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Japanese Phrases for Discussing Literature and Writing

Students reviewing vocabulary cards in library study.

Discussing literature and writing in Japanese can be a rich and rewarding experience. Whether you are a student of the language, a literary enthusiast, or a professional writer looking to engage with Japanese-speaking audiences, knowing key phrases and vocabulary is essential. Let’s dive into some useful Japanese phrases and vocabularies that are particularly relevant for conversations around literature and writing.

文学 (ぶんがく – Bungaku)
This means “literature.” It encompasses all written work, but especially refers to works of fiction, poetry, drama, and essays considered to have artistic or intellectual value.

(In this literature class, we delve deep into classic Japanese works.)

小説 (しょうせつ – Shōsetsu)
The Japanese word for “novel.” It refers to a long work of fiction typically in prose form, narrating a story of human experiences.

(She finished reading the latest novel overnight.)

(し – Shi)
This term is used for “poem” or “poetry.” It denotes a form of literary expression that utilizes the aesthetic qualities of language, such as phonaesthetics, phonetic aspects, and rhythm.

(This poem is about the beauty of nature.)

著者 (ちょしゃ – Chosha)
“Author” or “writer” refers to a person who created a piece of writing, such as a book, article, or report.

(The author is very popular in Japan.)

テーマ (てーま – Tēma)
Meaning “theme,” it is the central topic, subject, or concept that an author revolves around in a piece of writing.

(The theme of this novel is friendship and loyalty.)

プロット (ぷろっと – Purotto)
The plot refers to the sequence of events inside a story, particularly how they interconnect to create the narrative.

(The plot of this movie is complex with unexpected twists.)

批評 (ひひょう – Hihyō)
This word means “criticism” or “review.” It involves the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work.

(His latest novel has received high praise from literary critics.)

隠喩 (いんゆ – Inyu)
“Metaphor,” a figure of speech in which a word or phrase is applied to an object or action to which it is not literally applicable.

(“Time is money” is a common metaphor.)

表現 (ひょうげん – Hyōgen)
This means “expression” and refers to the act of conveying thoughts, feelings, or ideas through words, art, or other means.

(The poet sings of his love for nature with beautiful expressions.)

筋書き (すじがき – Sujigaki)
Another term for “plot” or “storyline,” indicating the narrative structure of a literary work.

(The storyline of this drama is unpredictably interesting.)

編集 (へんしゅう – Henshū)
Editing or editorial work; it involves preparing written material for publication by correcting, condensing, or otherwise modifying it.

(She is editing her novel in preparation for publication.)

出版 (しゅっぱん – Shuppan)
To publish or “publication,” it is the process of producing and disseminating literature or information, making it available to the public.

(The new novel is scheduled to be published next month.)

Equipped with these phrases and vocabularies, you can confidently participate in discussions about Japanese literature and writing. Whether analyzing classic texts or contemporary works, these terms will help you express your insights and engage with other literature enthusiasts in Japanese. Happy reading and discussing!

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