Should You Bring The Kitchen Sink?


Kaho’s Japanese Corner: Kore wa nan desuka?

I think that when living overseas, you are often in situations where you want to ask “what is this?” So, here’s how to ask this question to a Japanese person.

Kore wa nan desuka? = What is this?
kore = this
wa = adding wa makes “this” a subject (Don’t worry about it if you don’t get it.)
nan = what. This is a conjugated form of “nani”, which is “what”.
desuka = equivalent to “is” in question form. It becomes a question form by adding “ka”.

Sore wa ~ desu. = It is ~.
sore = it

If you want to ask someone about something that is placed away from you, you can ask “Are wa nan desuka?” “Are” means “that”.

This is not hard, right?

The tricky part of this question is that if you don’t know Japanese or if the person that you ask doesn’t speak any English, you might not understand the answer. It’s not impossible to figure out though. You can use gestures to try to understand.

I have a 3-year-old daughter who likes to ask me “mama, what’s this?”, “what’s that?” and touches things that I don’t want her to touch sometimes. It’s cute and great that she’s curious, but sometimes she points out to something that I don’t know how to explain. You know what I mean? Sometimes, I answer her with “mama mo wakaranai…”, which means “mama doesn’t know, either”.

mo = also
wakaranai = don’t understand

If you want to say, I don’t know, you use “wakarimasen”.
“Wakarimasu” is to understand, so “wakarimasen” is the opposite.

Ask this form of question to the Japanese and learn more about the Japanese food or culture!

Want to read more of these helpful Japanese language posts?  Check them all out HERE.


  1. Great question, chunkychun! “Denpyo kudasai” is not wrong. Restaurant waiters should understand. Maybe they need to clean their ears. Here are what we (my husband and I) use.

    “Kaikei onegaishimasu.”
    “I’d like to pay a bill, please.”
    kaikei = paying a bill
    onegaishimasu = please

    “Okanjo onegaishimasu.”
    “Check, please.”
    okanjo = check, bill

    Let me know if Japanese people understand you or not. If they don’t, I’ll teach them how to speak Japanese. Just kidding!

  2. Kaho

    Thanks again, great stuff. Question for you. I always ask for the check and in my Japanese book it is Denpyoo kudasai but nobody understands me. I then say checko and they understand…. Am I just saying it wrong or is there another way of saying it?