kaguyahime page 1bRecently, I have been wondering how people learn Japanese without having a native Japanese speaker who can answer their questions! When I read the children’s book, Kaguyahime in Japanese there were still grammar points and word usages that I had to ask my Japanese friend to understand. I’ve decided to use the story book to illustrate the points my friend explained to me, so that maybe they can help someone understand. I’m going to go one page at a time as some of the sentences use advanced grammar!

Page 1:

**DISCLAIMER: I am myself studying Japanese. This is my own understanding, I am not infallible, nor fluent. If you think I have translated something wrongly, or my explanations are incorrect, please tell me, and I can fix it**

A few notes:

  • I have added particles onto the word before them, rather than leaving them as a separate word. This is a) how they appeared in the original text, b) because this makes more sense in Japanese and c) Japanese people when speaking do not sound the particle as separate from the word.
  • The original text was in hiragana only. I have created a kanji version for those who want to practice/learn kanji.
  • Kanji have only been used when they are appropriate.
  • All verbs are in dictionary form in the vocabulary list.


むかしむかし(Kanji:昔々・mukashimukashi)Once upon a time; a long time ago…

おじいさん(ojiisan)Old man

竹やぶ(たけやぶ・takeyabu)Bamboo grove

行く(いく・iku)To go, verb

きらきら(kirakira)onomatopoeic sound for glitter, sparkle

光る(ひかる・hikaru)To shine, glitter


ある(aru)To exist, to be, for inanimate objects only, verb


Kanji: むかし むかし おじいさんが竹やぶへ行くときらきら光る竹がありました。

Hiragana: むかし むかし おじいさんが たけやぶへ いくと きらきら ひかる たけが ありました。

Romaji (learn to read hiragana!): mukashi mukashi ojiisanga takeyabue ikuto kirakira hikaru takega arimashita.


Here we have two clauses which make up a single sentence:

  1. むかし むかし おじいさんが 竹やぶへ 行くと
  2. きらきら 光る 竹が ありました。

The first part is pretty simple:

むかし むかし - おじいさんが - 竹やぶへ -  行くと

Once upon a time – (an) old man – bamboo grove – to go =

Once upon a time, an old man goes to a bamboo grove

It becomes complicated because we have the と added to the end of the verb 行く, to go. That と is a conditional, an “if”, so how does that figure into our sentence?

Well, let’s continue:

きらきら 光る 竹が - ありました。

kirakira to shine bamboo – existed, was =

There was a bamboo that shines kirakira.

The whole きらきら 光る acts as an adjective on the noun 竹. Read more on why 光る as opposed to 光った or 光っている was used, here. The verb, ある is in this case in ます form, becoming ありました to create the past tense.

Now we have:

むかしむかしおじいさんが竹やぶへ行くと きらきら光る竹がありました。

Once upon a time an old man goes to a bamboo grovethere was a bamboo that shines kirakira.

と is the particle used for and/with. It has other functions, however, and here acts like a “when”. Usually it forms “if” clauses (read more about that here). It’s a bit unusual, but because the story of Kaguyahime is so well known, the と changes from an “if” to a “when”.

**Update: Apparently, this kind of use of the と conditional is not that unusual in children’s books, although is not heard frequently in conversation. For a good article about more of the ins-and-outs of Japanese conditionals, have a look here.



Once upon a time, when an old man went to a bamboo grove, there was a bamboo which shone kirakira.

You’ll notice I translated the whole thing into past tense. This is because the last verb in the sentence decides how formal the sentence is (notice only ある is in ます form, with 行く and 光る being in dictionary form) and which tense it’s in.

Well, that’s this page done! The others have more sentences, so it’ll be a bit more complicated with more vocabulary. Perhaps I’ll go one sentence at a time. Have fun!