12 Important Things You Need to Know on Jouzu


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1. What does Jouzu mean in English?

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According to the dictionary, the meaning of Jouzu is as follows:

Jouzu – 上手(じょうず): good, skillful, good (at), proficient, skilled, clever in Japanese.

Please look at the example below to understand Jouzu briefly. 

Sentences in JapaneseMeaning in English
(1) 彼女は英語とフランス語が上手です。
Kanojo wa eigo to furansugo ga jōzudesu.
She is good at English and French.
(2) 武田先生は手術が上手です。
Takeda sensei wa shujutsu ga jōzudesu.
Doctor Takeda is good at surgery.
(3) 彼は字の書くのが上手です。
Kare wa ji no kaku no ga jōzudesu.
He is good at writing.

Other than the example above, the use of Jouzu is very wide and diverse. Yet the meaning is very simple and clear, it is good at. To know more detail and clear, let’s continue reading the other section! In this article, we will explain to you many important things about Jouzu. Hopefully, you can implement and get new knowledge here.

2. Jouzu in Hiragana

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Are you a Japanese character’s lover? If yes, then let’s be a friend! Learning Japanese characters would always be awesome and fun, right! When you have a deep interest in the Japanese characters, taking time here to read about them would be great I believe. In the first place, trying to understand the hiragana of Jouzu would be an appropriate start.

The hiragana of Jouzu is じょうず, じ(Ji), ょ(small yo), う(u) and ず(zu).  

3. Jouzu in Kanji

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After knowing the hiragana, you need to know the Kanji of Jouzu. Please continue to read the explanation as follows:

  •  (じょう, Jyo or Jō or Jou): a kanji represents the top, upper, above, beyond or over in the Japanese language.
  •  (ず, zu): a kanji that means ‘hand’ in the Japanese language. 

As we can relate to the Kanji, we can understand that the literal meaning of Jouzu is “Thumbs Up! (Upper hand)”. Please note and remember that this kanji means clever, skillful, or good at something. 

4. Many Ways of reading Kanji Jouzu

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Do you know that there are 10 even more reading ways of reading Jouzu in Japanese? Please see the detailed explanation below! We have concluded 7 ways of reading Kanji Jouzu, the meaning as well as the example of the sentences. For the meaning, we refer to the original definitions from the trusted website, here.

Similar Words to JouzuMeaning in English
(1) じょうず(じょうづ、じやうず)
Jōzu (Jōzu, Jiyauzu)

* Usually Japanese say Jouzu with these ways
There are 2 meanings generally as follows:
(1) Skillful ways of doing things, smart, phrase address to others.
(2) Compliment.
(2) うわて
(1) The direction, position, location, ability, status with higher conditions.
(2) A hand-inserted from above the opponent’s arm when they are paired in sumo.
(3) かみて(かみで)
Kamite (Kamide)
(1) The upper one. The geographically high one.
(2) Those who have water of the river flowing through it. Upstream of the river.
(4) うま(い)
Uma (i) – umai or umaku
(1) Use to represent that the food is delicious.
(2) Convenient and excellent technical skills.
(5) じょうて
Joute or Jōte
Usually, the word “joute” is used as an idiom to write a specific word such as 上手物 or Joutemono which means to express a craft or good that did very well.
(6) じょうしゅ
Joushu or Jōshu
Only used for an idiom called 上手契 or joshukei” which means one of the real estate contract methods in China.
(7) うえで
Commonly used just as reading when expressing the person’s name or place name.

What do you think? As you can see the way of reading this simple Kanji is not that simple, even it has 7 ways or even more? If you have any questions about this, please feel free to reach me anytime. Just leave your comment below.

5. Jouzu in JLPT

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The word Jouzu with the Kanji 上手 belongs to Level N5 in the JLPT. This is the basic level and the easiest level of Japanese learners. If you want to learn more about JLPT, please take your time here. 

6. Common Sentences Using Jouzu

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To deepen your understanding of the phrase Jouzu, please see the common example of the sentences below. 

