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Japanese Phrases for Tourists: 116 Essential Phrases for Your Japanese Vacation
Before I traveled to Japan for the first time, everyone assured me that “Everybody speaks English there,” and I wouldn’t need to use Japanese at all.
But in reality, most of the people I encountered in Japan had a fairly elementary level of spoken English .
For a better travel experience, you should learn some basic travel words and phrases in Japanese.
Greetings and Basic Japanese Phrases
Airport phrases you’ll hear, airport phrases you’ll use, asking for directions, receiving directions, transportation phrases, hotel phrases, eating and drinking in japan: what you’ll hear, eating and drinking in japan: what you’ll say, shopping in japan: phrases you’ll hear, shopping phrases you’ll use, number of items in japanese, tips to use your new phrases: politeness and pronunciation, how to study these japanese travel phrases.
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I’ll provide the hiragana, kanji and romaji for each word, and will explain the use of certain Japanese phrases for tourists in context.
1. Hello — konnichiwa
2. good morning — ohayou gozaimasu, 3. nice to meet you — hajimemashite, 4. goodbye — sayounara, 5. please — onegaishimasu, 6. thank yo u — arigatou gozaimasu, 7. you’re welcome — dou itashimashite, 8. excuse me/sorry — sumimasen.
This is definitely one to memorize. I say すみません at least 30 times a day in Japan. It’s a magical word.
It helps you push through a crowd, get attention from a waiter, ask for directions or be excused for basically any touristy blunder.
Simply saying すみません and gesturing is a pretty good way to express that you need help, but don’t speak Japanese.
9. Yes — hai
10. no — iie, 11. let’s eat/ “bon appetit” — itadakimasu .
Similar to the French “ bon appetit” , this is what Japanese people say before they eat. It doesn’t have a literal translation in English, but it’s a way to give thanks for a meal.
You should also remember this phrase’s pair: ごちそうさま (gochisousama) or ごちそうさまでした (gochisousama deshita). These phrases are used at the end of a meal and translate as “What a good meal,” or “Thank you for the meal”, the latter being the more polite form.
12. I don’t understand — wakarimasen
13. i don’t speak japanese — nihongo o hanashimasen, 14. do you speak english — eigo o hanashimasu ka , 15. can you please repeat that — mou ichido itte kudasai, 16. can you please speak slowly — yukkuri hanashite kudasai, 17. what is your name — onamae wa nan desu ka, 18. my name is… — watashi no namae wa…, 19. what is this — kore wa nan desu ka.
これ and それ literally just mean “this” and “that.”
20. How much does this cost? — kore wa ikura desu ka?
If you’re pointing at something that you can’t reach, you say それは いくらですか？
21. Can you please help me? — tasukete moraemasuka ?
Japanese airports aren’t just places to land: they’re an entire cultural showcase on their own. For example, at the Narita Airport , you’ll see pet hotels , gacha machines , the (in)famous smart toilets and even a Pokémon Store !
22. Welcome, please come in — yokoso, o-hairi kudasai
23. please show your ticket — chiketto o misete kudasai, 24. please show your passport — pasupooto o misete kudasai, 25. what is your reservation name — yoyaku-mei wa nan desu ka, 26. the flight is delayed — furaito chien shiteimasu, 27. the flight has been canceled — furaito kyanseru saremashita, 28. baggage claim is this way — baggeji kureimu wa kochira desu, 29. we have arrived at … airport — … kuko ni tochaku shimashita, 30. we will depart for … airport — … kuko e shuppatsu shimasu, 31. there is a delay in the flight — furaito ni okure ga arimasu, 32. there are restrictions on carry-on baggage — kinai mochikomi no nimotsu niwa seigen ga arimasu.
