Updated July 10, 2024

How To Say “Me” or "I" in Japanese: Watashi, Boku, Ore, and More


Japan Dev Team

Japan Dev contributor

Referring to yourself in English is easy – you have “me”, “I”, and “myself”, which are all the first-person pronouns one might need.

The Japanese language, on the other hand, has a wider variety of first-person pronouns, each with its own unique use case depending on the context or who you’re speaking to. 

If you consume any type of Japanese media, be it anime, manga, or video games, you’re likely already familiar with the basic form of “I”, which is watashi (わたし). 

However, depending on the grammatical structure of the sentence, you may hear many other words that refer to oneself in Japanese, all of which I’ll explore in this article.

So, buckle up, and let’s learn some Japanese.

A Cultural Overview: How to Say Me in Japanese

Japanese boasts a diverse set of first-person pronouns.

So, while I’ll explain most of the common ones like Watashi, Boku, Ore, and Watakushi, which have clear use cases, certain scenarios that require cultural context may still leave you puzzled. I’ll explain some of those as well later in this post.

First off, it’s important to understand that everyone has their own preference when it comes to Japanese pronouns.

In most cases, there are multiple acceptable ways to refer to oneself. Men and women even have cultural tendencies to prefer certain pronouns over others when speaking about themselves. So, cultural tendencies also play a role in the choice of pronouns.

For instance, when speaking to someone they don’t know, men largely tend to use “Boku” to refer to themselves, while a large percentage of women prefer “Watashi” in this scenario instead.

To add another layer of complexity, these pronouns can vary in pronunciation depending on the region. So, in Japan’s inaka (the countryside), you can hear even wilder variations of the words I’ll introduce below. Speaking of which, let’s begin with the most basic form.


As I said, Watashi(わたし、私) is the most basic one of the Japanese first-person pronouns. If you’re a Japanese learner, this is likely the first textbook word you learn to form basic sentences or to introduce yourself.

In daily life among native speakers, Watashi is deemed a polite word. So, in a casual context, you’ll mostly only hear women use this when referring to themselves, as it sounds a little too rigid or reserved when used casually by a man.

In a formal setting, however, Watashi is likely the most used pronoun by both Japanese women and men. That is, of course, in the situations where they actually use a pronoun to refer to themselves instead of omitting it completely.

So, if you’re a woman, it’s safe to use Watashi when you’re among people you’re acquainted with. If you’re a man in a casual setting, however, there are better alternatives for your below.


A less formal option to Watashi, Boku(ぼく、僕)is another way to say “me” or “I” in Japanese. 

Boku can be used by young boys and adult men to refer to themselves in a humble manner. 

This word is slightly formal, so you can use it when you’re speaking to a stranger or someone who is in a higher position than you.

In addition, you may also hear men use Boku in casual public settings like restaurants or bars. The nuance is humble, so it puts you in a friendly position to whomever you’re speaking to.

It’s good to know that the word may have a slightly childish tone to it as well, which is why it isn’t suitable for scenarios where you’re around people you’re familiar with, which brings us to the next pronoun.


Going off the casual end of the spectrum, if you’re among friends and family, Ore(おれ、俺 ) is a suitable pronoun to use.

This is a very casual and, in some scenarios, tougher and somewhat rude way to say “me” or “I”. In fact, it’s even considered crass among the older generations and is sometimes seen as a word used by males who want to sound tough. 

So, not only is it very impolite to use in formal settings and when talking to strangers or those who are older/at a higher rank than you, but it also tells something about the person using it in these contexts.

If you want to use Ore, be sure to do so around those who know you very well so you don’t misrepresent your character.


Other Ways To Say “Me”: Watakushi, Jibun, Uchi

If the three options above don’t cut it, there are even more ways to refer to yourself in Japanese. 

As you’ll see, there are other first-person pronouns you may feel suit you better, so here are more formal and informal ways to say “I/me”.


Meet the professional “me”: Watakushi (わたくし). This should be your go-to in any business meeting, job interview, or other professional setting where you are unsure just how casual you can be.

This is by far the most formal way to refer to oneself, and gender isn’t an issue here either. 

Whether you’re a man or a woman, Watakushi is a safe way to refer to yourself in all business settings. In fact, it’s especially useful in mixed settings where you’re acquainted with some of the people attending and are a complete stranger to others.

If you consume Japanese media, you’ll hear this especially used in the news, amongst politicians, and in period dramas where people speak in a noble, more serious tone. It’s a long word, after all, and it’s too much when using it to refer to yourself in daily life when, as I’ll explain later in the article, some people even drop the “I” pronoun altogether.

So, using Watakushi isn’t recommended in casual settings unless you’re trying to be sarcastic.