Sentences in JapaneseMeaning in English
(1) カリンさんは教えるのが上手ですね。
Karin-san wa oshieru no ga jōzudesu ne.
Karin is good at teaching.
(2) 上手に研究発表をしましたよ。お疲れ!
Jōzu ni kenkyū happyō o shimashita yo. O tsukare!
You made a good research presentation. Good Job!
(3) 彼女は話し上手です。
Kanojo wa hanashijōzudesu.
She is a good speaker/talker.
(4) そんなに日本語を話すのが上手ではないのです。
Son’nani nihongo o hanasu no ga jōzu dewanai nodesu.
I’m not that good at speaking Japanese.
(5) リンちゃんは絵を描くのがとても上手ですよ。
Rinchanha ewokaku no ga totemo jōzudesu yo.
Rin is very good at drawing.
(6) 母親はあまりケーキを作るのが上手ではないです。
Hahaoya wa amari kēki o tsukuru no ga jōzude wanaidesu.
Mothers are not very good at making cakes.
(7) 日本語が上手ですね!
Nihongo ga jōzudesu ne!
You are good at Japanese!
(8) 彼はN1漢字を上手に書ける。
Kare wa N 1 kanji o jōzu ni kakeru.
He can write N1 Kanji well.
(9) さくらちゃんはギターが上手だというのは本当ですか。
Sakura-chan wa gitā ga jōzuda to iu no wa hontōdesuka?
Is it true that Sakura is good at playing the guitar?
(10) こんなに上手に漢字で手紙を書けるのにどうして日本語話せないですか?
Kon’nani jōzu ni kanji de tegami o kakerunoni dōshite nihongo hanasenaidesu ka?
Why can’t you speak Japanese even though you can write letters in Japanese characters so well?

Can you make your own sentences like above? Please try and leave your comment below! I am looking forward to getting your response.

7. Difference between Jouzu and Tokui

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You may hear the other word that has a similar meaning to Jouzu, that is tokui (得意・とくい). Both jouzu, as well as tokui, indicate the expression of proficiency. Unfortunately, tokui is commonly used to explain the proficiency of others or ourselves and is close to someone’s ability. In contrast, jouzu is commonly used to explain the proficiency of others.

We can’t use jouzu for ourselves because jouzu works usually as a compliment or recognition of others’ work. Please see the 3 critical points as follows:

  1. Jouzu, as well as tokui, are the phrase to explain others’ proficiency and compliment to others. 
  2. This phrase cannot be used to compliment yourself. 
  3. Jouzu is commonly used as a compliment for others, not yours.

In addition, tokui represents unspecific skills just general skills, while jouzu usually represents more specific skills and needs practice as well as special skills to be proficient. See the example below.

Sentences in JapaneseMeaning in English
Kanojo wa e o kaku no ga jōzudesu.
She is drawing very well.
Watashi wa ryōri ga tokui desu.
I am good at cooking.
(Not Good)
Watashi wa dezain ga jouzu desu.
I am good at design.
Watashi wa dezain ga tokui desu.
I am good at design.

Please remember! You cannot use jouzu to explain your own’s ability. In that case, use tokui instead!

8. Difference between Jouzu and Umai

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Jouzu, as well as umai, are usually used to compliment someone. However, umai has a very broad meaning and nuance rather than jouzu. In addition, jouzu sounds more formal and polite while umai is commonly used in casual conversation. For jouzu we can add the prefix O at the former phrase to be Ojouzu to show respect for someone’s work. Nonetheless, we can’t add the prefix O or Go before umai. Additionally, please review the following points for better understanding:

  • Jouzu represents formal and polite compliments while umai represents more casual compliments.
  • Jouzu is na-adjective while umai is an i-adjective.
  • We can use Ojouzu but can’t use O for umai. 

Next, please see the example below!

Sentences in JapaneseMeaning in English
Example for 上手 (Jouzu)
(1) 彼は野球が上手です。
Kare wa yakyū ga jōzudesu.

