Shiro in Food: How to Use This Japanese Word to Order Like a Pro

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What is shiro?

Shiro is a Japanese word that means white. It’s a common word in the language and appears in many names of people, places, and things. It’s also a delicious rice staple in the cuisine.

Let’s look at the meaning, use, and origin of this useful word.

What does shiro mean in japanese

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What’s the Deal with 白 (Shiro) in Japanese?

白 (Shiro) is a kanji character in the Japanese language that means “white.” It is also used as a noun and an adjective to describe anything that is white in color. Japanese people use this word in various forms, such as shiroi, shirogane, and shirokuma, to name a few.

How Does 白 (Shiro) Compare to Other Words for “White”?

While 白 (Shiro) is the most common word for “white” in Japanese, there are other words that can be used to describe the color white. For example, 桜色 (sakura-iro) is a shade of pink that is often translated as “cherry blossom color,” but it can also mean “white.” Additionally, shiroi is the adjective form of 白 (Shiro), while shirogane means “silver-white” and shirokuma means “polar bear,” which is literally “white bear” in Japanese.

How Does 白 (Shiro) Translate to Other Languages?

白 (Shiro) translates to “white” in English and French, “blank” in Polish, and “second” in Chinese. In other languages, it can be translated as follows:

  • Afrikaans: wit
  • Albanian: i bardhë
  • Arabic: أبيض (abyad)
  • Bengali: সাদা (shada)
  • Croatian: bijelo
  • Czech: bílý
  • Danish: hvid
  • Dutch: wit
  • Finnish: valkoinen
  • German: weiß
  • Greek: λευκό (lefkó)
  • Hindi: सफ़ेद (safed)
  • Hungarian: fehér
  • Icelandic: hvítur
  • Indonesian: putih
  • Italian: bianco
  • Korean: 흰색 (huin saek)
  • Latin: albus
  • Malay: putih
  • Malayalam: വെളുപ്പി (veluppi)
  • Marathi: पांढरा (pandhra)
  • Nepali: सेतो (seto)
  • Norwegian: hvit
  • Portuguese: branco
  • Romanian: alb
  • Russian: белый (belyy)
  • Serbian: бело (belo)
  • Slovak: biely
  • Spanish: blanco
  • Swahili: nyeupe
  • Swedish: vit
  • Telugu: తెలుపు (telupu)
  • Thai: ขาว (khao)
  • Turkish: beyaz
  • Ukrainian: білий (bilyy)
  • Uzbek: oq
  • Vietnamese: trắng
  • Welsh: gwyn

How Can Knowing 白 (Shiro) Help Improve Your Japanese?

Learning about 白 (Shiro) can be helpful in improving your Japanese language skills in the following ways:

  • It can help you understand and describe the color white in Japanese.
  • It can help you recognize and understand the use of 白 (Shiro) in Japanese names and words.
  • It can help you learn different forms and variations of 白 (Shiro) in Japanese.
  • It can help you expand your vocabulary and improve your reading and writing skills.
  • It can be useful for passing the JLPT (Japanese Language Proficiency Test) as 白 (Shiro) is a common word that appears on the test.

Let’s Sum It Up

In summary, 白 (Shiro) is a Japanese kanji character that means “white” and is used as a noun and an adjective to describe anything that is white in color. It is also used in Japanese names and words, and has various forms and variations. Knowing 白 (Shiro) can help improve your Japanese language skills and expand your vocabulary.

Shiro in Food: A Delicious and Nutritious Japanese Staple

Shiro in food refers to the use of white rice in Japanese cuisine. The word “shiro” means white in Japanese, and it is used to describe the steamed version of rice that is commonly used in Japanese dishes. Shiro rice is a staple in Japanese cuisine and is used in a variety of dishes, from sushi to rice bowls.

Production and Techniques

The production of shiro rice involves several techniques to ensure that the rice is of the highest quality. The rice is grown in flooded fields and then harvested and dried. The rice is then polished to remove the outer layer, leaving only the white, inner part of the grain. This process is known as “milling” and is what gives shiro rice its distinct white color.

Shiro in Sake Production

Shiro rice is also used in the production of sake, a traditional Japanese distilled and fermented rice wine. Shiro rice is often used in the production of high-quality sake because it contains a high amount of starch and low levels of protein and fat. This makes it ideal for fermentation and produces a milder, more refined sake.

Nutritional Benefits of Shiro Rice

Shiro rice is a gluten-free food that provides a variety of nutritional benefits. It contains a high amount of carbohydrates, which provide energy for the body. Shiro rice also contains small amounts of protein, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. Additionally, shiro rice contains a small amount of lees, which are the solids left over from the fermentation process. These lees provide additional nutritional benefits and can be used to make miso soup or other dishes.

How to Cook Shiro Rice

Cooking shiro rice is a simple process that involves boiling the rice in water and then letting it simmer until all the water has been absorbed. To make authentic shiro rice, it is important to use the right type of rice and to follow the proper cooking techniques. Here are some tips for cooking shiro rice:

  • Use glutinous rice, also known as sweet rice, to make shiro rice.
  • Rinse the rice thoroughly before cooking to remove any excess starch.
  • Use a rice cooker or a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid to ensure even cooking.
  • Add a small amount of sake or soy sauce to the water for added flavor.
  • After cooking, let the rice sit for a few minutes before fluffing it with a fork or squeezing it in a pouch to remove any excess water.

Shiro vs Shiroi: Which Word to Use?

When learning Japanese, it’s important to understand the difference between nouns and adjectives. In English, we use adjectives to describe nouns, but in Japanese, nouns and adjectives are separate parts of speech. This is important when it comes to using the words “shiro” and “shiroi.”

Definitions and Meanings

  • “Shiro” (白) is a noun that means “white” in Japanese. It can refer to the color white, as well as other things that are white, such as snow, paper, or clouds.
  • “Shiroi” (白い) is an adjective that also means “white” in Japanese. It is used to describe nouns, such as “shiroi yuki” (white snow) or “shiroi kami” (white paper).

Examples of Usage

  • If you want to refer to the color white, use “shiro.” For example, “Kono t-shirt wa shiro desu” (This t-shirt is white).
  • If you want to describe something as white, use “shiroi.” For example, “Kono t-shirt wa shiroi desu” (This t-shirt is white).

Picking the Right Word

  • If you’re not sure which word to use, think about whether you’re referring to the color white or describing something as white.
  • If you’re still unsure, it’s always better to use “shiroi” as an adjective to describe something as white, rather than using “shiro” as a noun to refer to the color white.

In conclusion, understanding the difference between “shiro” and “shiroi” is important when learning Japanese. By knowing the definitions and meanings of these words, as well as when to use them, you can communicate more effectively in speech and writing.


So, shiro is the Japanese word for white and can be used as a noun or an adjective to describe something white. It can also be used in many other ways, as you’ve seen. 

As with any language, it’s important to understand the nuances so you can communicate effectively.

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Joost Nusselder, the founder of Bite My Bun is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with Japanese food at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.