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Kawaii Lesson Episode 7 – How to say NO in Japanese

Have you been following Kawaii Lesson diligently and learning your Japanese?

You want to say no, am I right? But you don’t know how to say no in Japanese? Well let’s fix this!

Saying no in Japanese

Saying no in Japanese isn’t an easy thing to do, as you rarely ever use the real word for no, which literally would be “iie” (いいえ).

But let’s take a look how the girls from Kawaii Lesson explain this lesson:

The formal and informal ways of saying no in Japanese


uun = ううん

dame = だめ


iie = いいえ

ikemasen = いけません

Different ways of saying no in Japanese

As explained in the video, Japanese may go great lenghts to give an explanation or excuse, if they can’t do or don’t want do something. This is often hard to understand for people from very direct cultures, which are also called low context cultures. Simply said, it is better to lie to you with a bad excuse, why something can’t be done or isn’t possible, than just directly say no, because somebody doesn’t want to do something. This has a lot to do with saving face, which is best explained with the concepts of honne and tatemae, for example in this article (you should read this).

Between friends, things can be a bit more open and honest. If you are just talking about facts, “uun”, or rather “u-un”, the opposite of “un” (a way of saying yes in Japanese), can be used without problems. For example “Wasn’t it raining yesterday?” – “Uun, the sun was shining!”
You will probably never hear “uun” as a response to the question if someone wants to go to the cinema with you or do whatever activity with you. Whatever the reason is why they can’t or don’t want to, you will rather hear a story as a response than a simple “uun”.

The word “dame” is more used for direct communication between people who know each other well or if you are REALLY serious that you don’t want something to happen. A girl might shout out “DAME!” if a guy come inappropriately close to her, while she pushes him away. Or a guy might say “dame!!!” if his girlfriend suggests that they should go to the next Kyari Pamyu Pamyu concert in Yokohama.

kyari pamyu pamyu kawaii lesson
Not wanting to go to a Kyari concert as a guy is a really good reason to say no in Japanese.

So saying “uun” is the informal way of saying that something is in fact differently, while “dame” is more a reaction to a suggested action. This does not cover 100% of the use cases, but it gives you a good idea about how it is used.

The Japanese word “iie” might be the formal equivalent to “uun”, but you will hardly ever hear it. The most common use is if you are getting thanked for doing something and want to seem modest or humble.
Examples: “Your Japanese is really good!” – “iie! It’s not good at all” or “Thank you so much for teaching English to me!” – “iie! It was a pleasure.”

Ikemasen on the other hand, might be considered to be more or less directly comparable.

Now let’s try together:

きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅの コンサート に行こうか?

きゃりーぱみゅぱみゅ?? だめだよ!!!バカじゃねぇ?!


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One thought on “Kawaii Lesson Episode 7 – How to say NO in Japanese

  1. The kawaii lesson girls are so cute!!!

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