Mastering Basics: How to Say ‘First’ in Japanese – An Easy Guide

Learning a new language can be challenging, but it’s a crucial aspect of cross-cultural communication. And when it comes to Japanese, mastering the basics is a crucial first step. So, if you’re wondering how to say ‘first’ in Japanese, you’ve come to the right place! In this guide, we’ll go over the Japanese word for ‘first,’ its translation, and pronunciation.

Knowing how to say ‘first’ in Japanese is essential to communicate effectively in different situations. So, whether you’re planning a trip to Japan or just curious about the language, this guide will aid you in expanding your vocabulary. Let’s dive in and learn how to say ‘first’ in Japanese!

Understanding the Concept of ‘First’ in Japanese

If you’re learning Japanese, it’s essential to understand the cultural significance of certain words and phrases in the language. ‘First’ is one such term that holds a particular place in Japanese culture.

In Japanese, the word for ‘first’ is ‘最初’ (saisho). However, the concept of being ‘first’ goes beyond the literal translation of the word. In Japanese society, being the first to accomplish something or being the leader in a particular field is highly valued.

This value of being ‘first’ is deeply rooted in Japanese history and culture. In traditional Japanese martial arts, for example, the first to achieve a certain level of mastery is awarded a special title and becomes a symbol of excellence. In business, the first company to introduce a new product or service is often regarded as the leader in that industry.

Additionally, being ‘first’ in Japanese culture is also closely tied to the concept of ‘ganbaru,’ which means to persevere and do your best. Japanese people often work hard to be ‘first’ in their field and take pride in their accomplishments.

Understanding the Japanese Term for ‘First’

As mentioned earlier, the Japanese term for ‘first’ is ‘最初’ (saisho). However, there are other words and phrases that also express the idea of being ‘first’ in Japanese. Here are a few examples:

Japanese Translation Pronunciation
一番 Number one ichiban
Beginning hatsu
First (in line) saki

These terms are often used in different contexts to express the concept of being ‘first’ in Japanese. For example, ‘ichiban’ is commonly used to describe the best or most exceptional item or person in a group.

Overall, understanding the cultural and linguistic aspects of the Japanese concept of ‘first’ is essential for effective cross-cultural communication in Japanese society.

Common Words for ‘First’ in Japanese

If you want to learn how to say ‘first’ in Japanese, it’s important to know the different words used to express this concept. Here are some common words for ‘first’ in Japanese:

Japanese Word Translation Pronunciation
最初 Saisho Sai-sho
初めて Hajimete Ha-ji-me-te
一番 Ichiban Ichi-ban

The word saisho is the most common word for ‘first’ in Japanese and is often used in everyday conversations. It can refer to the first in a series of events or the beginning of something.

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Hajimete is used to describe the first time something is experienced, such as the first time you visit a new place or try a new food.

Ichiban is used to describe the first or most important thing in a set of items. It can also be used to describe being in first place in a competition or the best option among a group of choices.

By learning and using these words for ‘first’ in Japanese, you can effectively communicate and express yourself in a variety of situations.

Useful Phrases with ‘First’ in Japanese

Now that you have learned common words for ‘first’ in Japanese, let’s explore useful phrases and expressions that incorporate the concept of ‘first’ in Japanese.

1. 一番に (ichiban ni)- First of all

Japanese Phrase Translation Pronunciation
一番に First of all ee-chi-ban-nee

Use this phrase when you want to emphasize the first step or the most important thing to do in a given situation.

2. はじめに (hajime ni) – At first

Japanese Phrase Translation Pronunciation
はじめに At first ha-jee-meh-nee

Use this phrase to indicate the beginning of something, such as a story or a process.

3. まずは (mazu wa) – First of all/ To begin with

Japanese Phrase Translation Pronunciation
まずは First of all/ To begin with mah-zoo-wah

This phrase is often used as an introductory statement before listing the steps or points to be discussed.

