The meaning of jigoku (地獄) in Japanese and how to use it

This article will give you all of the knowledge you need on the Japanese word jigoku, including its Japanese definition and translation, example sentences, related expressions and more!

What does jigoku mean?

Jigoku (地獄、じごく) is the Japanese word for hell or inferno. Although Japan is not a predominantly Christian country, the concept of hell has been around for a long time in both the folk and Buddhist traditions. Accordingly, we can state that jigoku is deeply rooted in Japanese culture.

In its modern usage, however, the literal usage of jigoku is fairly rare. Instead, it is often used to express something unpleasant or grueling.

For example, juken jigoku (受験地獄), or literally exam hell, refers to the university entrance exams that all Japanese high schoolers dread. Shakkin jikoku (借金地獄) stands for debt hell, or a situation when someone struggles to escape from a seemingly insurmountable financial burden.

Jigoku = Hell

Jikoku means hell in Japanese

Below, we take a look at some examples of how to use jigoku in Japanese.

To make it easier for you, I have written each sentence in full Japanese kanji in the first line, followed by roman letters (romaji), and hiragana, with the English meaning coming last.

Boku wa kamisama toka jigoku wo shinjinai.
I don’t believe in stuff like gods or hell.

Jigoku wa hontou ni aru ka douka wa dare ni mo wakarimasen.
Nobody knows if hell really exists or not.

Warui koto wo shitara jigoku ni ochiru zo!
If you do bad things you’ll go to hell!

Ikkai shakkin jigoku ni ochiru to nakanaka nukedashi durai.
One you get overwhelmed with debt (lit: debt hell), it is really hard to escape it.

Jikoku mitai: Like hell

Jikoku mitai (da) means like hell. It is often used in this way to describe bad situations or experiences you’d rather forget.

Okane ga nai jinsei wa jigoku mitai desu.
A life without money is like hell.

Kanojo no nichijou seikatsu sono mono wa jigoku mitai datta.
Her daily life itself was like hell.