33. Please tell me how to get to the airport — kuko e no ikikata o oshiete kudasai
34. is this a departure flight — korewa shuppatsu-bin desu ka, 35. is this an arrival flight — korewa tochaku-bin desu ka, 36. where is the boarding gate — tojyo-guchi wa doko desu ka, 37. i’ll check my baggage — tenimotsu azukemasu, 38. please call a taxi — takushii o yonde kudasai, 39. i’d like to rent a car — rentakaa o karitai desu, 40. where is the gate for the connecting flight — noritsugi-bin no geeto wa doko desu ka.
Asking for directions is sort of daunting, especially when the person answers in a whole stream of fast-paced Japanese.
But you’ll find that Japan is one of the best places to be a lost and hopeless tourist. There’s always someone nearby who’s more than happy to help. I’ve even had people take time out of their days to walk me where I needed to go!
Simply say wherever it is that you want to go followed by どこですか？ — doko desu ka? (Where is …?).
41. I want to go… (here) — (koko) ni ikitai desu
Say ここ if you have an address written down or a point marked on a map of where you want to go.
If you know the name or address of the place where you want to go, simply say the place name followed by に行きたいです . For example, if you want to go to Shinjuku station, you simply say 新宿駅に行きたいです — Shinjuku eki ni ikitai desu . (I want to go to Shinjuku station.)
42. Where is the…? — …wa doko desu ka?
43. can you please show me where we are on the map — watashitachi ga doko ni iru no ka, chizu de oshiete kudasai.
This might seem like an odd question (and a bit of a mouthful), but it can be a lot more helpful than asking for directions from someone who doesn’t know English.
44. Is it near? — chikai desu ka?
45. is it far — tooi desu ka.
46. Go straight ahead — massugu itte kudasai
47. turn left — hidari ni magatte kudasai, 48. turn right — migi ni magatte kudasai.
In Japan, public transportation is how most people get around. If you’re not used to taking the bus, train or anything similar, better keep the following phrases handy!
49. Take me to this address, please — kono jyusho made tsureteitte kudasai
50. what is the fare — ryoukin wa ikura desu ka, 51. stop here, please — koko de tomatte kudasai, 52. does this bus go to (street name) — kono basu wa … ni ikimasu ka, 53. does that train stop at … — sono denshya wa … de tomarimasu ka, 54. a map, please — chizu o onegai shimasu, 55. this hotel — k ono hoteru, 56. the subway — chikatetsu , 57. the train station — denshya no eki, 58. the bus stop — basutei, 59. the taxi stand — takushii noriba, 60. the exit — deguchi, 61. the entrance — iriguchi, 62. the bathroom — toire.
Like other service-oriented businesses in the country, Japanese hotels subscribe to the concept of omotenashi , which roughly translates to pouring your whole heart into service. That means you can expect employees at Japanese hotels to go above and beyond when it comes to making you feel welcome.
63. I have a reservation under the name of … — … no yoyaku o shiteimasu
64. i would like to check-in — chekkuin shitai desu, 65. what time is check-in — chekkuin wa nanji desu ka, 66. is breakfast included — choshoku wa fukumareteimasu ka, 67. where is my room — watashi no heya wa doko desu ka, 68. please give me a wake-up call at … — … ni weikuappu kooru onegaishimasu., 69. where is the nearest convenience store — ichiban chikai konbini wa doko desu ka, 70. can you recommend a good restaurant nearby — chikaku no oishii resutoran o shokaishite moraemasu ka, 71. what time is check-out — chekkuauto no jikan wa nanji desu ka, 72. where can i store my luggage — nimotsu wa dokoni azukeraremasu ka, 73. is there wi-fi in the hotel — hoteru ni wa wai-fai ga arimasu ka, 74. where is the nearest atm — ichi-ban chikai atm wa doko desu ka, 75. i’d like to have some extra towels, please — yobun no taoru o kudasai., 76. what time is breakfast served — choshoku wa nanji kara desu ka, 77. excuse me, i need an iron and ironing board — sumimasen, airon to iron-dai ga hitsuyo desu..
Like Japanese hotels, Japanese restaurants also practice omotenashi. Here are some of the more common phrases you’ll hear from Japanese restaurant staff.
