What is this?

The expression “Kore wa nan desu ka?” means “What is this?”
The word “kore” means “this”, and “nan” means “what”. But what about “ka” at the end of the sentence? “Ka” at the end of a sentence makes the sentences a question. Learning this is an important step on your way to learning Japanese.

The word “kore” means “this”, so to ask what something is that’s located closer to you, say “Kore wa nan desu ka?” This means “What is this?” And if you want to ask what something is that’s closer to the person you’re talking to, use “sore”, a word that means “it”, and say “Sore wa nan desu ka?” Finally, if you want to ask what something is that’s far from both you and the other person, you can use “are”, which means “that”, and say “Are wa nan desu ka?” This means “What is that?”

View “Spice it Up!” movie for “kore”, “sore”, “are”.

Phrases in this video

これは何ですか?

kore wa nan desu ka / What is this?

しいたけです。

shītake desu / It is shītake mushroom.

それは何ですか?

sore wa nan desu ka / What is it?

洗濯板です。

sentakuita desu / It is a washing board.

あれはなんですか?

are wa nan desu ka / What is that?

西郷隆盛の銅像です。

saigō takamori no dōzō desu / It is a statue of Takamori Saigo.

Who’s who?
Takamori Saigo (西郷隆盛)

This is the bronze statue of a man taking his dog for a walk in Ueno Park. Even as a statue, Takamori Saigo, a major historical figure during the Meiji Revolution in the 1800s, gives off a feeling of both familiarity and dignity.
Though he was a leader of Meiji Revolution, in his final days he lead a group of samurai from his hometown in an attempt to overthrow Meiji-government, but this hopeless second rebellion failed, and Saigo ended his own life. Japanese people sometimes favorably call him “Saigo-san” with respect.