Talking about ‘only’

There are two words that express ‘only’.


だけ is used after a noun to express ‘only ~’.


  • アルバイトのお金だけでヨーロッパりょこうができません。

  • スミスさんだけいきます。

  • コアラはユーカリのはだけ食べます。



しか is used before a negative form of a verb to mean ‘only ~’.


  • コアラはユーカリのはしか食べません

  • スミスさんしかいきません

Talking about Occupation

When talking about work, there are two verbs that are often used.

はたらく means ‘to work’. It is preceded by で in use. For example:



つとめる means ‘to be employed at’. It is preceded by に.



For jobs and places of employment, see Vocabulary section.

Japanese Marriage Tradition


Some Japanese still have arranged marriages. A meeting arranged with a view to marriage is called omiai. Most young people these days seem to prefer to find a partner by themselves, but many still feel secure when their parents or a go-between or a match-making company presents a suitable person

The go-between could be a professional matchmaker, a friend, relatives or the parents themselves. They find out everything about the prospective marriage partners to make sure that they are basically compatible. They bring photos to show to both families. If both families and the young people agree, the go-between arranges a meeting, perhaps at a restaurant or a coffee shop.

If the first meeting is successful, and both sides agree to meet again, a second meeting may be arranged. After that, the young people may make further arrangements as they please. If by any chance one side does not want a second meeting, the go-between is told and he will inform the other side. This avoids undue embarrassment. They can also break up after several meetings take place. Arranged marriages seem to work well. It is probable that they are successful because they have parental support and that the social, economic and educational background of the couples is well matched. In olden times, matchmakers arranged marriages, and that was it. The young people getting married had no say in the matter.



If the couple decides to get married after many meetings, they exchange gifts and decide on a suitable date. The fourth of the month is definitely out. 四 ‘shi’ means ‘four’ but 死 ‘shi’ means ‘death’. Thus four is an unlucky number. Hospitals do not have a fourth floor or a room number four.

Many people get married Spring and Autumn because the weather is good at these times. The wedding may be held in a hotel function room or a special function centre with a shine, and a Shinto priest to carry out the ceremony. Some young couples like to get married at a church, in full western style dress.

The bride wears an elaborate tradition kimono with designs of cranes. She has a large wig (few girls would have sufficient hair of their own) arranged in the traditional style. Her face is painted white and she is made up to look ver much like a doll. She wears a ceremonial white veil and in her hair, she wears smaller pine tree boughs carved from a tortoise shell. The pine tree, tortoise and crane live for a long time. The symbolism is obvious. These days the bride may simply wear a large tsunokakushi (the bride’s hood) that covers the entire head except for the face. There is no wig or elaborate make-up. The groom may wear a traditional kimono and hakama (long pleated pants), but some wear a formal western suit.

After the formal ceremony, the bride changes out of the ceremonial dress and into a lighter kimono for the reception. This may be held at home (in a large country house), at a reception centre, or a hotel. There is eating, drinking, speeches and formal toasts. After that, the bride again changes, this time into a white western dress, and mingles with the guests in a less formal way.

The guests bring presents for the bride and groom. These presents are usually money. As the guests leave, they are each given a present by the host. After that, the bride again changes and it is time for the newlyweds to go off on their honeymoon.

Japanese Working Life

Japanese Working Life

Whether they are company employees or not, Japanese people are known as hard workers. They work long hours and are very dedicated to their jobs. In Japan, in the past, people rarely changed jobs. In recent years, this attitude has somewhat changed and people do change jobs, to a certain extent. However, the traditional ideas and attitude about the jobs still remain. A person would start from the bottom, and by working hard, without changing jobs, steadily climb towards the top of the ladder. Some workers consider their jobs to be more important than their families. This dedication could be one of the reasons for Japan’s industrial success.


Those who dedicate themselves fully to the company get a guarantee of lifetime employment and access to company benefits such as cheap housing, cheap insurance schemes and the use of the company’ recreation facilities. However, not everyone is lucky to have a full-time job and security. With the end of ‘boom times’ in the Japanese economy at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21 st centuries, a number of people became unemployed to to ‘restructuring’ 「リストラ」. Those people make their living by doing any jobs available. They are called 「フリーター」.

There are some young people who have jobs but still live with their parents and save the cost of housing and food. These people are called 「パラサイトシングル」’parasite singles’. Some young people who have no jobs and depend on their are called「ニート」. Unemployed young people have become on of the social problems.

サラリーマン means white collar workers who receive a monthly salary. This is 75% of the workforce. They live in the suburbs of big cities and spend one or two hours a day getting to work. They go to the nearest station on foot or by bicycle; from there, they take the train. At every station, there is a bicycle park where hundreds of bicycles are parked every day. Most ‘salary men’ travel at peak hour, so the trains are very crowded between seven and ten in the morning.

Within the company, rank and position are important and the workers are expected to show respect to persons in senior positions. This respect can be shown by the way you bow and the keigo (polite speech) used.

The ‘bonus’ is another feature of a Japanese worker’s life. It is actually a part of a worker’s regular pay which s withheld by the employer and then given to the worker in a lump sum twice a year, in June and December. The ‘salary man’ and his family look forward to this lump sum of income. They might use some of it to buy a gift for someone else as the bonus times correspond to the gift giving seasons. They may use it to go on a trip overseas.


For more information about young people’s working life (フリーター・ニート) click here.

Topic 6: Future Plan and Aspirations

At the end of this unit, you will:

  • enhance your understanding of the Japanese working life,
    • including the life of ‘salarymen’ or white collared workers
  • enhance your understanding of Japanese marriage tradition,
    • including the tradition of arranged marriages,
  • be able to talk about your future plans and aspirations, including details about:
    • future study
    • work
    • marriage


  1. Expand!
  2. Vocabulary
  3. Talking about Occupation
  4. Expressing ‘only’
  5. Listening Comprehension
  6. Reading Comprehension
  7. Writing