78. Welcome — Irasshaimase
79. how many people in your party — nan mei sama desu ka, 80. this way, please — kochira e douzo, 81. certainly (in response to your order) — kashikomarimashita, 82. thank you for waiting — omatase itashimashita.
The best restaurants in Japan are the authentic ones that don’t cater to tourists. But these are also the places that have no English menus, and sometimes no English-speaking waitstaff.
Luckily, it’s very common for Japanese menus to feature photos of all the dishes. And many places have models of their dishes on display, so you likely won’t be going in completely blind.
Use these phrases , and you should be in and out of a restaurant without too many hiccups.
83. A table for two, please — futari you no teeburu o onegai shimasu
You can also replace futari with the number of people who you need to have seated:
- one — hitori ( 一人 )
- three — sannin ( 三人 )
- four — yonin ( 四人 )
If you’re confused about Japanese numbers and counters, don’t despair. You can just do as the locals do and indicate the number of diners by holding up your fingers.
84. The menu, please — menyu o onegai shimasu
85. what are today’s recommendations — kyo no osusume wa.
If everything on the menu looks appetizing and you’re not quite sure what to order, use this phrase.
86. Water, please — mizu o onegai shimasu
87. two beers, please — biiru o nihai onegai shimasu, 88. can i please have (one, two) of this — kore o (hitotsu, futatsu) onegai でdekimasu, 89. do you have a vegetarian dish — bejitarian youno ryouri ga arimasu ka.
I’ve traveled in Japan with vegetarians twice, and this question usually draws quite strange looks. Vegetarianism basically doesn’t exist in Japan, although Japanese cuisine is generally quite vegetarian-friendly.
It might work better to say これは肉ですか？ — kore wa niku desu ka? , to say “is this meat?” Follow up with 私は肉を食べません — watashi wa niku o tabemasen, which means “I don’t eat meat,” if you want to make yourself understood.
90. Is … in it? — … wa haitte imasu ka?
Alternatively, you can also ask if specific ingredients are included in your food, so you’ll know whether you should order it or not.
91. That’s okay — daijyoubu desu
You can also use this expression to ask someone if they’re okay. Just add the question particle ka to the end: 大丈夫ですか ？ — daijyoubu desu ka?
92. The check, please — okanjyou o onegai shimasu
Say the above, or you can do as the locals do and catch the waiter’s eye (with a smile!) and draw a clockwise circle in the air with your index finger pointing towards the roof.
In some restaurants, you need to bring the check to the cash register which is usually located by the restaurant’s doorway.
93. Cheers! — kanpai!
94. it was delicious — oishikatta desu, 95. water — mizu, 96. wine — wain, 97. beer — biiru , 98. tea — ochya, 99. coffee — coohii, 100. juice — juusu, 101. meat — niku, 102. chicken — toriniku , 103. pork — butaniku, 104. beef — gyuniku , 105. fish — sakana , 106. rice — gohan, 107. bread — pan , 108. vegetables — yasai , 109. fruit — kudamono.
When you’re met with cries of いらっしゃいませ！, you’re not really expected to respond to this greeting. As for me, I just smile and say こんにちは which means, of course, “hello.”
Walking into a department store is particularly surreal, with each assistant taking cues from the others, so that every time a customer walks in, いらっしゃいませ bounces around the entire floor.
110. Are you looking for something? — nani ka osagashi desu ka?
111. is that all — ijyou de yoroshii desu ka, 112. here it is / here you go — hai, douzo.
113. I would like this — kore o onegai shimasu
114. i would like one of those — sore o hitotsu onegai shimasu, 115. i would like to pay in cash — genkin de onegai shimasu, 116. i would like to pay by credit card — kurejitto kaado de onegai shimasu.
The only real challenge with ordering meals in Japanese is the use of counters.
We have counters in English, too (for example “sheets” of paper, “glasses” of water, “blades” of grass), but not as many or as complicated as in Japanese.
