Guide to Japanese Dialects: Western, Eastern & Kyushu Regions

If you’re learning Japanese right now, there’s a high chance the textbook you have uses Standard Japanese, which is based on the Japanese dialect in Tokyo. By now, we know that Japan is an incredibly diverse place. From Okinawa to Hokkaido, you can find many different traditions, foods, and landscapes, but there are nearly as many Japanese dialects as there are prefectures. If you travel around, you’ll find the Japanese that people speak differ greatly, not just in pronunciation, but grammar and word choice.

We’ve already covered the accents used in the Kansai area of Japan here, which is incredibly helpful to check out if you’re traveling in the area! But, if you’d like to learn more about the dialects used in the rest of Japan, you’re in the right place!

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Eastern vs Western Japanese Dialects

Although Japan has numerous accents, the majority of them can be classified into two categories: Eastern Dialect and Western Dialect. Typically, these dialects correspond to specific geographic regions, with the Eastern Dialect being predominant in areas located to the east of the Chubu region and the Western Dialect being common in regions located to the west of it. If you reside in Tokyo, you would likely find it easier to understand the Eastern Dialect, as Tokyo falls within this group. Of course, this is only a rough approximation, and many areas do not strictly follow this definition! However, this description provides us with a good idea of what is generally found in each area.

These two dialects are distinct in a number of different ways, as you can see below:

1. Past Tense Forms

In the Eastern dialect, the short form of past tense for u-verbs that end with う(u) is expressed by adding ~った(tta) at the end. For example, the Japanese verb はらう (harau, to pay) changes to はらった (haratta). This is pretty simple, as this is the standard verb conjugation we learned when we just started learning Japanese.

In the Western dialect, the past tense form for u-verbs is pronounced either as ~おた(ota) or ~うた(uta). For example, the u-verb “はらう(harau)” can be expressed as “はろた(harota)” or “はるた(haruta)” in the past tense.

2.です (desu) Short Form

In the Eastern dialect of Japanese, the short form of the present tense for です (desu) is だ (da). For example, “It’s a dog” would be expressed as “いぬ だ (inu da).”

In contrast, the Western dialect has two common variations for expressing the same sentence, which are じゃ(ja) or や(ya). Thus, in the Western Dialect, “It’s a dog” can be expressed as “いぬ じゃ (inu ja)” or “いぬ や (inu ya).”

3. Negative Short Forms

In the Eastern Japanese dialect, the short form for negative past tense is ~ない (nai). For example, the verb 飲む (nomu), meaning “to drink,” would become 飲まない (nomanai) in the negative past tense.

In the Western dialect, the form for negative past tense can be either ~ぬ (nu) or ~ん (n). Using the same verb 飲む (nomu), the negative past tense would be expressed as either 飲まぬ (nomanu) or 飲まん (noman) depending on the speaker’s preference.

4. Imperatives

In the Eastern Dialect, the imperative form of ru-verbs ends in ~ろ (ro), such as 食べる (taberu, to eat) becoming 食べろ (tabero). Meanwhile, in the Western Dialect, the imperative form of ru-verbs ends in either ~よ (yo) or ~い (i), such as 食べる (taberu) becoming 食べよ (tabeyo) or 食べい (tabei).

5. Adjectives into Adverbs

To turn i-adjectives into adverbs in the Eastern Dialect, replace the final い (i) with く (ku), as in 寒い (samui, cold) becoming 寒く (samuku). In the Western Dialect, simply remove the final い (i), as in 寒い (samui) becoming 寒 (samu).

6. いる (to be [for animate objects])

The verb “to be” for animate objects in the Eastern Dialect is いる (iru). For instance, one would say “猫がいる” to mean “There is a cat.” On the other hand, in the Western Dialect, おる (oru) is used instead of いる (iru). Therefore, one would say “猫がおる” (neko ga oru) to mean the same thing, “There is a cat.”

7.  Pitch Accent Between Eastern and Western Japanese Dialects

The Eastern and Western Dialects also have different accent patterns! The Eastern Dialect tends to have fewer pitch changes than the Western Dialect, so it is seen as simpler to learn; the Eastern Dialect also usually changes pitch after the first syllable in a word, while the Western Dialect may or may not do this. While it would take too long to go over here, you can learn more about differences in pitch accents here. (While this site states this is for the Kansai dialect, the same information applies to the Western Dialect as a whole.)