4. 一番目 (ichiban me) – The first

Japanese Phrase Translation Pronunciation
一番目 The first ee-chi-ban-meh

Use this phrase when referring to the first item or step in a list or sequence.

Incorporating these phrases into your Japanese conversations will not only help you sound more fluent, it will also demonstrate your understanding of cultural nuances related to the concept of ‘first’ in Japanese.

Tips for Pronouncing ‘First’ in Japanese

Correct pronunciation is crucial for effective communication, especially when learning a new language. Here are some tips to help you pronounce ‘first’ in Japanese accurately:

Japanese Syllables Pronunciation
ちょ cho
n (nasal sound)
だい dai
いっ ippu

Remember to stress the second syllable, ‘cho,’ when pronouncing the word for ‘first’ in Japanese. You can also listen to audio samples online to help you perfect your pronunciation.


Practice, practice, practice! The more you repeat the word for ‘first’ in Japanese, the more comfortable and confident you’ll become with its pronunciation.

Strengthening Your Japanese Vocabulary: Beyond ‘First’

Now that you’ve mastered the basics of saying ‘first’ in Japanese, it’s time to expand your vocabulary and take your language skills to the next level. Here are some additional words and phrases related to the concept of ‘first’ in Japanese:

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一番 (Ichiban)

The Japanese word for ‘number one’ is ichiban, which is used to describe the first or most important thing in a series or ranking. For example, you can use it to say “my favorite thing” as watashi no ichiban suki na mono.

最初 (Saisho)

If you want to express the meaning of ‘first’ as in ‘the first time’ or ‘at first,’ you can use the word saisho. For example, you can say “at first, I didn’t understand” as hajimete wa wakarimasen deshita.

先 (Saki)

The word saki can be used to refer to ‘the first’ or ‘the beginning’ of something. For example, you can say “at the beginning of the year” as nen no saki ni.

始める (Hajimeru)

If you want to express the action of ‘starting’ something, you can use the verb hajimeru. For example, you can say “I’m going to start studying Japanese” as Nihongo o benkyou suru hajime-masu.

By incorporating these words and phrases into your conversations, you’ll be able to communicate even more effectively with Japanese speakers. Practice using them in context and don’t be afraid to make mistakes – it’s all a part of the learning process.


Q: How do I say ‘first’ in Japanese?

A: The Japanese word for ‘first’ is “最初” (saisho). It is pronounced as “sai-sho”.

Q: Are there any other words for ‘first’ in Japanese?

A: Yes, apart from “最初” (saisho), you can also use “一番” (ichiban) or “初めて” (hajimete) to express the concept of ‘first’ in Japanese.

Q: How do I pronounce “最初” (saisho), “一番” (ichiban), and “初めて” (hajimete)?

– “最初” (saisho) is pronounced as “sai-sho”.
– “一番” (ichiban) is pronounced as “ee-chi-ban”.
– “初めて” (hajimete) is pronounced as “ha-ji-me-te”.

Q: Can you provide examples of phrases that include the word for ‘first’ in Japanese?

A: Sure! Here are a few examples:
– “最初に” (saisho ni) means “firstly” or “at first”.
– “一番に” (ichiban ni) means “first” or “number one”.
– “初めての” (hajimete no) means “first time” or “initial”.

Q: How can I improve my pronunciation of the word for ‘first’ in Japanese?

A: To improve your pronunciation, try breaking down the word into syllables and practice each syllable individually. Additionally, listening to audio samples and mimicking the native pronunciation can greatly help in mastering the correct intonation.

Q: Are there any other related words and phrases that I can learn?

A: Absolutely! In addition to the words and phrases discussed in this guide, you can expand your vocabulary by learning related terms such as “最後” (saigo) meaning “last”, “最新” (saishin) meaning “latest”, or “一度” (ichido) meaning “once”. These words will further enrich your Japanese language skills.

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