Luckily Japanese has a “universal” counter, つ ( tsu ), which you can use for anything, including food.
The numbers one to four as つ counters are pronounced 一つ ( hitotsu )、 二つ ( futatsu )、 三つ ( mittsu ) and 四つ ( yottsu ). You can use this counter for drinks too, and the waiter will understand you.
However, if you want to be a little more impressive, you can use the drinks counter: 杯 ( hai/bai/pai depending on the number used with it). The numbers one to four using this counter are 一杯 ( ippai )、 二杯 ( nihai ) 、 三杯 ( sanbai ) and 四杯 ( yonhai ).
If you want to learn more about counters, this post explains them in more detail.
All the examples I’ve given are in the polite, neutral form of speech . You basically can’t go wrong speaking this way in Japan, so you don’t need to worry about making any social faux pas!
Some notes on pronunciation:
- Avoid turning vowels into dipthongs (vowel sounds that run into each other, like the oi in “coin”). Pronounce each vowel on its own even when there are two vowels next to each other. Onegai is read as “o-ne-ga-i,” not “o-ne-gai”
- The sound ou and repeated vowels like ii and ee are exceptions: they show an elongation of the sound. Ohayou is read as “o-ha-yoh,” not “o-ha-yo-u.”
- Treat ん (n) as its own syllable. Konnichiwa is read “ko-n-ni-chi-wa,” not “ko-ni-chi-wa.” It’s subtle, but it makes a difference!
- Repeated consonants are pronounced. For an example of how to do this, just read the word “bookkeeper” out loud.
- The small kana っ like in いって signify a break between the sounds —”it-te,” not “i-te.”
- Small y- kana like ゃ in おちゃ add the y sound to the preceding syllable —”o-chya,” not “o-chi-a.”
- は (ha) as a particle is pronounced wa, and を (wo) as a particle is pronounced o.
The beauty of Japanese is that it’s an extremely phonetic language, so if you say the words exactly as you read them, you can’t really get them wrong.
Having said that, people will probably struggle to understand you if you speak in a strong non-Japanese accent, so it might pay to listen to some spoken Japanese before you start practicing pronunciation.
The most important thing to remember is that, unlike English speakers, Japanese speakers don’t put emphasis on the second or third syllable of a word—there’s some emphasis on the first syllable, but it’s subtle.
Some ways that you can listen to Japanese being spoken is by watching Japanese films , television programs , anime or YouTube clips .
The Japanese language program FluentU has a little bit of everything in the media, with interactive subtitles and customizable flashcards for a well-rounded learning experience.
Maybe this seems like a lot, but learning Japanese travel phrases for tourists will make your trip run more smoothly, and the people you meet will appreciate your effort.
Speaking the local language tends to get people on your side. They’re less likely to try to rip you off, and often will want to become your best friend.
I like to make little phrasebooks for myself when I travel, so I can have these Japanese travel phrases and vocabulary always on hand.
I’ve been treated to tea and dinner in people’s homes, and once was driven around a city with a personal guide/impromptu friend all day, just because I struck up conversations in the local language.
Don’t be scared! Give it a try!
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20 Essential Japanese Phrases for Travelers to Japan
If you’re visiting Japan and a little worried about the language barrier (or you simply love languages), we’ve got you covered with these essential Japanese phrases for travelers.
In our guide to what we believe are the most important Japanese phrases for travel, we’ll introduce you to a selection of key words and phrases — and explain why the Japanese language barrier is not as worrisome as you might think.
The truth is, you do not need to speak any Japanese to have a successful, wonderful trip to Japan (and if you’re looking for travel inspiration, check out our favorite destinations in Japan ). However, learning a few key Japanese phrases can make your trip just that much better. So let’s get into it!
Download our Free Japanese Phrasebook:
Originally written in 2014, this post was updated and republished on November 1, 2019.
