Mastering Japanese: How to Say White in Japanese

Learning a new language can be a daunting task, but with a little effort and practice, you can master it. If you’re studying Japanese, one of the essential skills to develop is learning how to describe colors. In this section, we will explore how to say white in Japanese, the Japanese word for white, and various phrases related to the color white.

Whether you’re traveling to Japan, watching Japanese movies, or simply trying to expand your language skills, understanding how to say white in Japanese will come in handy. From basic vocabulary to idiomatic expressions and cultural significance, we will cover everything you need to know about white in Japanese language and culture.

So, let’s dive in and explore how to talk about white in Japanese language!

Understanding the Concept of White in Japanese

When it comes to conveying or expressing the color white in Japanese, it’s essential to understand how the Japanese culture perceives and interprets this color, which is an essential aspect of their language. Knowing the significance of white in Japanese symbolism, traditions, and aesthetics will help you use the appropriate Japanese words and phrases to convey your message accurately and appropriately.

In Japanese culture, white symbolizes purity, cleanliness, and simplicity. It is often associated with sacredness and spirituality, making it a popular choice for traditional Japanese clothing, such as kimonos, as well as in ritual ceremonies, such as weddings and funerals.

White is also a vital color in Japanese aesthetics, which emphasizes simplicity, quietness, and elegance. The Japanese calligraphy and painting tradition, for instance, often incorporates white space to create an uncluttered, calming effect. Moreover, in the traditional Japanese tea ceremony, the tea bowls, and the tea room are often decorated with white walls, which accentuate the simplicity and beauty of the objects and the space.

When translating white into Japanese, the most common term used is “shiroi” (白い). Keep in mind that Japanese has a complex vocabulary to describe different shades of white, such as “gin-iro” (銀色), meaning silvery white, and “hakka-iro” (白花色), which refers to the pure white of a white flower.

As you learn more about the different shades of white and their associations in Japanese culture, you will gain a deeper appreciation of how meaningful and versatile this color is in Japanese language and arts.

Basic Word for White in Japanese

When talking about the color white in Japanese, the most basic term you will come across is 白 (しろ/shiro). This word is used to describe the color white in everyday conversation and is commonly seen in various contexts.

For example, if you want to say “white shirt” in Japanese, you can say “白いシャツ (しろいシャツ/shiroi shatsu).” Similarly, if you want to describe something as being white, you can use the phrase “白色の (はくしょくの/hakushoku no).” So, if you want to say “white car,” you can say “白色の車 (はくしょくのくるま/hakushoku no kuruma).”

Remember that in Japanese, the adjective always comes before the noun it modifies. So, when talking about something that is white, the adjective “白い (しろい/shiroi)” comes before the noun (e.g., “白い花 (しろいはな/shiroi hana)” for “white flower”).

Shades of White in Japanese

While the basic word for white in Japanese is “shiro” (白), there are various other expressions to describe different shades of white.

For example, “fuyou” (芙蓉) refers to a creamy white, while “shirahana” (白花) describes snowy white. “Gofun” (胡粉) is a term used for the white pigment used in traditional Japanese painting, and “porcelain white” is referred to as “seiji shiro” (青磁白) in Japanese.

Shades of White Vocabulary Table

Japanese Romaji English Translation
shiro white
芙蓉 fuyou creamy white
白花 shirahana snowy white
胡粉 gofun white pigment/white lead
青磁白 seiji shiro porcelain white

Learning these additional vocabulary words related to shades of white can help you better express yourself in Japanese, particularly when discussing art, design, or everyday objects.

White in Japanese Art and Aesthetics

White has been an integral part of Japanese art and aesthetics for centuries. Its use is deeply rooted in the country’s cultural and artistic traditions, ranging from painting and calligraphy to ceramics and textiles.

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In Japanese art, white is often used to express a sense of purity, simplicity, and minimalism. It is frequently used as a background color and a contrasting element to other colors. For example, the famous screen painting “Wind and Thunder Gods” by Tawaraya Sōtatsu uses a white background to contrast the vibrant colors of the two gods.

White is also a prevalent color in Japanese calligraphy, where it is used as a blank space or negative space to create a balance between the ink strokes and the empty space. This use of white is known as “ma,” which means “negative space” or “interval” in Japanese.

Japanese Art Form Examples of White Use
Painting Backgrounds, contrasting element, expressions of purity and minimalism
Calligraphy Blank space or negative space (ma) to balance ink strokes and empty space
Ceramics Glaze colors, texture, and pattern, expressions of purity and simplicity
Textiles Dyeing techniques like shibori, expressions of purity and simplicity

In ceramics, white glaze is a popular choice for expressing simplicity, purity, and clarity. The use of white glaze can also highlight the texture and pattern of the ceramics. This can be seen in the Hagi ware pottery from Hagi, Japan.

Contemporary Japanese artists have also incorporated white into their works, often to evoke a sense of calmness, emptiness, and silence. For example, the artist Hiroshi Sugimoto’s white seascape photographs capture the vastness of the ocean and create a sense of stillness and tranquility.

Overall, white plays a significant role in Japanese art and aesthetics, conveying a sense of purity, simplicity, and balance. Its use throughout various art forms and traditions has allowed it to become a fundamental aspect of Japanese cultural identity.

White in Japanese Symbolism and Traditions

White carries great symbolic weight in Japanese culture and traditions. From its association with purity to its use in important rituals and ceremonies, white is a color that holds deep cultural significance.

