Japanese Vocabulary for Gardening

Japanese Gardening Vocabulary - part 1: Flower names

Japan is a country with four distinct seasons. Each year as the earth makes its annual trip around the sun, the Japanese landscape is transformed by the types of flowers best suited for the season to create spectacular wonders of floral beauty.

Let’s learn some of the Japanese names for the flowers and what season they are associated with so that you don’t make the mistake of planting at the wrong time!

Spring flowers in Japan

While spring in Japan is most closely associated with cherry blossoms, the wispy trees of pink aren’t so easy to plant in your garden at home. Instead, you can look forward to bunches of big Azalea flowers blooming around mid-April that will bring joy to your day!

Japanese garden flowers for spring

left: Cherry Blossoms
right: an Azalea flower

Summer flowers in Japan

In the summer, sunflowers can brighten any day as they grow to face the direction of the sun! While this may be a good option if you have a lot of space to spare, alternatively, roses can be quite suitable for a balcony garden.

Japanese garden flowers for summer

left: Sunflowers
right: Roses

Autumn flowers in Japan

As summer turns to autumn in Japan, no flower is more majestic than the ted spider Lily). This flower is brilliant in shape and form, although majestic fields of crimson Kochia flowers can surely give them a run for their money!

Japanese garden flowers for autumn

left: Red spider Lily flowers
right: Kochia flowers

Winter flowers in Japan

And lastly, while winter is not particularly famous for its abundance of flourishing nature, peonies bloom from late November through February and contrast the white snow with their pink petals. Alternatively, you can plant an indoor flower such as an orchid and admire nature’s beauty from the inside.

Japanese garden flowers for winter

left: Peonies
right: Orchid flowers

Japanese Gardening Vocabulary - part 2: building a garden

庭を作りましょう!(Niwa wo tsukurimashou!)

Let’s build a garden!

Imagine you’ve just arrived in Tokyo, one of the biggest urban metropolises in the entire world! Skyscrapers tower as far as the eye can see, and flashing neon lights keep the city ever luminescent even in the darkest hours of the night! It sure is great to be here!

However, with so many people and buildings all in one place, it can sometimes make you miss nature, which is why today we’ll be talking about words and phrases for gardening in Japanese. Now, you too can have your very own piece of the outdoors, even in the heart of the concrete jungle!

Getting ready to Garden: 演芸 (Engei - Gardening)

While many in Japan use gardening as a way to release stress and spend time out in nature, if you don’t have all the right tools and materials gathered beforehand, you won’t get all too far!

Let’s look at some Japanese vocabulary words for the things you might need to get started with gardening:

Now that you’ve gotten everything all together let’s think about where you’d like to put your garden. Like most people in Tokyo, you live in a tiny apartment; you can make a quaint little garden out on the balcony. However, if you live out in the suburbs in a house, you’ll have a bit more room to plant a proper garden.

If that’s the case, building an at-home garden will need a bit of prep work. To start, the two things you’ll need to do right off the bat are:

草を取ります(Kusa wo torimasu)

Pick the weeds

地を耕す(Chi wo tagayasu)

Till the soil

With that in mind, now comes the challenging part… deciding what to plant in your garden!

Understanding gardening instructions in Japanese

« Planting your flowers: 花を植える (Hana wo ueru) »

So now you’ve gotten all your gardening equipment together, and because you live in a Tokyo apartment, you’ve decided that you’re going to grow an indoor flower like an orchid.

In Japanese culture, orchids are considered a symbol of wealth and regality so you can use one to spruce up your new place.

Here are some phrases that illustrate what Japanese gardening instructions can look like:

先ず、植木鉢に土を入れて。 (Mazu, uekibachi ni tsuchi wo irete)

— First, pour the soil into the flower pot.

土をこぼさないように注意して。 (Tsuchi wo Kobosanai yō ni chūi shite.)

— Be careful you don’t spill the soil.

次、種を土に植えて。(Tsugi, tane wo tsuchi ni uete.)

— Next, plant the seed in the soil.

最後に、花に水をやって。 (Saigo ni, hana ni mizu wo yatte.)

— Finally, water the plant.

If you haven’t already figured it out already, 先ず(mazu)、次 (tsugi)、最後 (saigo), mean “first,” “next” and “last” and are vital to giving and understanding directions in Japanese.

If you go to a gardening store in Japan and ask for instructions regarding gardening, these key phrases will be a lifesaver for sure.

Sample dialog with Japanese Gardening terms

« An Invitation to the Farm: 農場への招待 (Nōjō e no shōtai) »

Now let's see some Japanese gardening vocabulary used in the context of a conversation. Let's imagine that you have successfully grown a orchid and you invite your Japanese friend over to see it. (for more on friendship in Japan see the article on Japanese phrases for making friends)

When your Japanese friend sees the results of your gardening they express their enthusiasm:

A: すごい!あの花羨ましい! (Sugoi! Ano hana urayamashi!)

“This is incredible! I’m so envious of your flower!”

B: これ? これは全然何もないですけど。。。 (Kore? Kore ha zenzen nanimo nai desu kedo…)

“This? This is hardly anything at all…”

Japanese etiquette: In Japan, when someone compliments you, it’s important to initially reject or shy away from the other person’s nice words.

While this may feel like you’re being rude, in Japanese culture, it can be seen as “stuck-up” or even a bit narcissistic to accept the compliment instantly. So make sure you refute their praise one or two times before thanking them. This other article explains how opinions are expressed in Japanese.

A: ねー、園芸とかが好きでしょうね? (Ne , engei toka ga sukideshou ne?)

“Hey, so you really like gardening, right?