The Most Essential Japanese Words & Phrases for Your Trip to Japan
Learning Japanese can seem daunting, but don’t worry. You don’t need to learn any of these words or phrases to have a great time (see why we love Japan ).
However, as any seasoned traveler knows, making a little linguistic effort can go a long way, and it can be helpful to learn even a little of the local language for your travels. We’ve narrowed it down to a small selection of key words and phrases, divided by category:
- The Basics: Key Japanese Words and Phrases
- Food and Drink: Eating Your Way Around Japan
- Now or Later: Time-Related Phrases in Japanese
- Getting Around Japan: Transportation-Related Phrases
Here is a quick look at the words and phrase you’ll find below:
Top 20 Essential Japanese Travel Phrases:
- Konnichiwa (こんにちは) – Hello
- Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) – Thank you
- Sumimasen (すみません) – Excuse me
- __ o Kudasai (__をください) – I would like __, please
- __ wa Doko Desu ka? (__はどこですか) – Where is __?
- Itadakimasu (いただきます) – An expression of gratitude for the meal you’re about to eat
- Omakase de (お任せで) – Used to order chef’s recommendation (often for sushi)
- O-sake (お酒) – General term for alcohol
- Nihonshu (日本酒) – Japanese sake
- Kinen Seki (禁煙席) – Non-smoking seat
- Ima Nanji Desu ka? (今何時ですか) – What time is it now?
- Nanji ni? (何時に？) – At what time?
- Asa (朝) – Morning
- Kyou (今日) – Today
- Ashita (明日) – Tomorrow
- __ ni Ikitai (__に行きたい) – I want to go to __
- Tomete Kudasai (止めてください) – Stop, please
- Kippu (切符) – Ticket
- Shinkansen (新幹線) – Bullet train
- Dono Densha? (どの電車？) – Which train?
If you’re concerned about memorizing all this Japanese, or want to learn even more words and phrases, download Boutique Japan’s Tiny Phrasebook for free.
And for an introduction to how to say these words and phrases, see our bonus video to help you practice your Japanese pronunciation .
Basic Japanese Words and Phrases
Let’s start with a few of the most basic-yet-essential Japanese words and phrases. Even if you only remember how to say hello or thank you , you’ll find that Japanese people will be appreciative of your efforts!
1. Konnichiwa (こんにちは) – Hello
Let’s start with one you’ve probably heard before: the word for hello is konnichiwa .
Konnichiwa is typically used during the day, and there are other phrases for good morning and good evening ( ohayou gozaimasu , and konbanwa , respectively). But when you’re starting out it’s best to keep things simple, and if you simply learn konnichiwa you can use it throughout the day to say hello !
2. Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) – Thank you
In Japan, etiquette is no joke, and chances are you’ll be saying thank you a lot (learn more in our guide to Japanese etiquette ).
The word for thank you in Japanese is arigatou gozaimasu (in Japanese, the u at the end of some words is barely pronounced to the point of being nearly silent). You can usually simply say arigatou , which is a little more casual but usually perfectly fine. In Japan, where politeness is such a key part of the culture, you’ll be saying arigatou gozaimasu a lot!
3. Sumimasen (すみません) – Excuse me
Excuse me is an important expression in any language, and Japanese is no exception.
The word for excuse me in Japanese is sumimasen . Chances are you’ll also be using this one quite a bit, so if you can try and memorize it! It’s a doubly useful word, as it can be used both to get a person’s attention, and also to apologize.
For example, use sumimasen at an izakaya (a Japanese-style gastropub) to get a waiter’s attention. At izakaya , it’s often called out as sumimaseeeeee~n ! On the other hand, if you accidentally walk onto a tatami floor with your shoes on (something you’re likely to do at some point) you can use sumimasen to say I’m sorry .
4. __ o Kudasai ( をください) – I would like , please
Now that we’ve covered three basic essentials, we can move onto two key sentences that will hopefully help you a lot.