As you might have noticed, the Eastern Dialect tends to use more of the standard Japanese form, while the Western Dialect changes things up a bit. The Western Dialects also tend to shorten words as well. With some practice, you may be able to tell where a Japanese speaker is from based on just their accent!

Now that we’ve gone over some general differences, it’s time to see how Japanese is spoken in different areas!

Eastern Japanese Dialects

Hokkaido Dialect

The Hokkaido dialect is often said to be a result of the mixing of Touhoku and Hokuriku accents, due to the many people from these areas who moved to Hokkaido3. Overall though, many say that there isn’t too much of a difference between the Japanese used in Hokkaido and that of mainland Japan!4

That said, there are a few differences in grammar to point out. Firstly, instead of using ~よね (yone) or ~でしょう(deshou) at the end of a sentence to seek confirmation, those in Hokkaido simply use ~っしょ (sshou) instead5. For example, “抹茶だよね?” (matcha da yone?)becomes:

matcha da sshou?
Matcha right?

Next, when making a guess, the Hokkaido dialect adds ~べ (be) to the end of a sentence, instead of the standard ~だろう(darou) or ~でしょう (deshou). べ (be) is also used in the volitional form; the Hokkaido dialect uses the dictionary form of a verb and adds べ (be) to indicate making a suggestion5. For example, to say “let’s drink!,” you would say:

Nomu be!

Some unique words used in this area include なまら (namara, very), したっけ (shitakke, see you [very casual]), こわい (kowai, to be tired), and おばんです (obandesu, good evening).

Touhoku Dialect

The Touhoku dialect is often associated with the countryside and rural Japan; sometimes, anime characters use the Touhoku dialect specifically if creators want to signify that they are not from a large city!

This dialect is unique in that し (shi) and す (su) are both pronounced the same way3. This means that words such as 寿司 (sushi) and 資す (shishu, to contribute) are both pronounced as しし (shishi) or すす (susu), depending on the area of Touhoku. In a similar fashion, ち(chi) and つ(tsu) are both pronounced as つ(tsu)3. So, the word for dirt – 土 (tsuchi) would be said as tsutsu! Because of the lack of differentiation, even some native Japanese speakers find it hard to understand users of this dialect — so don’t worry if you get confused as well!

Just like the Hokkaido dialect, Touhoku also has some unique words: めんこい (menkoi, cute), あんこ (anko, brain), あっぺとっぺ (appe toppe, [something] is confusing), and いずい (izui, itchy)3.

If you’d like to hear the difference between the Touhoku and Standard Japanese dialects, try listening to this poem, first in the Touhoku dialect, and then in the Standard one.

Kanto Dialect

Since the Kanto region includes Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures, the Kanto dialect doesn’t differ greatly from standard Japanese. However, there are still some interesting words to find here: おっかない (okkanai, scary), おしたじ(oshitashi, soy sauce), and かたす (katasu, to clean up)4!

Tokai-Tosan Dialect

This area includes the prefectures in southern and eastern Chuubu (namely Yamanashi, Nagano, Shizuoka, Niigata, Gifu, and Aichi). Since the Chuubu Region is the area where we see the change from Eastern to Western Dialect, the prefectures within it are split up; however, the exact line between the Eastern and Western Dialects is pretty blurry, so take these differentiations with a grain of salt!

Most of this area uses the same pronunciations as in standard Japanese, although there are some minor changes here and there. The grammar, however, can be pretty different, depending on the exact prefecture you are in; some prefectures use the Eastern dialect, while others use the Western dialect!

Since this is a pretty transitional area, some words are unique only to certain prefectures! For example, かんべね (kanbene) is used in Niigata instead of ごめね (gomene), and in Aichi あらけない (arakenai) means rowdy or wild. But of course, there are also some words common to the whole area, such asえらい (erai), which means tired or exhausted!

Fun fact, in the beginning of the famous movie Your Name, the teacher is actually teaching the differences between the Tokai-Tosan dialect and standard Japanese!

Western Japanese Dialects

Hokuriku Dialect

This area includes the northwestern prefectures in the Chuubu region (namely, Fukui Ishikawa, Toyama, and the Sado Island area of Niigata).

