In English, we “put on” just about everything. We put on our hats. We put on our pants. We put on our glasses and shirts and jewelry. All of this “putting on” can make getting dressed in English a little boring. Getting dressed in Japanese, on the other hand, is much more interesting. Did you know that there are different words for putting on different articles of clothing? Putting on a hat in Japanese is not the same as putting on your shoes and is not the same as putting on your glasses either.
Here are five verbs to help you get dressed in the morning so you can enjoy your time in Japan fully-clothed!
This is the one to use when putting anything on your upper body, such as shirts and sweaters. You also use “kimasu” for one-piece items that cover your entire body, like robes or dresses. It might interest you to know that the “ki” kanji (着) is the same as in kimono (着物), which literally means “thing you wear.”
Now that we’ve all got our shirts on, let’s move on and make sure no one’s going to be strolling around Tokyo in their underpants. This verb “haku” is used whenever you’re putting something on your lower body. Pants, skirts, shoes – you’re going to use “hakimasu” for all of these.
“Kaburimasu” is for items worn on your head, probably exclusively hats although some of us might use it for the occasional lampshade after a few too many cups of sake. Although there is a kanji for “kaburimasu” it is usually written in kana, not kanji.
If you’re like me and have to wear glasses, then you’ll be familiar with having to put on your glasses whenever you want to see something. In Japanese, I use the verb “kakemasu” when describing that I am putting them on. You also use “kakemasu” for music when referring to turn it on. As with kaburimasu, kakemasu is also normally written in kana instead of kanji.
No outfit is complete without a few accessories. “Shimasu” is a handy verb that will let you put on anything from ties to necklaces to earrings. There are a few other verbs you could use (tsukemasu for earrings and tomemasu for hair pins) but “shimasu” can get all of these done on its own.
One final grammar note, the plain (ends in -ru) or masu (ends in masu) forms of these verbs are used when you’re talking about putting on an item. If you want to say that you (or someone else) is currently wearing a beer hat or a Lolita dress you’re going to need to use the teiru（ている）or ~te imasu forms. For example, I am wearing a hat – watashi wa boshi o kabutte imasu (わたしはぼうしをかぶっています).
So there you go, all the verbs you need to know to stay fully clothed while exploring beautiful Japan!