I often see Japanese learners, especially beginners, struggling to come up with what to talk about in the first minute of a lesson. They also look embarrassed when they don't know the right words with which to respond to my comments. I can relate to them, as I have felt exactly the same way in my English lessons as a learner and in conversations among native English speakers.


After you master these tips for basic small talk in Japanese, you will no longer be scared! Please feel more confident and relaxed while literally "warming up" with our conversation in Japanese.




Maybe you have seen this kind of basic conversation script in your textbook.


先生 (せんせい): Teacher あなた: You

Teacher: Konnichiwa.
You: Konnichiwa.
Teacher: Maiku-san, genki desu ka?
You: Hai, genki desu. Arigatoo gozaimasu. Sensei wa?
Teacher: Hai, watashi mo genki desu. Arigatoo.

Teacher: Hello.
You: Hello.
Teacher: Mike, how are you?
You: Good, thank you. How about you?
Teacher: Yes, I’m fine, too. Thank you.

As you might guess, native Japanese speakers don't talk like this. You can just start with small talk right after saying hello.



Tip 1: talk about today’s weather after a greeting



Teacher: Konnichiwa, Sara-san.
You: Konnichiwa, sensei. Kyoo, Shikago wa ii tenki desu. Nihon wa dou desu ka?
Teacher: Zan-nen nagara, kochira wa ame desu.
You: Sou desuka. Ame no hi wa, ie de nani o shimasu ka?
Teacher: Sou desu ne, hon o yomimasu.
You: Hontoo desu ka? Watashi wa, manga o yoku yomimasu. Sensei wa, donna hon o yomimasu ka?

Teacher: Hello, Sara.
You: Hello, teacher. It is good weather (sunny) today in Chicago. How about in Japan?
Teacher: Unfortunately, it's raining here.
You: Uh-huh. On a rainy day, what do you do at home?
Teacher: Well, I read books.
You: Really? I often read manga. What kind of books do you read?


As you can see from the dialogue above, in general, Japanese people can easily start talking about weather at the beginning of a conversation with or without saying “How are you?”


Weather is always a common topic and safe to talk about with anybody. Here are some keywords and more examples of how to talk about weather, how to respond to each other, and how to naturally move on to the next topic.



How to express weather (天気 てんき)


with a noun (easier expression) with a verb (more expressive)  
fine/sunny 晴(は)れ <noun> sunny weather ORいい天気(てんき) good weather
今日は、晴れです。Kyoo wa, hare desu.今日は、いい天気です。Kyoo wa, ii tenki desu.
It’s fine/sunny today.
晴(は)れる <verb (dictionary form)> to be fine weather
今日は、晴れています。Kyoo wa, harete imasu.It’s fine/sunny today.
* Te-form + います indicates an on-going situation/action (present tense).
cloudy くもり <noun> cloudy weather
昨日は、くもりでした。Kinoo wa, kumori deshita.It was cloudy yesterday.
くもる <verb (dictionary form)> to be cloudy
昨日は、くもっていました。Kinoo wa, kumotte imashita.It was cloudy yesterday.
rainy 雨(あめ) <noun> rain, rainy wheather
今日は、雨でした。Kyoo wa, ame deshita.It was rainy today.
雨(あめ) が 降(ふ)る rain drops fall, to rain<noun + particle + verb (dictionary form)>
今日は、たくさん雨が降りました。Kyoo wa, takusan ame ga hurimashita.It rained a lot today. 雨(あめ) が やむ rain drops stop falling, stop raining
さっき、急に雨がやみました。Sakki, kyuu ni ame ga yamimashita.A few minutes ago, it suddenly stopped raining.
snowy 雪(ゆき)<noun> snow, snowy weather
昨日は、雪でした。Kinoo wa, yuki deshita.It snowed yesterday.
雪(ゆき)が降(ふ)る snow particles fall, to snow<noun + particle + verb (dictionary form)>* The usage is same as 雨(あめ).
先週、少し雪が降りました。Senshuu, sukoshi yuki ga hurimashita.It snowed a little last week.
windy N/A 風(かぜ)が強(つよ)い wind is strong<noun + particle + adjective> 今日は、風が強いです。Kyoo wa, kaze ga tsuyoi desu.Today, the wind is strong. (It’s windy today.)

Sample Conversation 1 


あなた:こんにちは、先生。こちらは、昨日から 雨なので、ずっとゲームをしています。日本はどうですか?
先生:日本は、昨日は 雨でしたが、今日は晴れでした。

Teacher: Konnichiwa, Cho-san.
You: Konnichiwa, sensei. Kochira wa kinoo kara zutto ame na node, zutto geemu o shite imasu. Nihon wa doo desuka?
Teacher: Nihon wa, kinoo wa ame deshita ga, kyoo wa hare deshita.
You: Sou desuka. Dewa, kyoo wa dokoka ni ikimasu ka?
Teacher: Ie, moo yoru desu kara. Kono ressun no ato, bideo o mimasu.
You: Naruhodo. Donna bideo o mimasu ka?