White in Shintoism

In Shintoism, Japan’s indigenous religion, white is considered a sacred color. The religion holds that all things possess kami, or divine spirits, and white is believed to be the color of purification, representing the absence of impurities.

Many Shinto shrines feature white paper streamers known as shide, which are believed to purify the area and ward off evil spirits. Additionally, priests and worshippers wear white clothing during important ceremonies to express their purity and devotion.

White in Weddings

White is the traditional color for Japanese weddings, as it represents the bride’s purity and innocence. The wedding kimono, or shiromuku, is a plain white ensemble that symbolizes the bride’s commitment to her new husband and her role as a wife.

During the ceremony, the bride also wears a white hood known as the wataboshi, which covers her face and symbolizes her maiden status. The groom may also wear a white robe, known as a montsuki haori hakama, as a symbol of his purity and sincerity.

White in Funerals

In Japanese funerals, white is worn as a symbol of mourning and respect for the deceased. Traditional funeral attire consists of a white kimono known as a kodenbokuro, which is tied with a black obi belt. The outfit is completed with white tabi socks and zori sandals.

White is also used to mark the entrance of the funeral home. A white noren, or split curtain, is hung outside to signify that a funeral is taking place inside.

White in Sumo Wrestling

Sumo wrestling, Japan’s national sport, also incorporates white symbolism. The wrestlers wear loincloths called mawashi, which are traditionally white. The white mawashi represents purity and is seen as a symbol of the wrestlers’ dedication to the sport.

Additionally, the sumo ring, or dohyo, is made of white sand and is purified before each match to create a sacred space for the wrestlers. The wrestlers also perform a salt-throwing ritual before each match to purify the ring and ward off evil spirits.

As you can see, white in Japanese culture and traditions holds deep symbolic meaning. Understanding these cultural nuances can help you better appreciate the language and culture of Japan.

White in Japanese Language Idioms and Proverbs

Just like in any language, Japanese has its own set of idiomatic expressions and proverbs that use the color white. Here are a few examples:

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Idiom/Proverb Meaning
しろくまが見てる (shirokuma ga miteru) Literally meaning “being watched by a white bear,” this idiom is used to describe a tense or awkward silence between two people.
白馬に乗る (hakuba ni noru) Translated as “ride a white horse,” this proverb means to be successful and have a good reputation.
白状する (hakujou suru) Meaning “to confess,” this expression comes from the idea of admitting wrongdoing and “revealing” the truth, which is often associated with the color white.

These idioms and proverbs not only give insight into the Japanese language, but also offer a glimpse into the cultural values and associations with the color white.

Practicing and Using White in Japanese

Now that you have learned various Japanese words and phrases related to white, it’s time to practice and use them in your everyday conversation. Incorporating new vocabulary into your language skills is the key to fluency, and here are some tips to help you:

1. Focus on the Basic Word for White in Japanese

The most common term used to express the color white in Japanese is “shiro” (白). Practice using this word in simple sentences like “kono hon wa shiro desu” which means “this book is white,” or “shiro to kuro no tegami” which means “a letter in white and black.”

2. Go Beyond the Basics

Expand your vocabulary and learn more shades and nuances of the color white in Japanese. Use words like “byakuya” (白夜) which means “white night,” or “haku” (白) which is a more formal term for white, often used in poetry and literature.

3. Practice Common Expressions and Phrases

Incorporate white-related idioms and expressions into your Japanese conversations. For example, use the idiom “shiroi-koibito” (白い恋人) which literally translates to “white lover,” to refer to your lover or partner. Or use phrases like “shiroi yuki ga furu” (白い雪が降る) to describe a snowy day.

4. Learn from Native Speakers and Media

Listening to native Japanese speakers and watching Japanese media can help you learn more about how to use white-related vocabulary and expressions. Watch Japanese movies or TV shows with subtitles, or listen to Japanese podcasts or music to improve your language skills.

5. Practice Consistently

Like any language skill, consistent practice is key to mastering white in Japanese. Make a habit of using new vocabulary in everyday conversations, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Practice writing sentences using white-related vocabulary or keeping a journal in Japanese to improve your skills.

With these tips and resources, you can confidently practice and use white-related vocabulary and expressions in your Japanese conversations. Keep learning and incorporating new words and phrases, and you’ll be speaking like a native Japanese speaker in no time.


Q: How do you say white in Japanese?

A: The word for white in Japanese is “shiro” (白).

Q: Are there different shades of white in Japanese?

A: Yes, Japanese has various expressions to describe different shades of white. Some common ones include “shiroi” (白い) for pure white, “usui” (薄い) for pale or light white, and “mushiro” (虫白) for off-white.

Q: What is the cultural significance of white in Japan?

A: White holds deep cultural significance in Japan. It is associated with purity, cleanliness, and sacredness. White is often used in traditional Japanese ceremonies, weddings, and as a symbol of mourning.

Q: Are there any idioms or proverbs related to white in Japanese?

A: Yes, there are several idiomatic expressions and proverbs involving white in Japanese. One example is “yukizuri ni nattara, mi o makase” (雪づりになったら、身をまかせ), which translates to “If you become snow on a roof, leave it to others.” It conveys the idea of relying on others when facing difficulties.

Q: How can I practice incorporating white-related vocabulary into my Japanese conversations?

A: To practice using white-related vocabulary in Japanese, you can try describing colors, objects, or even discussing Japanese art and aesthetics. Additionally, using flashcards or language learning apps can help you reinforce your knowledge of white-related words in Japanese.

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