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How Long Have You Lived in Japan?


From the series of Questions Foreigners get asked in Japan, this week it’s a question we often get asked after meeting someone in Japan, in one of these three varieties.

How Long Have You Lived in Japan? 日本にどのくらい住んでいますか。

How long have you lived in (city)? (city) にはどのくらい住んでいますか。

When did you come to Japan? 日本にいつきましたか。

What it means: When did you get here and do you know anything about my hometown/country yet?


The How long version of the question is a little more difficult, so you might get asked the When version if you didn’t understand.


Even other foreigners will ask you this (but usually in English), not only the Japanese people you meet and all your students. A confident answer (in Japanese) will let them know you’re doing okay, but not even understanding the question lets them know you haven’t been here for long.

I have a feeling Japanese people like to gage the Japanese proficiency of foreigners based on how long they’ve been in Japan. Maybe it’s my imagination.

Most likely, if you’re asked this question, it’s because someone is being friendly and trying to get to know you. For example, if you’re new in town, you might not know the best place to get groceries or the best ramen restaurant. It’s your chance to ask now. First let’s go over how to answer this question, in Japanese.


How Long

There’s really no need to give a long answer to the How long question, we’re just looking for an amount of time. It’s appropriate to think for a second, just how long has it been now? The important element is time, so we want to use /kan, as in for x amount of time.

まあ、もうすぐ9ヶ月間かなぁー。 “Well, for almost nine months, I think.” Is an appropriate answer.

Note: The small katakana ke: is pronounced ka here and makes the distinction that we aren’t talking about the 9th month (September), but the space of nine months.



To answer the When question, we want to go with the date when we came, along with the past verb in the question, 来ました/came.

去年の8月に来ました。Not a literal date with the year, but, “in August of last year.”

If it was quite a while back, I don’t need to be teaching you this, but we can use x months or years ago by saying, /mae: xヶ月x. We’d probably finish off this phrase with a verb, like came or it was: 二年前でしたね。It was a couple years ago, wasn’t it.


Some useful time words:

for one month 一ヶ月間     ikka gatsu kan

for six months 半年間        han toshi kan

for one year 一年間             ichi nen kan

this year 今年                       kotoshi

last year 去年                       kyo nen

two years ago 二年前         ni nen mae


The time will go by quickly!


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This entry was posted on September 15, 2016 by in Living in Japan and tagged .

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