Teacher: Hello, Cho.
You: Hello, teacher. It's been raining here since yesterday. So I’ve been playing video games all day. How about in Japan?
Teacher: It was raining yesterday but it is fine today.
You: Uh-huh. Then, are you going somewhere today?
Teacher: No, because it’s already night here. I’ll watch some videos after this lesson.
You: I see. What kind of videos are you going to watch?


Sample Conversation 2


先生:わたしも、時々 家族とハイキングに行きます。

You: Konnichiwa, sensei.
Teacher: Konnichiwa, Deibiddo-san.
You: Mado ga akarui desu ne. Sochira wa ii tenki desu ka?
Teacher: Hai, totemo ii tenki desu yo.
You: Ii desu ne. Tenki no ii shuumatsu wa, yoku haikingu ni ikimasu. Sensei wa, nani o shimasuka?
Teacher: Watashi mo, tokidoki kazoku to haikingu ni ikimasu.
You: E, hontoo desu ka? Donna tokoro ni haikingu ni ikimasuka?

You: Hello, teacher.
Teacher: Hello, David.
You: Your windows look bright today. Is it fine there?
Teacher: Yes, it’s very fine.
You: Great. On sunny weekends, I often go hiking. How about you?
Teacher: I sometimes go hiking with my family, too.
You: Oh, really! What kind of places do you go hiking to?


Like these examples, after mentioning weather, you can ask a question related to the weather or start talking about your plans.



Tip 2: talk about seasons and air temperature

As with talking about weather, it's very common for Japanese people to talk about seasons (季節 きせつ) and air temperature (気温 きおん), as Japan has four distinct seasons and the air temperature varies daily.


あなた: こちらは、とても暑いです。一年中、夏みたいですから。日本人は、秋にどんなことをしますか?

You: Konnichiwa.
Teacher: Konnichiwa, Sarii-san. Nihon wa, moo aki desu. Suzushiku narimashita. Sochira wa doo desu ka?
You: Kochira wa totemo atsui desu. Ichinenjuu, natsu mitai desu kara. Nihonjin wa, aki ni donna koto o shimasu ka?
Teacher: N... Omatsuri ni itta ri, kooyoo ya aki no tabemono o tanoshinda ri shimasu.
You: He-e! Sensei wa donna aki no tabemono ga suki desu ka?

You: Hello.
Teacher: Hello, Sally. It's already autumn in Japan. It has become cool. How about over there?
You: It’s very hot here because it's like summer all year round. What kinds of things do Japanese people do in autumn?
Teacher: Well... people go to festivals or enjoy colored leaves and autumn foods.
You: Wow, interesting! What kind of autumn foods do you like?



How to express seasons and air temperature 季節 (きせつ) と気温 (きおん)


  word example sentence
spring 春(はる)
3月(さんがつ)から 5月(ごがつ)ごろ
around March to May
Haru ga kimashita.
Spring has come.
summer 夏(なつ)
6月(ろくがつ)から 8月(はちがつ)ごろ
around June to August
Moosugu natsu desu.
Summer is around the corner.
autumn 秋(あき)
around September to November
Watashi wa aki ga suki desu.
I like autumn.
winter 冬(ふゆ)
around December to Feburuary
Ima wa, moo huyu desu.
It's already winter now.
hot 暑い(あつい) (i-adjective) 日本の夏は、とても暑いです。
Ninon no natsu wa, totemo atsui desu.
In Japan, it's always very hot in summer.
warm 暖かい(あたたかい) (i-adjective) 春は、暖かい季節です。
Haru wa, atatakai kisetsu desu.
Spring is a warm season.
cool 涼しい(すずしい) (i-adjective) ここは、いつも涼しいです。
Koko wa, itsumo suzushii desu.
It's always cool here.
cold 寒い(さむい) (i-adjective) 2月は、とても寒いです。
Ni-gatsu wa, totemo samui desu.
It's very cold in Febuluary.


FYI for kanji learners


For a cool or cold tangible object, we use a different i-adjective 冷たい (つめたい).


冷たい水 (つめたい みず) cold water


For a hot tangible object, we use a word with the same pronunciation and different kanji 熱 (あつ) い.


熱いお茶 (あつい おちゃ) hot tea


For a warm tangible object, we use a word with the same pronunciation and different kanji 温 (あたた) かい.


温かい料理 (あたたかい りょうり) a warm dish, a freshly-cooled dish


You can develop your conversation skills starting from small talks from above and asking questions from your own imagination.


I hope you feel like trying these expressions with a native speaker or become curious to know more common expressions. It’s great for starting your conversation practice. In future articles, I'm going to introduce a couple more common topics for small talk. Looking forward to it!


Hero image by Beni Arnold (CC BY-SA 2.0)