2.6 The Japanese Punctuation System

When it comes to reading and writing in Japanese, understanding the punctuation is crucial. In this module, we will explore the punctuation marks that are typically used in the language.

Punctuation in Japanese is used similarly to English, even though the symbols themselves might not look like what you are used to!

Now, let’s take a closer look at the punctuation marks commonly seen in Japanese text.


Full stop (。): くてん (kuten) or まる (maru)

A full stop is used to mark the end of a sentence. It comes right after the final forms, such as です and ます, in polite, formal sentences. Here is an example:


Watashi wa gakusei desu.

I am a university student.


Comma (、): とうてん (touten) or てん (ten)

A comma is used to indicate where you should pause in the middle of a sentence. It is often used after conjunctions, such as でも (demo), which means ‘however’. Here is an example:


Watashi wa gakusei desu. Demo, kaisha no shii-ii-oo desu.

I’m a university student, but I’m the CEO of a company.

Single quotation marks (「 」): かぎかっこ (kagi kakko)

Japanese quotation marks are indicated using a combination of brackets. The opening single quotation mark is (left corner bracket), and the closing single quotation mark is (right corner bracket).

These quotation marks look different from English ones, but their function is similar. Here is an example:


Yumiko-san wa ‘arigatou’ to ii mashita.

Yumiko said, ‘Thank you’.

Double quotation marks (『 』): にじゅうかぎかっこ (nijuu kagi kakko)

The double quotation marks are used to set apart quotations within quotations. Here is an example:


Tomodachi wa ‘Yumiko-san ga “aaa!” to sakenda’ to ii mashita.

(My) friend said, ‘Yumiko screamed, “AHHH!”’


They are also used to refer to the titles of cultural products, such as books, anime and movies, which are usually indicated in italics in English. Here is an example:


Murakami Haruki-san no ‘Noruwee no mori’ wa omoshiroi desu.


Haruki Murakami’s [book] Norwegian Wood is interesting.


Other punctuation marks

Here are a few other key punctuation marks used in Japanese:

  • Question mark: In Japanese, a question is typically indicated using the question marker か (ka) at the end of the sentence. This makes the use of a question mark (?) redundant most of the time, especially in formal writing. However, in casual writing, such as in manga or text messages, a question mark can be used to convey a questioning tone of voice, even though its use is not strictly necessary. This is because Japanese speakers often drop the か question marker in conversation, and conveying tone in writing can be challenging without a question mark.
  • Exclamation mark: The exclamation mark in Japanese is
  • Parentheses: Parentheses in Japanese are( ).
  • The ellipsis: The ellipsis in Japanese is indicated using three dots:

Exercise 1




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Japanese Introductory 1 Copyright © 2024 by Iori Hamada is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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