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Teaching the Parts of the Body in Japanese

written by: Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch • edited by: Trent Lorcher • updated: 2/8/2012

Teaching a beginner's Japanese class? This is a great lesson for beginner's Japanese: teaching students the Japanese words for human body parts. Includes the kanji and hiragana readings for the different parts of the body.

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    Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

    When children are young, one of their school lessons is learning the words for the parts of the body. So why not teach introductory students these words in Japanese? The lesson can be broken up into two groups of words, the face and body. Since many of the words for the Japanese body are also written in kanji, you can incorporate a kanji lesson by going over the stroke order. You can also use many interactive tools in this lesson, like flashcards, drawings or models, and games.

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    Words for the Face

    Start the lesson by going over the Japanese words for the face. Add a visual teaching component by writing the Japanese labels next to a drawing or picture of a face. Flashcards can also help: write the kanji and hiragana reading on one side of the card, and the English translation on the other side. If you are teaching just the kanji, do not include the hiragana readings on the same side. The flashcards should include:

    顔(かお)(kao) face

    髪(かみ)(kami) hair

    耳(みみ)(mimi) ear

    口(くち)(kuchi) mouth

    首(くび)(kubi) neck

    目(め)(me) eye

    歯(は)(ha) tooth

    鼻(はな)(hana) nose

    Point out the importance of kanji in written Japanese. Explain that はな can mean both “flower" or “nose," depending on the context, but if はなis written as , it means flower, just like means nose. Using the flashcards, quiz students on the different facial words.

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    Words for the Body

    Once the words for the face have been covered, move on to words for the rest of the body. Like the first part of the lesson, use a diagram and flashcards. The flashcards should include:

    手 (て) (te) hands

    指 (ゆび) (yubi) fingers

    頭 (あたま) (atama) head

    肩 (かた) (kata) shoulder

    胸 (むね) (mune) chest

    背中 (せなか) (senaka) back

    おなか (onaka) stomach

    おしり (oshiri) buttocks

    足 (あし) (ashi) leg

    Quiz students on the different words for the body. Shuffle in some of the flashcards from the first part of the lesson.

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    Get the students active in this lesson! Have a student stand up (or multiple students), and tell them a body part in Japanese. Let them point to the part of the body, and check to see if they are correct. If students do not feel comfortable standing up in front of everyone, you can do this exercise while they are sitting, especially to review the words for the parts of the face. For this exercise, an interactive display of おしり or may not be appropriate. You can also pass out a printed diagram, and have them fill out the human body part labels. Check to see if they fill out the Japanese body diagram correctly. Point out to the students that this completed chart of the parts of the body is a good study guide for future tests.


  • Banno, E., Ohno, Y., Sakane, Y. and Shinagawa, C. An Integrated Course in Elementary Japanese. The Japan Times, 1999