As with the other dialects, there are some differences in pronunciation. Firstly, nouns with only one mora (or kana), such as 木 (ki, tree) and 歯 (ha, tooth), tend to be lengthened8. So, these words would instead be pronounced as きい (kii) and はあ (haa)! Next, the Hokuriku dialect is similar to the Tohoku dialect in that し (shi) and す (su) as well as ち(chi) and つ (tsu) are sometimes pronounced in the same way!8 Additionally, the pairs じ (ji)  and ず (zu)  and い (i) and え (e) are sometimes treated the same.8

There are also some important differences in grammar. In Toyama and Ishikawa specifically, the article が (ga) is used instead of の (no) when making a noun or a question8. Everywhere except for Sado Island uses け (ke) as well as か (ka) when making a question; they also add the particle ま (ma) to the end of an imperative sentence8.

Just like in the Tokai-Tosan Dialect, some words are only found in select prefectures, such as気の毒な (kinodokuna, thank you) in Ishikawa4, よーけ (youke, a lot) in Fukui6, and だちかん (dachikan, it’s no use) in Sado Island6!

Chugoku Dialect

The Chugoku dialect is a pretty standard example of the Western-type Dialect, though there are a few differences to note. For one thing, vowels that come right after each other (such as あい [ai]) tend to be merged into one sound (such as えあ [ea], あ [a], え [e], or じゃ [ja]) – though exactly which sound it turns into depends on the specific prefecture.

Another aspect is that particles (such as は, を, or が) tend to be blended into the word that precedes it or not pronounced clearly; for example, the sentence 薬を飲む (kusuri o nomu) would actually be said as くすりょう 飲む (kusuryuu nomu)3. Did you see how the を got mixed into薬 (kusuri)?

The Chugoku dialect also uses some different endings. Firstly, the ~ている form of verbs used to indicate current action is often replaced by ~ よる7. So, 食べている (tabeteiru) would turn into 食べよる (tabeyoru). The ~ている form of verbs used to indicate a state of being is often replaced by  ~とるor ちょる; so, the verb 買っている (katteiru) would instead be買っとる (kattoru).

Alright, that was a lot! But, let’s look at some fun vocabulary before moving on to the Shikoku accent. In Yamaguchi, おいでませ (oidemase) is used to say welcome! In Hiroshima, ぶち (buchi) is used to mean very3.  ちょれー (chorei) means stupid or unreliable in Okayama, and もろもき  (moromoki) is a couple in Shimane!6

Shikoku Dialect

The Shikoku dialect is actually similar to the Chugoku dialect in many ways. Just as in Chugoku, the ~ている form of verbs uses different endings. Also similar is the use of〜することが出来ない (suru koto ga dekinai). In standard Japanese, this expression is used to indicate that something is impossible to do. However, in Shikoku (and Chugoku), this means it is impossible to do due to one’s ability7. So, it might actually be possible, but it is impossible for you (or the subject of the sentence). Finally, they both also use ~けん (ken) in addition to ~から when giving a reason7.

Finally, the Shikoku region also has its fair share of interesting vocabulary! In Tokushima, おげ (oge) is a lie or exaggeration; in Kagawa, やぎろしー (yagaroshii) means bothersome, and in Ehime あんきまごろく (ankimagoroku) means carefree!6

Kyushu Japanese Dialect

While most of the dialects fall into either the Eastern or Western category, the Kyushu Dialect is the exception. Encompassing the island of Kyushu and the area of Okinawa, the Kyushu Dialect is so different that it warrants its own unique dialect! This is most likely due to the influence of Ryuukyuuan – the native language used in Okinawa and the surrounding areas before they were incorporated into Japan.

