How Should you Answer in Japanese Where you are From?

Whenever you meet a Japanese person, one of the absolutely guaranteed first questions you will be asked some variation of “どこから来ましたか” or “Where are you from?” While you could easily wise crack that you are Japanese (highly recommended!), most people answer without any hesitation or thought. It’s not a difficult question in Japanese, but the type of answer varies on the person being asked.

You could just answer that this is your home.

You could just answer that this is your home.

Where are you from is interpreted in 3 ways

1. What country are you from?
2. What state/province (in the case of the US or Canada or other countries set up like this) are you from?
3. What city are you from?

If you ask a Japanese person visiting your home country the same question, they will almost always answer “Japan” and not their city or prefecture. Which leads me to believe the correct answer to this question in Japanese should only be your country.

But let me ask you, as this has always puzzled me.

What do you believe is the proper way to answer this question?



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Adam

Adam

Founder of Jalup. Spends most of his time absorbing and spreading thrilling information about learning Japanese.

Comments

How Should you Answer in Japanese Where you are From? — 9 Comments

  1. If you’re from New York City, always answer, “New York”. If you’re from anywhere else in the country, just say United States!

    • In my experience this works well for Los Angeles and California as well. In addition, thanks to Dervish playing for the Texas Rangers, a lot more people recognize Texas these days. In theory this also works for Hawaii except that so many people seem to forget Hawaii is a part of America!

    • I often hear people from big cities answer their city rather than their country or state. As Tokyostyle pointed out, Los Angeles is commonly recognized. I would also add San Francisco, Seattle, Washington, London, Paris, Rome, etc.

    • Unfortunately many Americans say ” I’m from America”, which is totally incorrect.
      There are 3 Americas, North, Central. and South

  2. I get asked the question a lot and some times even by people I have known for a while. The first time I usually just say from America. If I am pressed then I add Louisiana, which is almost always followed by the speaker (particularly older ones) singing part of a song called “Louisiana Mama.” [occasionally it includes a dance] (Never heard of this song before.)

  3. For a long time I just answered America and about about 50% of the time I would get asked which state. I think the other 50% don’t know enough states and want to avoid the embarrassment of not understanding your answer.

    When I visited Osaka I answered that question as Tokyo, not really as a joke or anything but as an honest answer because I was there temporarily and would return to Tokyo. People responded very well and if they eventually wanted to know my nationality they would just ask more directly but sometimes it really is just fluff. Thus saying “Tokyo” altered them to the fact that I was actually a tourist and they could start talking about interesting stuff in Osaka. This actually led to more interesting conversations!

    When I’m in Tokyo I will generally just answer with the station I live at and if they want to actually know my nationality they will quickly clarify. Sometimes I tell from context, this is usually when we’ve been having a conversation for a while already, that they are specifically asking about my nationality and I’ll generally both America and Texas.

    If anyone wants a list of coy answers I’ve come up with a plethora of them for both this question and the 何してる? one as well. These can be useful when being asked by the opposite sex. :)

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