Lesson 3: Amateur Japanese Lessons

This is the start to lesson 3 – Japanese lessons for a true amateur. So far in lesson 1 I taught about possessive particles and subject markers, and then in lesson 2 I taught you some informal speech.

This lesson will feature more vocabulary practice. Learning a language is really hard when you don’t have many kotoba (words) to use in your sentences.

Let’s practice words through a story.

Learning Japanese by Narrative.

The subject of today’s narrative: Drinking on the Streets in Japan. It’s something I mention in my book on Amazon.

Did you know, it’s legal to buy some uisuki (whiskey) from a conbini (convenience store) in Nihon and nomu (drink) it on the street?

You will find many legal activities in Nihon that are illegal in other countries, like America. However, a fine line exists between what is legal and what is considered socially acceptable, especially in Japan where subtlety is important in all aspects of life.

It may be perfectly legal to purchase a bottle of wine from the conbini and nomu it in the streets of Tokyo, but you won’t see anyone doing it. Why? It’s considered distasteful to taberu (eat) or nomu on the streets. Even tabemono bought from street vendors is intended to be consumed within a few paces of the shop. And because trash cans are very hard to find, you will also be expected to return to the shop to dispose of the packaging!

These standards are modified for matsuri (festivals) and other special events, like cherry blossom season. At these times a whole park might considered an acceptable place to taberu or nomu. It’s common to see a group of tomodachi (friends) sitting under the blossoming trees, while drinking conbini alcohol at the nearest park. However, you are expected to clean up all your trash and take it home with you. Trash cans are not commonplace in Tokyo.

While drinking may be legal, being drunk, ie public intoxication, is not exactly legal as it still violates laws against disturbing the peace. But it is not unheard of for the keisatsu (police) to carry a drunk person back home and put them to bed, instead of simply throwing them in jail. However, this seems to be reserved for locals and salarymen, rather than unpredictable gaikokujin (foreigners).


ConbiniConvenience Store
NomuTo Drink
TaberuTo Eat

Some of these words are nouns and some are verbs. The nouns don’t change in as many circumstances, but the verbs will change the most frequently based on the situation. For example, if something happened in the past, “taberu” becomes “tabeta”. It’s the past-tense form of the word.

Past Tense Japanese

Verbs: For common verbs, you can replace the “te” or “de” or “ru” or other ending of the verb with “ta” or “da”. Some words are irregular though.

Taberu in past-tense form is tabeta.

Nomu in past-tense form in nonda.

An irregularity you will learn is that iku (to go) becomes itta (went).

Endings of Japanese verb

Learning how to conjugate words takes a lot of time and practice, and will be part of future extensive lessons and your regular learning of Japanese. But I aim to teach you true understanding, and not just make you memorize stuff.

Listen to the ending of a Japanese verb.

If it ends in an “a” sound, it’s likely past tense.

If it ends in a “te” or “de” sound, it’s the command/imperative form that can also be used in other situations.

If it ends in “ru” or “u”, it’s likely the default dictionary “to do/to eat/to see” form of the word.