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Okusan, kanai, Otto, Shujin, husband and wife


Okusan is used in Japanese when they are talking about somebody’s wife. It is not used when a man is talking about this own wife. In that case he would use kanai.

Okusan consists of the words Oku and san

Oku means center, heart.

Okusan would literally mean the person of the center or heart.

Kanai means my wife.

Kanai cannot be used to address your own wife.

Ok, this is starting to be confusing, so I’ll make a small summary of the previous explanations.


- Someone’s wife.

- Directly addressing the wife of that person.

- Asking a man about his wife.



- Is used when you talk about your own wife.

- You cannot use this to address your own wife.

To address your own wife, you use:

- Omae which could be translated as ‘you’.

- Kimi is also ‘you’ but much more intimate.


The wife addresses her husband as follows:

- Otto means husband.

- Shujin is used to talk about your husband.

- Goshujin is used when you are talking about someone else’s husband.

I’ve added some examples to clarify when you should use kanai and when you should use okusan

Okusan wa sensei desu ka?

Is your wife a schoolteacher?

Hai, kanai wa sensei desu.

Yes, my wife is a schoolteacher


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