There are a few aspects of the Kyushu Dialect that set it apart from Standard Japanese, as you can see below2:

DifferencesStandard JapaneseKyushu Dialect
I-Adjectivesi-adjectives end with い (i)
Example: 寒い (samui, cold)
i-adjectives end with か (ka)
Example: 寒か (samuka)
Particles Indicating DirectionThese particles are に (ni) and へ (he).
Example: マクドナルド に/へ (makudonarudo ni/he, to McDonald’s)
These particles are replaced with さい (sai).
Example: マクドナルド さい (makudonarudo sai)
Sentence-final よ (yo)よ (yo) is used at the end of a sentence to add emphasis.
Example: 魚ですよ!(sakana desu yo, it’s a fish!)
たい (tai) or ばい (bai) are used instead.
Example: 魚ですたい / ばい (sakana desu tai / bai)
Question Particle の (no)の (no) is used at the end of a sentence to indicate a question (casual).
Example: あなたのぼうしの? (anata no boushi no, is this your hat?)
と (to) is used here instead.
Example: あなたのぼうしと? (anata no boushi to?)
The “R” SoundThis sound is pronounced as a mixture of “r” and “l”.
Example: はいれい (hairei, worship)
This sound is often omitted from words entirely.
Example: はいえい (haiei)
The え (e) Sound え (e) is pronounced as “eh.”
Example: えっと (etto, umm…)
え is often pronounced as “yeh.”
Example: えっと (yetto)
Vowel DropsAll of the vowels in a word are pronounced.
Example: ふんぬ (funnu, anger)
Many vowels are left out, especially at the end of a word.
Example: ふん (fun)

So, you can see that the Kyuushu Dialect is quite different than what you might expect! Though, just like with all of these dialects, you can master this accent with enough exposure and practice.

Finally, before wrapping up this section, there are also fun expressions that you can only find in this area! In Okinawa specifically, you can find expressions such as めんそーれ (mensoure, welcome) andまーさん (maasan, delicious)! In Fukuoka, よかよ (yokayo, sure) and好すきっちゃけど (sukicchakedo, I like you) can be heard3. Finally, in Kumamoto (whose dialect many Japanese speakers consider super cute), you can say とっとっと (tottotto) to ask if a seat is available or tell someone to がまだす (gamadasu), or work hard!


Just like every other language, Japanese has plenty of accents! From northern Hokkaido to southern Okinawa, you can find dialects as diverse as the country itself. The amount of new vocabulary, pronunciations, and grammar to learn will provide you with plenty of Japanese practice! Also, if you ever want to learn more words used in a specific region, you can check out this online dictionary (in Japanese)! Mastering accents is another way to improve your Japanese skills, and you are well on your way to becoming fluent!        

With the resources in this guide, no matter where you go in Japan, you are well-prepared to sound like a local! But, do you still feel worried about your basic Japanese skills? Worry no more – we here at Coto Academy are here to help! We offer both online and in-person Japanese classes for all levels; check us out here to learn more, or fill out the contact form below!

Want to learn Japanese? Join Coto Academy’s fun, practical classes and learn with friends!

How many dialects are there in the Japanese language?

There are multiple dialects spoken in Japan. The exact number varies depending on the source, but there are around 10 major dialects and over 100 local dialects.

What is the most commonly spoken dialect in Japan?

The most commonly spoken dialect in Japan is the Tokyo dialect. It is also known as Standard Japanese and is the official language of the country.

Do Japanese people have difficulty understanding different dialects?

Japanese people are generally able to understand different dialects, although some may be more difficult to comprehend than others. It can depend on factors such as the listener’s familiarity with the dialect and the speaker’s level of fluency.

Is it necessary to learn different Japanese dialects when studying the language?

It is not necessary to learn a Japanese dialect when studying the language, as Standard Japanese is the official language and the most widely used. However, learning a local dialect can enhance your understanding of Japanese culture and communication with locals in a particular region.


  1. Shimoji, Michinori. “Dialects.” The Cambridge Handbook of Japanese Linguistics, edited by Yoko Hasegawa, Cambridge University Press, 2018, pp. 87-113.
  2. Shibatani, Masayoshi. The Languages of Japan. Cambridge University Press, 1990.
  3. Tanuki. “Japanese Dialects: Accents from Hokkaido to Okinawa.” Wandering Tanuki,
  4. Shimizu, Miho. “Japanese Dialects Explained By Each Region.” Japan Wonder Travel Blog, 14 Dec. 2021,
  5. “Hokkaido-ben.” U-biq, 2009,
  6. Sanseido. Zenkoku Hougen Jiten (National Dialect Dictionary). Goo Dictionary,
  7. Iitoyo, Kiichi, et al., editors. Dialectology 8: Chugoku and Shikoku Dialects.  Kokusho Publishing Association, 1982.
  8. Savage, Colin. The Dialect of Kanazawa. Lulu Publishing, 2009.

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