First is I would like __, please . This is useful in a variety of situations: at restaurants, in stores, and on many other occasions you’ll encounter while traveling. In Japanese, it’s __ o kudasai (simply fill in the __ [blank] with the item of your choice).
To get the most out of this phrase, you may want to learn a few vocabulary words, such as water (mizu), beer (biiru) , sake , and others you think you may need.
5. __ wa Doko Desu ka? ( はどこですか) – Where is __?
Last but not least, we think it’s quite useful to be able to ask Where is the __? This is useful even if you can’t understand the answer, because once you ask, people will be able to point you in the right direction, or even help you get to where you’re going!
In Japanese, it’s __ wa doko desu ka? (simply fill in the __ [blank] with the place you’re trying to reach, such as the Ghibli Museum ). One key vocabulary word that often goes along with this phrase for travelers is eki , which means station (for example, Shinjuku eki is Shinjuku station ).
Eating Your Way Around Japan: Food and Drink Phrases
For many travelers, Japanese food is a top priority! From classic Tokyo sushi restaurants to the legendary food culture of Okinawa , there’s a lot to take in. For alcohol afficionados, Japan also offers sake , Japanese whisky , shochu , and other traditional beverages.
While you don’t need to speak any Japanese to enjoy eating and drinking in Japan, these key words and phrases will help you make the most of your culinary experiences.
6. Itadakimasu (いただきます) – An expression of gratitude for the meal you’re about to eat
Certainly not required, but if you say itadakimasu before you begin eating, whether in a restaurant or at a person’s home, they will surely be impressed with your manners.
Essentially, this phrase expresses humility and thanks for the meal you are about to enjoy. The website Tofugu does a very nice job of explaining the meaning of itadakimasu .
7. Omakase de (お任せで) – Used to order chef’s recommendation (often for sushi)
If you’re a passionate sushi enthusiast, you probably already know the meaning of omakase .
When you tell a chef omakase de , you’re letting them know that you’re placing the meal in their hands. Especially for travelers with adventurous palates, this is the best way to experience a meal at a Tokyo sushi shop , for example.
However, the phrase is not only used at sushi restaurants, and can often be used at other types of establishments as well.
8. O-sake (お酒) – General term for alcohol
Technically osake , this word has tripped many a non-Japanese speaker up! While in English the word sake means, well, sake , in Japanese the word sake — more politely, osake — refers to alcoholic beverages in general.
( Sake and osake are virtually interchangeable; the “o” is what is known as an honorific prefix, but unless you’re studying Japanese in more depth, you really don’t need to worry about this!)
So if you’re looking for sake (which in Japanese is called nihonshu) , it’s best to ask for nihonshu (see below). If you’re simply looking for an adult beverage (such as nihonshu , shochu , or Japanese whisky ), the catchall term sake will do the trick.
9. Nihonshu (日本酒) – Japanese sake
See above for the distinction between sake and nihonshu !
10. Kinen Seki (禁煙席) – Non-smoking seat
Encountering cigarette smoke is somewhat of an unavoidable aspect of traveling around Japan. This being said, most of our travelers are quite averse to smoke, and fortunately it’s possible to travel around Japan without smoke becoming too much of a nuisance.
In some places, such as restaurants, you may have a choice between the smoking and non-smoking sections. Kinen means non-smoking, and seki means seat : put them together and you’ve just conveyed that you’d like to be seated in the non-smoking area!
Time-Related Phrases in Japanese
Time-related phrases can be extremely helpful in certain travel situations, and below you’ll find a few of the most practical Japanese words and phrases on this topic.
11. Ima Nanji Desu ka? (今何時ですか) – What time is it now?
Chances are you’ll have a watch or cell phone on you, but once in a while you may need to ask a stranger for the time.
The basic phrase is simply nanji desu ka? which means, What time is it? People also commonly say ima nanji desu ka? which simply means, What time is it now? ( Ima means now.)
