Saying How Old You Are in Japanese

Say How Old are you in Japanese

Age can be a touchy subject no matter where you live. In Japan it was once considered quite rude to ask someone their age. Of course, before our last trip, I told my wife about this, but she proceeded to ask people anyway :)

The Japanese don’t seem to have as big a hang up of asking foreigners there age, however. So how do you reply in Japanese when someone asks how old you are?

How old are you?

The Japanese phrase you will most likely hear when someone is asking your age is – Nansai desu ka. It translates as: What age is?

In some cases, especially if the person is trying to be more formal, you may hear the phrase – Toshi wa ikutsu desu ka. This translates as Age/Year how many is it?

How to respond

It’s actually pretty easy to tell people your age, especially if you already know how to count in Japanese.

The basic structure is – Age sai desu ka. I always remember sai as sigh, as in *sigh* this is my age.

For example, if you’re 30 years old, you would say – Sanju sai desu.

Here’s a good list of Japanese numbers that you can just use in the sentence above to tell your age.

How it sounds

Here’s how it sounds and a few different ways to answer. Although the midi music is terrible, it does stick in you head :)

Not answering the question

There may be some cases where you actually don’t want to tell the person your age (think of how your Mom would never tell you her age). In cases like this it may be better to us a great word for avoiding the answer – chotto.

Chotto is a great all-around Japanese answer. It means little but when used to answer a question is typically taken to mean “There is a problem with your question or request and I’d rather not answer it.”

Most Japanese people will understand chotto to mean – let the question drop.

You may also like to say – Mo toshi desu which basicly means Too old!

Or – watashi wa mitame yori wakai desu which means I’m younger than I look.

Answering like a Japanese

If you’re feeling particularly brave or silly, you may try answering the question using the Japanese system of years.

The Japanese have broken their calendar down into distinct eras. For example:

The Taishou era runs from 1912 – 1925
The Showa era runs from 1926 – 1988
The Heisei era runs from 1989 – current

So, that means if you are 35 years old you were born in Showa 50. If you are 20 years old you were born in Heisei 2.

You may get some surprised looks if you answer this way :)

Photo Credits – Japanese Painter by: Okinawa Soba.

4 Responses to “Saying How Old You Are in Japanese”

  1. Ellie  on October 23rd, 2015

    i’m quite a new learner but i’m confused about you not using ka at the end of your example is it not necessary for particular ages ??

  2. Cassie  on January 13th, 2016

    I think they messed up because ‘ka’ is used at the end of a question. so when you are responding you would just say (for example 20 years old): hatachi sai desu.

  3. Jayden  on May 19th, 2016

    With hatachi, don’t use sai. Just hatachi desu. Also Ka isn’t always required, you can just put a rising intonation at the end

  4. Jordan  on March 12th, 2017

    Not necessary, ga off course it makes it as a complete Sentence but, yes for a basic Japanese Language

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