How To Say “Heaven” In Japanese

The concept of heave is one that is shared by many cultures, including Japan. Today I’m going to cover how to say heaven in Japanese along with some other related words.

This should come in handy for those time when you are reading or listening and the context starts talking about heaven as a perfect place of bliss, or when people just use it to express a pleasant sensation such as “this feels heavenly” and whatnot.

There are a lot of Japanese words to go over, so let’s get started right away.

The Japanese Word For Heaven

The very first word that I wanted to talk about it 天 (ten) which is the Japanese kanji for “heaven” and is an essential element for the rest of the words in this first section.

As I’m sure you know, it is really common to see Japanese words comprised of two kanji. In cases like these, each kanji usually brings a certain meaning to the word, and for the ones I’m going to share in just a minute, the kanji 天 bring the meaning of “heaven” to them.

Something I should share about 天 before moving on however, is that I don’t often see this word used all on its own. The only real time I can remember is seeing it written on the back of a guy’s cape in an anime because he was a warrior from there.

What’s more likely is that you will encounter some of the following words.

The first one is 天国 (tengoku) which can refer to “the country of heaven” since it uses the kanji 国 or “the kingdom of heaven” which I think is a better way to understand it.

Another word would be 天堂 (tendou) which can basically be used to mean the same thing as the word before, but this one brings the connotation of a “hall” or “palace” where the gods and Buddha reside.

The last word that I wanted to share is 天界 (tenkai) and the part to take special note of is the 界 part which means “world” and can be thought of like “the celestial sphere” or “the heavenly realm” which is different from the human world where we live.

Again, all of these words can be translated into English as just “heaven” but they are slightly different from one another, so knowing the meaning of the second kanji can help you distinguish them a lot of times.

The Japanese Word For Paradise

The words heaven and paradise can be used to talk about the same idea sometimes, but other times they are used to refer to different places or states of being.

So for this section, I’m going to talk about some Japanese words for “paradise” that are different from the words in the first part of this post.

Let’s start off with 楽園 (rakuen) which can mean “paradise” or can be used to talk about places like Eden, the garden where Adam and Eve first lived, or Elysium, which is the home of the blessed after death.

  • 私の楽園に蛇が現れたようね。
  • watashi no rakuen ni hebi ga arawareta you ne.
  • It looks like a viper had appeared in my paradise.

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t include as many English loan words as I possible could when sharing these vocabularies based lessons.

In Japanese, the word パラダイス (paradaisu) is a load word taken straight from the English word paradise and has the same basic meaning.

I can’t say that I’ve really encountered this word as much as 楽園, but it has shown up in at least one manga that I’ve read.

That being said, this next word is a pretty common one that people exclaim when they are “in paradise” because something feels so good, usually a hot spring.

The word is 極楽 (gokuraku) and although it generally refers to Sukhavati which is a Buddhist term, it is commonly used when people “feel” like they are in paradise. I already gave one example, but another would be when they receive a great massage.

A Shinto Heaven

Obviously, Japan has their own cultural history and stories about what heaven is, who goes there, and many other things that you can learn through reading about their culture.

One word that you will probably encounter is 高天原 (takamagahara) and is a heaven where the gods, or “kami” of Shinto live and dwell.

This particular word is related to that aspect of the culture (Shinto), which makes it different from the earlier ones which can be used to talk about heaven in general.

As you can see from the kanji used in this word, 天 makes another appearance. The two new ones are 高 meaning “high” and 原 meaning “plains” or “fields” in Japanese.

Japanese Proverbs That Use 天

There are a lot of Japanese proverbs, called 諺 (kotowaza), just like there are in English. Sometimes the meanings of these proverbs overlap between languages.

Once such proverb that involves the word 天 is as follows:

  • 蟻の思いも天に届く
  • ari no omoi mo ten ni todoku
  • even an ant’s thoughts reach the heavens

The literal meaning of the proverb talks about a small insect being heard by the heavens, but the equivalent saying in English is actually “you can do anything if you set your mind to” which I’m sure you’re familiar with already.

Another proverb that is shared between our two languages, and also has to do with heaven, is the following:

  • 天は自ら助くる者を助く
  • ten wa mizukara hataraku mono o hataraku
  • heaven helps those who help themselves

To be honest, the Japanese language and culture is so different from Western ones that I’m usually taken aback when thing line up so perfectly like this. I guess there are some thoughts and experiences that are universal no matter where you’re from.

There’s one more that I’ll share with you and then we will wrap up this post.

  • 人事を尽くして天命を待つ
  • jinji o tsuku shite tenmei o matsu
  • man proposes, God disposes

I think a better understanding of this one is something like the old Yiddish adage, “Man Plans, and God Laughs.” It’s basically saying that a man does what he can, but at some point it is up to heaven to decide.

I think the key word in this one is 天命 (tenmai) which actually has a lot of potential meaning including the following: “God’s will; heaven’s decree; mandate of Heaven; fate; karma; destiny.”

Now It’s Your Turn

I’m all done talking about these Japanese words, so now I’d like to flip things over and hear from you.

Let me know what your questions and comments are about any of these words, or just about the Japanese language in general.

Have you seen any of today’s vocabulary used before? Which ones are the most common?

Thanks for reading!

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