How To Say “Look” In Japanese

Today we’re going to go over how to say look in Japanese. The reason I felt it was a good idea was because this one word gets kind of abused in English with all of the ways that we use it.

We can say “look over there” or we can also say “it looks like it’s raining” and even though we use the same word in both sentences, they are used to mean different things. In Japanese, each one would use a completely different word.

I’ve written about four different ways that we use the word look and each one’s corresponding Japanese word. Read on to learn them all!

To Look

Obviously the first word that we have to go over is the Japanese verb for “to look.” The dictionary form of it is 見る (miru) which is pretty interesting because one of this kanji’s radicals is the kanji for “eye” in Japanese 目 (me).

Normally when you want to tell someone to look at something, such as a cool poster that you found while shopping, you would change this verb into its te-form and say 見て (mite) which is a polite, yet informal way to say “check this out” and such.

If you were in a more polite situation, such as talking to a customer, then you would most likely say ご覧になってください (goran ni natte kudasai) which just means “please look (this way).”

Just like in English, the Japanese language has some other words that function very similarly to the word look. One of them is “to gaze” at something or someone and the kanji for it is 眺める (nagameru).

  • ホテルの番号を眺めた。
  • hoteru no bangou o nagameta.
  • (He) gazed at the hotel number.

To gaze is one of those words that I could always use correctly in English, or so I thought, but I couldn’t really define. I looked it up and found the definition as “to look steadily and intently, especially in admiration, surprise, or thought.”

The alternative word has some negative connotations. Let me give you it’s definition first and see if you can guess what it is. This word means “to look or gaze in an unpleasant, malicious, or lascivious way.”

The word is “to leer” and in Japanese there is an expression that means this same thing. It is 色目を使う (irome o tsukau) and has that same feeling of “making eyes” at someone, when they don’t want it.

Finally, I thought I would include one last word before moving on to the next section of this post. This time the word in English is “to glare at” or another way to put it would be “to scowl at” a person or a thing.

The Japanese word for this is 睨む (niramu) and as you can see, this kanji also contains the “eye” radical like pretty much all of these words.

It Looks Like

One of the things we tend to say in English is that “it looks like” something. Other versions could be “it sounds like” or “it feels like” but what we are really saying in each of these cases is that “it seems” like such-and-such.

The difference between each of these in English is that we typically attach one of the five senses to them, but at it’s core we are making a guess about something, but we are not entirely sure.

In Japanese, the way to do this is with そう (sou) when it’s used as a na-adjective. We have to add either a だ (da) or a です (desu) after it to be grammatically correct, but basically you attach this to the end of a verb’s mass-stem or the stem of an adjective.

  • 雪が降りそうです。
  • yuki ga furi sou desu.
  • It looks like it will snow.

The word is used to express someone’s conjecture about what will, or what might happen, sometime in the future based on their sensory feelings.

  • おいしそうだ!
  • oishi sou da!
  • Looks delicious!

What’s interesting about the Japanese language is the amount of deference they use when compared to more assertive ones such as English.

For example, it’s common for us to just say “it’s going to rain” based off of the way the sky looks. But in Japanese, you would only ever say “it looks like it’s going to rain” because you can never be 100% sure that it will.

If you watch a lot of weather in Japanese, you will encounter this word a lot.

To Look At A Matter In A Certain Way

Another way that we use the word look is along the lines of a person’s viewpoint. This could be a general one, such as a positive look on life, or it could be a more specific one like a person’s viewpoint on politics.

In Japanese, the word 観 (kan) gets used as a suffix for a lot of things to bring this feeling of a viewpoint on whatever it is attached to.

So when you combine this word wither others such as 人生 (jinsei) for “human life” you get 人生観 (jinseikan) which translates as “view of life” and refers to a person’s beliefs such as the value of a person’s life and so on.

Or we can combine it with 世界 (seikai) which means “the world” to get 世界観 (sekaikan) which is a person’s “world view” or their outlook on the world.

There are a lot of words that we could go over with 観 but I’ll just give you one more here and then if there are others that you’re interested in you can search for them online.

The last word is 倫理観 (rinrikan) and means “ethical viewpoint” in Japanese.

A Person/Thing’s Look

We have arrived at the final section for this post and we’re going to go over the word that means “appearance” of a person, place, or thing.

The word is 様子 (yousu) and can be written in kanji like I just showed, or entirely in hiragana as ようす.

  • 疲れているようすだ
  • tsukarete iru yousu da
  • look tired


This word can also mean “state” when talking about things like “the state of a building” or anything else really. So keep that understanding in mind and it should help you understand it better.

  • これが6年前の様子です。
  • kore ga roku nen mae no yousu desu.
  • And this is how it looked six years ago.


Looking To The Future

We covered a lot of ways to say look in Japanese, but I am sure that there are many more out there as well. Make sure you keep an open mind, because there’s a good chance that you will encounter them while reading or listening.

Having said that, the information in this post ought to be a good starting point for you and help you build up some vocabulary centered around this topic.

If you have any questions or comments, be sure to let me know by leaving them in the section below. Thanks!

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