9 Japanese words introverts will relate to

There are days when life is grey and you just want to hide under a big blanket, away from everyone. In a sort of protest against the world, you want to be in your head all the time and forget what is outside. Maybe to take a walk in a forest, listening only to the sounds of nature. Or immerse yourself completely in an entrancing adventure tale and daydream to be the heroine of the story. Or, if you’re like me, throw yourself into a massive kanji study session.

I’ve been there many times.

When I used to live in Kyoto, I often took a bus to a quiet shrine or a path in the woods to be by myself. It was the most refreshing, energising feeling.

While in Japan I also learnt some words that fit perfectly with that state of mind. Today I’m going to share a few introvert-friendly words with you, together with some kanji and grammar. Some of my favourite things all together!

japanese words introverts


森林浴 (しんりんよく)

Forest bathing, forest therapy, taking a peaceful walk in a forest.

Doesn’t it feel amazing to disconnect from everything that drains you and walk in the silence of a forest? To look at the light through the leaves, listen to nothing but the sound of the birds and your steps on the path. When you need to recharge, please take some time to 森林浴をする /shinrin’yoku wo suru/, do forest bathing, or 森林浴に行く /shinrin’yoku ni iku/ – take a walk in the forest.

森林 /shinrin/ means forest, woods. It’s formed by the kanji 森 /mori/, meaning forest, and 林 /hayashi/ meaning grove. Their meaning is similar, but 森 is bigger than 林 – you guessed it, it’s formed by three 木 /ki/, kanji for tree, instead of two.

浴 is the kanji used in 浴びる /abiru/, that means to bathe in, to bask in, to be immersed in. You also use it in シャワーを浴びる /shawaa wo abiru/, to take a shower.

Learn some kanji:
森: forest, woods. Kun’yomi: もり. On’yomi: シン.
林: grove, forest. Kun’yomi: はやし. On’yomi: リン.
–> 森林: forest, woods. しんりん.
浴: bathe, be favoured with, bask in. Kun’yomi: あ.びる, あ.びせる. On’yomi: ヨク.


積ん読 (つんどく)

Buying books and stockpiling without reading them.

I’m so guilty: when I see a bookstore I can’t resist and I often buy more books than I have the time to read. Raise your hand if you’ve done it, too.

If so, you can say 積ん読してしまう /tsundoku shite shimau/. The structure -te shimau suggests that you don’t really want to… but you end up doing it anyway.

This word is formed by the kanji for 積む /tsumu/, to accumulate, and 読む /yomu/, to read.

Learn some kanji:
積: volume, product (x*y), contents, pile up, stack, load. Kun’yomi: つ.む, -づ.み, つ.もる, つ.もり. On’yomi: セキ.
読: read. Kun’yomi: よ.む, -よ.み. On’yomi: ドク, トク, トウ.


居留守 (いるす)

Pretending to be out.

Imagine you’re home in your pyjamas, rewatching a favourite movie wrapped in a blanket. Someone rings the bell at your door, but you’re not waiting for anyone. Sometimes when it happens I stay quiet, almost stop to breathe, and wait for the person to go away pretending I’m not there. Not the greatest example of adulting, I agree, but nobody’s perfect!

In Japan, they have a word for it. You can say 居留守を使う /irusu wo tsukau/, or pretend not to be home.

The kanji 居 is the same you’d use in いる, to be there or to exist, although it’s almost always written in hiragana only. 留守 /rusu/ is the word for being away from home, so here you go: you are there, but you do as if you were away from home.

Learn some kanji:
居: reside, to be, exist, live with. Kun’yomi: い.る, -い, お.る. On’yomi: キョ, コ.
留: detain, fasten, halt, stop. Kun’yomi: と.める, と.まる, とど.める, とど.まる, るうぶる. On’yomi: リュウ, ル.
守: guard, protect, defend, obey. Kun’yomi: まも.る, まも.り, もり, -もり, かみ. On’yomi: シュ, ス.


籠もる (こもる)

To shut oneself in one’s room, to seclude oneself, to hide away.

Oh yes, there are those days too. When you don’t want to be out in a forest, or in a library, or with one close friend. You just want to be in your room with chocolate ice cream and a grammar book. That’s fine! You can こもる
for a while.

This word is usually written in hiragana only, but there are two kanji for it: 籠 and 篭. Both kanji have the meaning of “seclude oneself, cage, implied”.

こもる is also part of the word 引き篭もり (or 引き籠もり) /hikikomori/, used for people who decided to reclude themselves and withdraw from society.

Learn some kanji:
籠/篭: (basket, devote oneself) seclude oneself, cage, coop, implied. Kun’yomi: かご, こ.める, こも.る, こ.む. On’yomi: ロウ, ル.


こたつ虫 (こたつむし)

Someone who curls up under a kotatsu all winter.

Of all cosy Japanese inventions, kotatsu is one of the cosiest. It’s a low wooden table covered by a thick blanket and heated from below. So you can snuggle your legs under the blanket and be warm and comfortable. I wish I could find one in Europe, too.

こたつ is usually written in kana only. 虫 /mushi/ means insect, bug, but you can also use it to describe someone’s temper. For example, 泣き虫 /nakimushi/ is a crybaby: you add 虫 after 泣く /naku/, to cry.