12. Nanji ni? (何時に？) – At what time?
This is a particularly useful phrase while traveling. It can be helpful when purchasing rail tickets (see more on getting around Japan below), making meal reservations, or arranging tickets to events.
Sure, you could just ask nanji? ( what time? ) and hope your point gets across, but by adding the preposition ni you can be assured of much more clarity!
13. Asa (朝) – Morning
This one is fairly self-explanatory: asa means morning . While it’s no surprise that a food-loving culture like Japan has multiple words for breakfast , one of the most common is asagohan ( gohan literally means rice , but is more generally used to mean food ).
14. Kyou (今日) – Today
Words like today and tomorrow can be particularly useful when buying train tickets, for example. For more on transport, see the transport-related phrases below.
15. Ashita (明日) – Tomorrow
When pronouncing the word for tomorrow, ashita , the i is virtually silent, so it ends up sounding more like ashta . If you need to express the day after tomorrow, the word is asatte .
Getting Around Japan: Transportation-Related Phrases for Travelers to Japan
For some travelers, one of the biggest concerns about not speaking the language is the prospect of getting around the country, navigating the trains, and trying to avoid getting lost.
Fortunately, Japan has an incredibly efficient and easy-to-use rail network, and you can read all about it in our guide to train travel and getting around Japan . And here are some key Japanese words and phrases to help you on your way.
16. __ ni Ikitai ( に行きたい) – I want to go to __
On its own, ikitai means, I want to go .
To express that you’d like to go somewhere, use the phrase __ ni ikitai (simply fill in the __ [blank] with the place you’re trying to reach). For example, Kyoto ni ikitai means, I want to go to Kyoto .
17. Tomete Kudasai (止めてください) – Stop, please
Tomete means stop , and is particularly useful in taxis. The kudasai here means please , and makes the phrase much more polite ( tomete on its own would come off as quite brusque).
18. Kippu (切符) – Ticket
Kippu means ticket (as in train tickets). As you can easily imagine, when purchasing rail tickets it can be very useful to be able to tell the ticket agent that you’d like a ticket to a certain place!
Made means until or to (in this case, to your destination). For example, Osaka made means to Osaka . Thus, Osaka made no kippu means ticket to Osaka . Put it all together with kudasai (for politeness) and you have Osaka made no kippu o kudasai .
19. Shinkansen (新幹線) – Bullet train
Ah, the shinkansen . One of the utter joys of traveling around Japan is the world-famous shinkansen (bullet train).
Whether you have the well-known Japan Rail Pass or not, if you’re doing any domestic travel within Japan, chances are you’ll end up on the incredible (and incredibly pleasant) shinkansen for at least one if not more of your journeys. Enjoy, and grab a bento and some nihonshu (see above) for the ride!
20. Dono Densha? (どの電車？) – Which train?
Wondering which train you need? Imagine you’re in Kyoto Station, headed for Tokyo. You’re on your shinkansen’s departure platform, but you see two trains.
You show your ticket to a friendly Japanese person, and ask, dono densha? They take a look at your ticket and the two trains, and point you to the right one. And you’re on your way – happy travels!
Download our Free Japanese Phrasebook PDF
For those of you who want to learn even more Japanese for travel, we’ve created the Boutique Japan Tiny Phrasebook.
Our Tiny Phrasebook features carefully selected Japanese words and phrases designed to help you get the most out of your trip to Japan. You’ll find all of the words and phrases featured above, and many more!
The phrasebook is a beautifully designed PDF (it may take a few moments to load depending on your internet speed).
Simply save it to your smartphone, tablet, or computer. We suggest using an app like iBooks (or another PDF reader) so you can search for words and navigate easily.
Bonus Video: Practice your Japanese Pronunciation
One of the best things about Japanese is that it’s surprisingly easy to pronounce. Unlike several other languages throughout Asia, Japanese is not a tonal language.
In the video below, we go over basic pronunciation for some of the most useful Japanese words and phrases for your trip to Japan.
Do you need to speak any Japanese to travel around Japan ?
