The Essential Guide to Sanuki-ben (Japanese Dialect of Kagawa Prefecture)

Master Sanuki-ben with this guide and fit in with the locals

Kagawa Prefecture Has Sanuki-ben

Beautiful Takamatsu Station and Sunport area near the Seto Inland Sea

What is Sanuki-ben and why should you study it?

Sanuki-ben is the local regional dialect of the Japanese language in Kagawa prefecture. Kagawa is Japan’s smallest prefecture, yet Sanuki-ben is divided into two versions: eastern Sanuki-ben and western Sanuki-ben. Anyone who is living in Kagawa or visiting can use this basic guide of essential expressions to navigate the unique dialect and communicate with locals in their native language. Language is always a fun topic of conversation when meeting someone new in Japan, so speaking a little Sanuki-ben can act as an ice-breaker. Native Sanuki-ben speaking Kagawa residents can also use this guide to teach tourists, visitors, or international residents some Sanuki-ben to help them on their way.

This guide of essential Sanuki-ben is designed for anyone, regardless of experience with the Japanese language. We have prepared several useful expressions and translated them into standard Japanese as well as English. There are also recorded samples of the examples to master the correct pronunciation. Sanuki-ben is a little more complex than other dialects in Japan, but this guide will give you a solid foundation to have you speaking like a native Kagawan in no time at all.

15 Sanuki-ben Expressions with Standard Japanese, English, and Audio Examples

1. Because, so – けん(ken) East Kagawa/きん(kin) West Kagawa

けん(east)/きん(west) = ので、から

Examples

今日は日曜日やけん、はやく帰る。 (きょう は にちようび や けん、はやく かえる。)

Today is Sunday, so I have to go home early.

2. What’s up? – なんがでっきょんな? (nan ga dekkyon na?)

なんがでっきょんな? = なにをしているの?

3. What are you doing? – なんしょん? (nan shōn?)

なんしょん?= なにをしているの?

Examples

海(うみ)にいきたい。なんしょん?

I want to go to the beach. What are you doing?

4. Tired (difficult) – えらい (erai)

えらい = つかれた、たいへん

Examples

このハイキングルートはながいけん、えらい!

This hiking course is long, so I’m tired!

sanuki ben kagawa prefecture

A wild bird lands on the hand of a Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage traveler for a snack.

5. I’m full – おなかがおきた (onaka ga okita)

おなかがおきた = おなかがいっぱい

Examples

うどん食べてお腹がおきた。(うどんたべておなかがおきた。)

I had udon and I’m full.

6. Full to the top (e.g. pouring a drink) – まけまけいっぱい (maké maké ippai) West Kagawa only

まけまけいっぱい= ぎりぎりいっぱい

Examples

ビールをまけまけいっぱいにしてください。

Fill my beer up to the brim please.

7. Negative verb form (don’t + verb) – せん/ ~ん (sen/ ~n)

分からん/宿題せん = 分からない/宿題しない

don’t know (understand) / don’t (doesn’t) do homework

8. have to + verb – ~ないかん (~na ikan)

でんわせないかん/いかないかん = でんわしなければならない/いかないとだめ

Examples

ママにでんわせないかん。

I have to call my mom.


ともだちがまっている。いかないかん。

My friend is waiting. I have to go.

sanuki ben udon shinpei

Sanuki udon is Kagawa’s soul food with over 600 shops in the prefecture.

9. ~ing (continuous form) – ~ょん/~よる (~yon/~yoru)

しゅくだいしよる, およぎよる, たべよる, たちよる, はたらきよる = ~ている

doing homework, swimming, eating, standing up, working

Examples

わたしはたべよるけん、話(はなし)できん。

I can’t talk because I’m eating.


彼女(かのじょ)はいすからたちよる。

She is standing up from her chair.

10. ~ing (in a state of) – ~っとん/~っとる (~ton/~toru)

分かっとる、知っとる、立っとる = ~ている

understanding (I understand), knowing (I know), standing

Examples

A:明日は月曜日。
B:しっとる。

A: Tomorrow is Monday.
B: I know!


彼女(かのじょ)はえきまえにたっとる。

She is standing in front of the station.

11. everything – まんでがん (mandegan)

まんでがん = すべて、全部

Examples

このおかし、まんでがんいた。 (まんでがんください)

I’d like all this candy please.

12. nothing – なんちゃ (nancha)

Examples

冷蔵庫(れいぞうこ)になんちゃない。

There’s nothing in the fridge.

sanuki ben seto inland sea

The sun sets into the Seto Inland Sea behind the Great Seto Bridge and islands of Kagawa Prefecture.

13. please – いた (ita) East Kagawa / つか (tsuka) West Kagawa

Examples

うどんもってきていた。/うどんもってきてつか。

Please bring some udon.

15. scaredy-cat (person who’s afraid) – おとっちゃま (ottochama)

おとっちゃま = 臆病者(おくびょうもの

Examples

マイクさんはへびをみて、逃げた(にげた)。彼(かれ)はおとっちゃまやな!

Mike saw a snake and ran away. He’s a scaredy-cat.

itadaki san sanuki ben

Kagawa Prefecture is the last prefecture in Japan with ‘itadakisan’ (fish peddlers) still selling fish on bicycle carts.

The Most Famous Sanuki-ben Sentence

Now that you understand some basic Sanuki-ben, here’s the king of all expressions in this dialect. The following example was actually said in a conversation about New Year’s postcards which went something like this:

A: Do you write many New Year’s postcards every year?
B: No. I don’t write them, so no one sends them to me. And since no one sends them to me, I don’t write them.

And now let’s hear it in Sanuki-ben.

16. I don’t write them, so no one sends them. No one sends them, so I don’t write them. – かかんきんこん、こんきんかかん。(kakan kin kon, kon kin kakan.)

かかんきんこん、こんきんかかん。= 書かないので、来ない。来ないので、書かない

I don’t write them, so I don’t get them. I don’t get them, so I don’t write them.

When In Rome, Do as the Romans Do!

This guide to Sanuki-ben is a good start to understanding the language and culture of Kagawa Prefecture on a deeper level. It will help you get started but the best way to learn and practice Sanuki-ben is to go out and try it for yourself! When you meet local people from Kagawa, don’t be an ottachama (scaredy-cat)! Start up a conversation in the local dialect. Most people are happy to talk to you and even teach you some new words and expressions. Have fun!