Another way to refer to yourself in Japanese is Jibun (じぶん、自分). In fact, this word literally means “myself” or “oneself” in some cases.

The image you might give off when using Jibun is more stoic, tough, and even philosophical. But depending on how and who you’re speaking to, if might come off as aggressive, pretentious, or stubborn. So, you might sound hostile without realizing it.

That might make it seem like a phrase to generally avoid using, but you may still notice some people referring to themselves as Jibun. This is especially true for men who participated in a sports team during their school years. The culture of these sports teams places a lot of pressure on the Senpai and Kouhai hierarchy, and using Jibun as a first-person pronoun is often a habit left over from that environment.

Interestingly, if you make your way over to the Kansai region of Japan, you’ll find that people use Jibun to refer to both “myself” and “you”. But using Jibun to say “you” is generally reserved for when the person you’re referring to is of equal or lower rank in the social hierarchy. 

The nuance of Jibun is difficult to grasp, so I’d suggest not using this word to refer to yourself (or others) in formal situations, such as during an interview. 


While not a traditional way to translate “me”, Uchi(うち)is another popular Japanese word that’s used to refer to one’s self, even though it actually means “one’s own” or “inside.”

In fact, this is one of the most popular ways young girls refer to themselves, especially when talking to close friends and family. It has a familiar vibe, too, as it implies unity. 

While generally used by young women, men, albeit rarely, use Uchi too. Whether it’s used by men or women, the word is very informal and should only be reserved for very casual settings.



A variant of Watashi, this is another basic, casual way to say me/I, but it’s generally associated with a feminine nuance. It’s basically Watashi with the “W” dropped, telling of its casual tone.

As you’d expect, this is also suitable for young girls as well. While it’s deemed informal, it wouldn’t be offensive if used in formal settings or when speaking to someone older, unlike other informal forms of “me/I” I explored above.

Using Your Own Name As A First-Person Pronoun

Though we’ve exhausted the common Japanese pronouns used to refer to one’s self, one can still refer to themselves in other ways. For instance, using one’s own name is a common way kids refer to themselves until their speech skills reach an intelligible stage.

Still, this practice isn’t exclusive to children. Young women, especially those who present themselves in a more kawaii, or cute manner, also use their names when referring to themselves.

This also works if you want to look cutesy and childish on purpose to your significant other. Still, it’s generally a better look on women rather than men in heterosexual relationships.

Family and Societal Roles As First-Person Pronouns


Finally, another way people refer to themselves in Japanese is through their roles in a family or in society. Of course, this is a very informal way of speaking and should only be used when you’re addressing someone who is your direct family member, or someone you are somewhat familiar with.

This is similar in English, as a toddler’s father can refer to himself as “daddy” when speaking to his child. So, you may say otou-san (お父さん), for instance, to refer to yourself.

While this practice is most often used by mothers and fathers, it isn’t reserved only for parents. You can also refer to yourself as someone’s big brother, big sister, aunt, or uncle.

In fact, you can even use this method to refer to yourself when speaking to young kids who aren’t related to you, especially if your age could be considered the same as their older sibling or a relative. However, this is more commonly used among people who are already familiar with you. Other than these use cases, referring to yourself as a title is only used jokingly.

Similary, if you’re a teacher, this makes you a “Sensei” (先生). So, when speaking with your students, you can refer to yourself as sensei. However, once you enter the teacher’s lounge, you’d only refer to yourself this way in a sarcastic tone at best.

Closing Thoughts: Do You Even Need First-Person Pronouns?

While using the first-person pronouns and all the methods I covered are relevant, in daily life, especially in casual conversations, Japanese people often drop the first-person pronoun altogether. For instance, to say “I’m off to the bank”, you can either say わたしは銀行へ行ってきます (Watashi ha ginkou e ittekimasu) or just 銀行へ行ってきます (Ginkou e ittekimasu) instead. 

That said, this only works when the object of the sentence is clear. In more complex scenarios where the whole context doesn’t just involve one’s self, using the first-person pronoun might be necessary to avoid confusion. 

So, as a beginner, dropping the watashi, ore, or boku is only advisable when speaking simple sentences, for instance, when you’re introducing yourself. As you become more familiar with Japanese, you'll naturally grasp which sentences refer to whom based on context, and you'll soon find yourself dropping the pronouns in casual conversation.

While this is it for “Me” in Japanese, if you’re a beginner-level Japanese learner, you might also find my “Thank you” in Japanese and “Sorry” in Japanese posts useful. My guide to basic Japanese phrases is another great resource that’ll help you kickstart your Japanese language journey.


Japan Dev Team

This post was written by our Japan Dev editorial team.