B: そうよね。最近、私は園芸にめっちゃハマってるよ!(Sō yo ne. Saikin, watashi wa engei ni metcha hamatteru yo)

“Yeah! Recently I’ve been absolutely obsessed with gardening!”

Japanese language tip: The phrase “Xにハマってる” (X ni hamatteru) is a really helpful way to talk about your hobbies or something you’re interested in. It can translate as “I’m really obsessed with X” or “I’m really into X” so can be really versatile.

You can also turn the question around and ask someone “最近、何にハマってるの?” (Saikin, nani ni hamatteru no?) meaning “Recently, what are you interested in?”. This is a great way to inquire about your friend’s hobbies, like gardening.

A:そしたら、今週末に、うちの家族の農場で手伝いしに来ないの?(Soshitara, konshū-sue ni, uchi no kazoku no nōjō de tetsudai shi ni konai no?)

“In that case, what would you say about coming to my family’s farm this weekend to help out?”

B:えええ?何の手伝い?(Eeeh? Nani no tetsudai?)

“Really? What sort of help?”

A:今年は豊作なので、収穫を手伝いしにくれば、家族が嬉しい!(Kotoshi wa hōsakunanode, shūkaku o tetsudaishi ni kureba, kazoku ga ureshī!)

“This year is a bumper crop, and so if you could help out with harvesting, my family would be really happy!”

B:楽しそう!はい!私は絶対に行く!(Tanoshi-sō! Hai! Watashi wa zettai ni iku!)

“This sounds like fun! I will absolutely go!”

Now that your Japanese friend has seen your gardening skills, they’ve asked you to come to their rural hometown for the weekend and lend a hand on their family farm.

This sounds like a super cool cultural experience and a great way to practice your new Japanese gardening vocabulary! You have expressed your excitement about the invitation. (see this article to learn more about expressing emotions in Japanese)

You have just arrived on your friend’s family farm out in rural Japan, and you’re starting to notice the charm of the countryside. Things move much slower here, and everywhere you look are sprawling rice paddies, abundant with long yellow stalks of rice.

Getting Ready to Farm: 農業の準備 (Nōgyō no junbi)

Just like gardening, farming requires a bit of equipment. First, you’ll need to:

手袋をはめる (Tebukuro o hameru)

Put on your gloves

The next step logically would be to then:

ブーツを履く(Būtsu o haku)

Put on your boots

Japanese language tip: Notice how in Japanese that the verb «to wear» is different for gloves and boots? That’s because, unlike in English, in Japanese, each article of clothing has a different verb meaning «to wear». Some more examples are:

  • ヘルメットをかぶる - Herumetto o kaburu - Wear a helmet
  • ジャケットを着る - Jaketto o kiru - Wear a jacket
  • ズボンをはく - Zubon o haku - Wear pants

Farm Life: 農業生活 (Nyougyou seikatsu)

Now that you’re all suited up, it’s finally time to help your friend out on their farm and harvest some delicious fresh produce. But how can you help if you don’t know what to say?

You can use the following Japanese words and phrases to express actions that frequently occur when helping on a farm.

However, just be warned, oftentimes out in the Japanese countryside, farming community members will often have a thick regional accent that can be hard to understand.

Whew! That was hard work! After helping your friend all day on the farm, use the phrase « お疲れ様でした » (Otsukaresama deshita) to tell everyone that they did a good job today. If someone says it to you, you can just say « お疲れ様でした » back to them as a response.

The Harvest Season: 収穫時期 (Shuukaku Jiki)

So maybe you want to experience Japanese farm life however, unfortunately, you don’t have any friends with farms. Not a problem at all as フルーツ狩り - furutsu gari is the perfect way to get a taste of gardening on a Japanese farm but without all the back-breaking work involved.

In Japan seasonality is everything as, unlike some countries, many fruits and vegetables are not available year-round. To take advantage of the limited availability of fresh fruits in season, going フルーツ狩り - furutsu gari (fruit picking) in Japan is wildly popular as an activity and a great way to put your gardening skills to work.

Usually, when you go fruit picking in Japan, you’ll pay an upfront fee between 500-2000 yen (depending on region and quality) and will get a set amount of time to pick and eat as much as you can. The only catch is that you can’t bring any home, so make sure you eat as much as possible before time runs out!

Here are some of the most common fruits to pick in Japan and when to pick them if you decide to try フルーツ狩り:

Two of the most popular by far are grapes and strawberries due to their small size. One interesting detail about Japanese grapes is that the most common variant here is Kyoho grapes. Kyoho grapes are big, round, have a seed, and are a darker purple.

Kyoho grapes are typically not sold in countries like the U.S. In fact, many Americans, when they visit Japan, say they don’t really like the grapes as they taste very similar to what Americans consider artificial grape flavoring in things like soda or medicine.

On the other hand, Japanese strawberries are smaller and sweeter than Western strawberries and are easy to enjoy! Usually, when you go strawberry picking in Japan, they will give you a small cup of 練乳 - rennyuu (sweet condensed milk) for you to dip your strawberries in.

While フルーツ狩り is the umbrella term to refer to any type of fruit picking in Japanese, using the name of the fruit+狩り (Ex: ぶどう狩り - Budou gari for grape picking) is the most common way people will talk about fruit picking in Japanese.

Ready to garden?

Whether you’re potting plants in your apartment, helping out on a farm, or just going fruit picking with friends, gardening is a great way to relax and get accustomed to your new life in Japan. While it may seem like there are a lot of words and phrases about gardening in Japanese now, after you get out there and practice, nothing will be holding you back! Happy gardening!