August 24, 2022

How to Use きっかけ – It all started when…

きっかけ means a chance; start; cue; motive; impetus; occasion; trigger

That's not difficult to grasp, but... using it correctly can be a challenge.

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きっかけ means a chance; start; cue; motive; impetus; occasion; trigger

It shows the causal relationship between a current state and some event or reason for the state.

The cause or motive.

"It all started when..." or "the event that led to..."

While the meaning of きっかけ may not be hard to grasp, words like this can be hard to use naturally and with proper grammar. I suggest memorizing 1-2 example sentences and plug and play other vocabulary for practice.

A common question for learners of Japanese might be:


This might be translated as:

  • "What motivated you to study Japanese?"
  • "What was your reason for learning Japanese?"
  • or "What prompted you to study Japanese?"

The Kanji

Normally, this is written in hiragana, but the kanji is: ()()

Kanji Parts: 匕 (spoon (or could be considered “seven”)) + 刀 (blade; sword)

Meanings: cut; cutoff; be sharp

Kun: き・る

On: セツ、 サイ

Kanji Parts: 扌 (hand) + 土 (earth; dirt) + 卜 (fortune-telling)

Meanings: hang; suspend; depend; arrive at

Kun: か・ける、か・かり

On: カイ、 ケイ

This may have come from the fact that one begins using most material (cloth, for example) by cutting or dividing into usable parts. Later, this came to mean the beginning cause for just about anything.

Grammatical Forms

There are two main grammatical forms we'll look at, and to make it easier to grasp, we'll give the same examples for each form.

Form 1: [cause or motive] をきっかけ (or をきっかけとして) [result or action]

Form 2: [result or action] きっかけ [cause or motive]

Basically, both forms mean the same thing, but the order of cause and effect is reversed.


Form 1: [cause or motive] をきっかけ (or をきっかけとして) [result or action]


A trip to Japan sparked my interested in Japanese.

Form 2: [result or action] きっかけ [cause or motive]


My interest in the Japanese language began with a trip to Japan.


  • 日本(にほん) Japan
  • の (limits the “trip” to that of “Japan”)
  • 旅行(りょこう) trip; travel
  • を (sets “trip to Japan” as direct object of かっかけ)
  • きっかけ sparked; began; it all started with
  • 日本語(にほんご)に with Japanese language
  • 興味(きょうみ)()きましたintrigued; became interested in [興味(きょうみ) (interest in something; curiosity; zest for) + ()く (to well up; to gush forth; to spring out; to surge)]

More Examples


What prompted you to start studying Japanese?

Form 1:


It was anime that inspired me to start learning Japanese.

Form 2:


I started learning Japanese because of anime.


  • (なに)がきっかけで what was the reason
  • 日本語(にほんご)勉強(べんきょう) Japanese studying
  • (はじ)めました began
  • アニメ anime
  • きっかけにして was the reason behind
  • (なら)(はじ)めました began to learn

Form 1:


When I got married, I bought a new house.

Form 2:


The impetus for buying a new house was marriage.


  • 結婚(けっこん) marriage
  • をきっかけに sparked; because of (marriage)
  • (あたら)しい new
  • (いえ) house
  • ()った bought [simple past of ()う (to buy)]
  • だった was

Form 1:


After giving birth, I quit my job.

Form 2:


The reason I quit my job was the birth of my child.


  • 出産(しゅっさん) giving birth
  • をきっかけに the reason
  • 仕事(しごと) work
  • ()めました quit (work)
  • でした was

Form 1:


A word from his teacher inspired (me) to study abroad.

Form 2:


The reason I studied abroad was a comment from a teacher.


  • 先生(せんせい) teacher
  • の (limits the "one word" to that of the teacher)
  • 一言(ひとこと) one word; a few words; brief comment
  • がきっかけで due to; sparked
  • 留学(りゅうがく)をした studied abroad


きっかけ can be a little tricky to use naturally. Spend a few minutes repeating and memorizing an example sentence. Then try substituting words to express the idea in new contexts. 

If you are a Makoto+ member, please click here to download this lesson as a PDF, all the sound files, and an Anki flashcard deck with sound. Not a member? Click here to learn more.

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  • There are actually 3 forms: 〜がきかっけで, 〜をきかっけに and 〜きかっかは. You used all of them but explained only two.

    With 〜がきっかけで the subject of the sentence is the cause itself. The cause leads to a certain result. You used 〜がきっかけで in your questions, because question pronouns like 何 usually take が, and of course, you were asking for the reason.

    With 〜をきっかけに, the focus is on the object of the sentence, which is used as a cause for a volitional action by the subject (eg. speaker).

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