(2) 彼女は歌を上手に歌う。
Kanojo wa uta o jōzu ni utau.
(1) He is good at baseball.
(2) She sings well.
Example for 上手い (Umai)

(3) リンちゃんは時計の修理が上手い。
Rinchan wa tokei no shūri ga umai.

(4) 彼女は資金集めが上手い。
Kanojo wa shikin atsume ga umai.
(3) Rin is good at repairing watches.
(4) She is good at raising funds.

9. Jouzu as compliment

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Exactly! Jouzu as we have mentioned is very common to be said by the Japanese natives when they are complimenting others. When they want to describe the action that someone master in or likes, they would present them with the phrase Jouzu. When I talk with the Japanese for the first time with my standard Japanese, they showered me with a lot of praises by saying as follows:

Nihongo Ojouzu desu ne. 
That means You are good at Japanese with honorific nuance.

When you learn Japanese and have a chance to talk to the Japanese native. Please try and practice with them, do not feel shy! Obviously, you would get very kind respect as well as support to advance your Japanese language ability. 

10. Jouzu Heta

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As you can see the Kanji Jouzu (上手) and Heta (下手) are very identical. It is because the direct antonym of Jouzu is Heta (下手). The kanji Jouzu uses thumbs up! While Kanji Heta uses thumbs-down. You can use heta when you describe someone who has low-level skills. The literal meaning of heta is unskillful; poor; awkward​. Please remember this too!

11. Qoutes in Japanese with Jouzu

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Learning Japanese would be very fun if you can get your own way to getting closer to it. In my case, I often search for quotes, then I write as many as I can in my diary to cheer me up when I study about it. Below is my present for you. Please remember and write the one special quote below to make you remember the word Jouzu easier.

Dan dan jouzu ni natte kuru yo!
You’ll get better as time goes by!

12. Japanese Proverb with Jouzu

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Not only the quotes, the other one of the best ways to remember the Japanese word is by learning the proverb. The Japanese proverb is very beautiful yet meaningful. Please read the following 4 Japanese proverbs about Jouzu. Pick up your favorite one!

Original Proverb in JapaneseMeaning in English
(1) 泳ぎ上手は川で死ぬ。
Oyogi jōzu wa kawa de shinu.
(1) A good swimmer dies in the river. This proverb is a parable of being overconfident in one’s own strength and failing or destroying oneself due to familiarity or strength.
(2) 上手の手から水が漏る。
Jōzu no te kara mizu ga moru.
(2) Water leaks from good hands. This proverb parable that even a good person sometimes makes a mistake.
(3) 好きこそ物の上手なれ。
Suki koso mono no jōzu nare.
(3) Be good at what you like. This proverb means people work hard on what they like, so they improve quickly. Because they like it, they naturally improve.
(4) 下手があるので上手が知れる。
Heta ga aru node jōzu ga shireru.
(4) Knowing something good because you know what is not good. This proverb is also parable to the existence of good people stands out because there are people who are not good at it.


Last but not least, we can wrap this very insightful article about jouzu as the following points:

  • The literal meaning of Jouzu is “Thumbs Up! (Upper hand)”.
  • Jouzu is the Japanese phrase that represents clever, skillful, or good at something. 
  • There are 7 even more ways to read the kanji of 上手 Jouzu.
  • There are specific ways and conditions to use Jouzu, Tokui and also Umai.
  • Learning Jouzu would be a lot more fun using quotes and beautiful proverbs. Remember? Please review and pick your favorite one above!

Hope this article would help and increase your understanding of Jouzu. Please kindly leave your comment below for my improvement. Thank you very much for spending your valuable time reading my article. Please read more articles published on our media here.


Representative Director of Reboot Japan Co., Ltd., which operates EDOPEN JAPAN. Founded the company in 2018, which provides Japanese language education and assistance for studying in Japan. Started the company after living with international students at a Japanese language school. He enjoys learning about new people and cultures and has lived in Australia and Malaysia. Graduated from the Faculty of Economics, Sophia University.