In a TV show I am watching (孤独のグルメ, perhaps many of you have heard of it) the gentleman is about to drink some coffee but pauses to savour the aroma. He says

いい かおり だ

Which I translate as "good aroma". Am I right in saying that におい is simply "smell"?

So perhaps

台所から においに来ています  a smell is coming from the kitchen


台所から かおりに来ています  an aroma is coming from the kitchen

(this may not be correct Japanese, please correct me)

So in example #2 it is implied there is a nice smell like food is cooking ("aroma") but in example #1 something could be burning or rotting.

1 Answer 1


Yes, におい is just "a smell". It is in fact neutral, but without いい in front of it, I usually perceive it as a bad one (as I also do with "smell" in English). Like if you say, "What a smell!" in English, I think most people would take this to mean a bad smell rather than a good one.

Also, to say "smells" or "producing a smell", the form is  におい・かおり  する.

  • 台所はにおいがしています。 → A smell is coming from the kitchen.
  • 台所はかおりがしています。 → An aroma/good smell is coming from the kitchen.

Note that you will often hear いいかおり even though it's kind of redundant.

  • 2
    台所はにおいがする sounds better to me. I seem to remember having read somewhere about how these sensory verb phrases tend to be stative, but can't remember where.
    – dainichi
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 3:08
  • Ah, here we go: ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%8A%B6%E6%85%8B%E5%8B%95%E8%A9%9E. I guess it's similar to English, "The kitchen smells", not "The kitchen is smelling".
    – dainichi
    Commented May 2, 2014 at 3:15
  • @dainichi: But isn't it similar to saying something like 青い目をしている子 (The girl with ["that has"] blue eyes)?
    – istrasci
    Commented May 7, 2014 at 15:08
  • This dictionary treats them differently dictionary.goo.ne.jp/leaf/jn2/120514/m0u/%E3%81%99%E3%82%8B (1㋐ and 2㋓). They're definitely different with regards to stative-ness.
    – dainichi
    Commented May 8, 2014 at 0:54

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