Learn some kanji:
虫: insect, bug, temper. Kun’tomi: むし. On’yomi: チュウ, キ.


静か (しずか)

Quiet, silent, slow, unhurried, calm, peaceful.

People often use “quiet” to describe introverts and shy people. That’s because they don’t know the storm of thoughts that happens in our heads most of the time.
Silent and peaceful are also two words to describe our favourite environments and moments: a peaceful evening, a silent house.

From the point of view of grammar, 静か is a -na adjective. This means that, when you use it with a noun, you have to add -na at the end. For example, you can say 静かな人 /shizukana hito/, a quiet person, or 静かな一日 /shizukana ichinichi/, a quiet day.

Learn some kanji:
静: quiet. Kun’yomi: しず-, しず.か, しず.まる, しず.める. On’yomi: セイ, ジョウ.


寂しい (さびしい・さみしい)

Lonely, lonesome, solitary, desolate.

Ah, solitude. We look for it and cherish time alone, but we’re also scared to be lonely. It’s hard to find the right balance, especially as an introvert. Sometimes we feel 寂しい, too.

And although we like to be by ourselves, we are not necessarily 寂しがり屋 /sabishigariya/, a lonely person or a person who succumbs easily to loneliness. We do nurture our meaningful connections with care.

寂しい can be pronounced both as /sabishii/ and /samishii/. You can use it to describe someone’s feeling, but also a place. It’s an -i adjective, so you can use it directly next to a noun as it is. For example 寂しい女性 /sabishii josei/, a lonely woman; 寂しい場所 /sabishii basho/, a desolate place.

Learn some kanji:
寂: loneliness, quietly, mellow, mature. Kun’yomi: さび, さび.しい, さび.れる, さみ.しい. On’yomi: ジャク, セキ.


夢中 (むちゅう)

Daze, (in a) trance, ecstasy, engrossment, deeply absorbed, in a deep dream.

You know when you’re reading “just one more chapter” of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and suddenly you get to the last page and it’s 3 a.m.? You are so absorbed, so deeply into the book that you lose the sense of time.
Then you could say ハリーポッターの本に夢中になっていました /Harii Pottaa no hon ni muchuu ni natteimashita/, I was completely absorbed in the Harry Potter book.

The kanji in this word are 夢 /yume/, dream, and 中 /naka/, middle or centre.

You can also use this word when you want to talk about something you’re strongly passionate about. To do so, use the structure [something]に夢中になっている, /ni muchuu ni natteiru/. For example, 音楽に夢中になっている /ongaku ni muchuu ni natteiru/, I’m crazy about music.

Learn some kanji:
夢: dream, vision, illusion. Kun’yomi: ゆめ, ゆめ.みる, くら.い. On’yomi: ム, ボウ.
中: in, inside, middle, centre. Kun’yomi: なか, うち, あた.る. On’yomi: チュウ.


一人旅 (ひとりたび)

Travelling alone, solitary journey.

Well, yes, a bit of self-celebration here. Travelling by yourself is an intense, liberating experience. My first solo trip, which also inspired the name of this blog, was a four-day adventure to Nikko. I needed to be alone with my thoughts and in a place where nobody knew me, so I set out on a lonely journey: 一人旅に出かけた /hitoritabi ni dekaketa/.

一人 means one person, or alone, while 旅 means trip, travel. If you’ve never taken a short trip by yourself, give it a try!

Learn some kanji:
一: one. Kun’yomi: ひと-, ひと.つ. On’yomi: イチ, イツ.
人: person. Kun’yomi: ひと, -り, -と. On’yomi: ジン, ニン.
旅: trip, travel. Kun’yomi: たび, On’yomi: リョ.

Which one of these words resonates the most with you? What is your favourite word for introverts (in Japanese or in any other language)? Let me know in the comments!

Pssst! Are you an introvert, shy or anxious language learner? Then join me in The quiet language learners’ nest, a Facebook group where we can share tips about learning a language without pressure, find a kind and empathetic community and thrive together. Hope to see you there!

japanese words introverts
japanese words introverts
japanese words introverts
japanese words introverts
japanese words introverts
japanese words introverts
japanese words introverts
japanese words introverts
japanese words introverts

I’m Elena Gabrielli, introvert, grammar geek & proud Ravenclaw :)
I’m on a journey to help introverts and other quiet learners make language learning into a tool for self-care (and keep anxiety out of it).


  1. Samantha
    25th January 2018 / 12:49 pm

    I love the concept of forest bathing! And the books, I could spend half a day in a book store (as long as it wasn’t busy haha).
    I adore learning the words that are unique to a culture. Those that can’t be succinctly translated. Makes me want to pick up learning Japanese again.

    • Elena
      26th January 2018 / 3:29 pm

      Hello Samantha, thank you for your comment!
      I had never thought of forest bathing before living in Japan, but nature-therapy is such a good cure for those days when one feels drained. And don’t get me started about bookstores haha!
      Japanese is a language I love very much. I love learning untranslatable, culture-specific words too – they teach us a lot about a language and the country where it’s spoken!