As Japanese learners, learning the proper terminology for people around you would be considered to be one of the first and vital things to learn. In this blog we will talk about kanji we use when talking about family. 

 BondLingo - YouTube Premium MemberShip


A lot of Japanese learners immediately want to learn commonly used Japanese phrases but not necessarily how to read and write it.

This poses possible problems for people who would like to take the official language tests and read material written in Japanese. In this blog, we will be learning the kanjis used related to family which is vital for people who would love to possibly write using kanji in the future, especially for people who would like to write about themselves and their relationships in detail in the future. As you know, respect is very important when talking in Japanese so don’t be surprised if you see a few different terminologies/kanji depending on who you are speaking to!

Top 10 must know family related kanji
Top 10 must know family related kanji

Top 10 must know family related kanji

家族 (kazoku) – Family

This kanji is very straight forward and combines the kanji for “house” (家:ie)with the kanji for “group/tribe” (族: zoku). Based on this, the combined kanji literally translates to “people who you live in the same house with” which, technically, makes sense!

父 (chichi) – Father

The kanji for father is quite easy to remember as it looks like two swords that look like they’re shielding something–easy to remember as fathers have a protective role in the family! Here are the correct terminologies and usage of the kanji/word depending on context.

Someone else’s father/familyお父さん (otousan)
Casual with family and friendsお父さん (otousan)
Formal with your own family(chichi)
Other family membersお父さん・パパ (otousan/papa)

母 (haha) – Mother

The kanji for mother looks like something like some structure that holds and somehow protects something inside it. It somehow reflects how a mother carries and nurtures children in their bellies and is also quite easy to write and remember. Here are the correct terminologies and usage of the kanji depending on context.

Someone else’s mother/familyお母さん (okaasan)
Casual with family and friendsお母さん (okaasan)
Formal with your own family(haha)
Other family membersお母さん・ママ (okaasan/mama)

両親 (ryoushin) – Parents

The first kanji is for “both” (両: ryou) and the second kanji is for “oya” (親: parent) and literally translates to “both parents”. Remember to put the right abbreviations when talking to sound more polite!

祖父 (sofu) – Grandfather

The first character is the kanji for “ancestor/founder” (祖: so) and the second character is the kanji for “father” (父: chichi). I know what you’re thinking…No, it doesn’t  mean”founding father” as that is a totally different thing! The characters end up giving you the kanji for grandfather. Here are correct terminologies and usage of the kanji.

Someone else’s grandfather/familyおじいさん (ojiisan)
Casual with family and friendsおじいさん/ちゃん (ojiisan/chan)
Formal with your own family祖父 (sofu)
Other family membersおじいさん/ちゃん (ojiisan/chan)

祖母 (sobo) – Grandmother

Similar to the first character in grandfather, the kanji for grandma uses he kanji for “ancestor/founder” (祖: so) and then uses the kanji for “mother” (母:haha). Here are correct terminologies and usage of the kanji.

Someone else’s grandmother/familyおばあさん (obaasan)
Casual with family and friendsおばあさん/ちゃん(obaasan/chan)
Formal with your own family祖母 (sobo)
Other family membersおばあさん/ちゃん(obaasan/chan)

兄弟 (kyoudai)-  Sibling

This kanji is a mixture of the character for “big brother” (兄:ani) and “big sister” (姉: ane) which gives us the word “siblings”. The person you’re referring to doesn’t necessarily need to be your older sister or brother as it applies for both older and younger siblings!

主人・夫 (shujin/otto) – Husband

As we all know, Japan is a very patriarchal country so we’re not at all surprised that the kanji in the word for “shujin(husband)” comprises of the character for “main/lord/ chief/ head” (主: omo) and “person” (人: hito). For the term “otto”(夫 ), the kanji looks like a proud standing man–easy to recognize and write! Here are correct terminologies and usage of the kanji

Someone else’s husband/familyご主人 (goshujin)
Casual with family and friends旦那 (danna)
Formal with your own family主人・夫 (shujin/otto)
Other family membersお父さん (otousan)

妻・家内 (tsuma/kanai) – Wife

For the first word, “tsuma” (妻), looks like a person holding a child in its arms while sat down, a fitting kanji for the Japanese traditional role of a wife(alby the way, you do not need to take care of a child to be a wife-just wanted to clear that up!). For the second word, it consists of the character for “house” (家:ie) and the character for “inside/within/house” (内:  uchi). Here are correct terminologies and usage of the kanji

Someone else’s wife/family奥さん (okusan)
Casual with family and friends奥さん (okusan)
Formal with your own family妻・家内 (tsuma/kanai)
Other family membersお母さん (okaasan)

義理の~ (giri no-) – in-law

If you’re into Japanese popular media, you’ve probably heard of “義理チョコ” which is chocolate given by women to men they do not have romantic feelings for out of courtesy/politeness on valentines day and technically translates to “obligation/duty/burden”. It has a similar kanji to this “giri” and is used to express that a person isn’t blood related to you but is related to you through marriage. Here is an example.

義理の父 (giri no chichi) - Father-in-law
義理の母 (giri no haha) - Mother-in-law

Although we have discussed the top 10, there are many more kanji out there related to family. We honestly doubt we can fit all of them in one blog but hopefully these kanji characters might be useful for you in the future! Study hard and don’t forget that perfection takes time! 😉

Learn Japanese Online with BondLingo

Learn Japanese Online with BondLingo
 BondLingo - YouTube Premium MemberShip


Japanese Business Speech: 接客用語 Phrases to Use As a Part-time Shop Staff
How to Use Gochisousama ごちそうさま to say Thank You (For the meal)