwired to take the line of least resistance and you won’t learn much even if you think you will.

However, English subtitles can be useful for when you aren’t sure what a particular expression or way of speaking in Japanese means. If you use them for this, it is better to do a quick check by switching a single subtitle to English while paused and then switching back to Japanese before restarting. Think of it as a quick look-up tool rather than a functioning subtitle.

There is a lot of good anime between the two sites, including all of Ghibli on Anime Japanese Subtitles and the delightful Shirokuma Cafe on Animelon. Not to mention all the regular shounen stuff that I tend not to bother with.

I used not to be a fan of streaming anime, but these two sites have changed my habits radically. Recently I’ve been enjoying Flying Witch, Hotarubi no Mori e and Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo. Being a doll I tend to like gentler anime with fantasy themes, but whatever your taste you’ll find things you like on these sites.

If you are starting to learn Japanese with anime, life just got a whole lot easier!

Ninja Japanese! – How to spot the Japanese Zero Pronoun and understand sentences clearly

Japanese zero pronoounNext in our video course we are going to tackle the mysterious Japanese Zero Pronoun.

It’s the Ninja of Japanese grammar. You can’t see it. You can’t hear it. But it’s in probably 75% of all Japanese sentences, and if you don’t know it’s there it makes life a lot harder than it needs to be!

This lesson is really very simple, I think. Everything in it should be pretty obvious once it is pointed out, but this ten-minute lesson lays the foundation for understanding much more complex things with ease.

I should say that this is not intended for the absolute beginner. You need to know a little basic grammar for it to make sense. If you do it will help some important things to fall into place.

On the other hand, if you are more advanced this can help you to put your knowledge on a sounder footing.

The zero pronoun is something the textbooks don’t talk about, and they really should. It makes life so much easier!

As usual, if you have questions do post them on the YouTube page where I will answer them.

If you like the lessons and want to follow the course it is a good idea to subscribe to our channel so you can see them the day they come out and never miss one!

Japanese – What the Textbooks Don’t Teach You … the movie!

People have asked me to teach personally the secrets the textbooks don’t tell you.

The things that make Japanese so much easier to understand if only you know them (and it really is fundamentally not a difficult language).

So finally I have started a video channel – not the fun Japanese-language videos we sometimes feature here, but actual English-language teaching of the “inside secrets” of Japanese that feature in my book Unlocking Japanese.

This is the first in a series of video lessons. And also you get to see what I am really like. Actually my sensei-persona surprised even me. Rather more majime than I usually am, and perhaps a teensy bit two-dimensional. See what you think.

If you never want to miss a class, subscribe to the channel here.

If there is anything you don’t understand in the video or you have other questions, please put them in the comments on the YouTube page. And I will answer them fully as soon as possible.

Hot Summer Kanji!

This two-minute video is based on some Japanese wordplay.

Just to clarify the words in advance:

蒸し暑い – mushi-atsui is a word that gets used a lot in the Japanese summer. It means humid-hot – and that’s what the Japanese summer is like!

It actually has nothing to do with 虫 mushi – bugs, but the association of the two things is so close that it makes a very good mnemonic.

As for 無視 mushi meaning to ignore or disregard, well, that’s just another word altogether.

So now you’re clear on the real meanings of the words, sit back and enjoy this two-minute episode of Kinoko Channel where our heroine is menaced by flying kanji!

It should fix the words in your mind forever!