Absolutely not. You can travel to Japan without learning any of these words and have a great time.
People ask us about the Japanese language barrier all the time, with common questions such as, Do Japanese people speak English? How much (or how little)? The language barrier is a common myth that shouldn’t get in your way. Most of our travelers don’t speak a single word of Japanese, yet come back with testimonials of how much they love Japan .
The truth is that most Japanese people speak at least a little bit of English. These days, all Japanese students study English for a minimum of six years in secondary school, and many students — as well as adults — also take English-language classes after school or on weekends.
English-language fluency is not widespread, so most people you meet probably won’t be fluent in English, but almost everyone you meet will know at least a few English words – and many will know anywhere from hundreds to thousands.
Sometimes you may find that the people you meet are hesitant to try their English on you, but you’ll likely find that you can communicate in basic English in a huge variety of situations while traveling around Japan.
The Japanese Written Language
You may also be worried about the written language. The good news is that you don’t need to be able to read or write Japanese to enjoy Japan.
Japanese people don’t expect you to be able to read the Japanese language, and you’ll find English-language signage throughout the country. This is especially true in places frequented by travelers, such as sightseeing spots, shopping areas, train stations, airports, and often even on the street.
As for at restaurants, though it’s not always the case, in some cases you will find English-language menus. When English-language menus are not available, photos are often included to make pointing and ordering possible.
Despite Japan’s travel-friendliness, every visitor to Japan at some point finds him or herself in a situation in which linguistic communication is simply not possible, and sign language and gesturing are required.
Getting lost in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language is a fear of many would-be travelers, but if you had to pick a country in which to get lost, you couldn’t do much better than Japan! Japan is by far one of the safest countries in the world, with crime rates that are astonishingly low compared to places like the US and most of Europe. And Japanese people will often go to surprising lengths to help tourists.
Back when I first moved to Japan I spoke very little Japanese, and on my first visit to Kyoto I accidentally took the wrong train and ended up wandering around a neighborhood with no idea how to get where I wanted to go. Luckily, an older gentleman with his wife spotted me looking confused and came up to me with perhaps one of the only English phrases he knew: “ Are you lost? ” I said yes and showed him the name of the place I wanted to go.
If he had simply pointed me in the right direction it would have been helpful, but instead he started walking me in the right direction. After a few minutes of walking his wife split off, presumably to go home, and we continued. After 15 minutes of walking he had dropped me off at exactly the spot I needed to be, and – as is typical in Japanese culture – expected nothing in return. I thanked him profusely and we had a good laugh despite our inability to communicate linguistically.
Why Learn Any Japanese if You Won’t Need it?
Almost everyone who has visited Japan has a similar story of a random act of kindness and generosity from a Japanese stranger (or a tale of a camera or passport left on a train being miraculously returned). So you can rest assured that even if you forget all of the words and phrases we’ve shown, you’ll be in good hands with the wonderful people of Japan.
But aside from the fact that it’s a rich and fascinating language, learning even just one or two Japanese words or phrases will help endear you to the Japanese people you meet during your trip, and enhance your overall travel experience.
Japanese people tend to be extremely appreciative of visitors who take the time to learn even just a word or phrase or two, and if you try then chances are you’ll be greeted with oohs and aahs of encouragement.
We hope you’ve found our guide to Japanese words and phrases for travelers helpful. Arigatou gozaimasu!
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JRailPass.com » Japan Travel Blog » 20 basic Japanese phrases for travellers
20 basic Japanese phrases for travellers
June 15, 2022
If you are traveling to Japan for the first time, you may be concerned about something known as the “language barrier” – that inexplicable inability to communicate with others due to speaking a different language. Should you stress if you don’t speak any Japanese? Simply put, the answer is no!
If you’ve pictured yourself lost in Japan, wandering around with no way to ask directions to the airport, you can put those fears to rest. Thousands of travelers enter the country each day, many knowing very little Japanese or none at all. While a few key phrases can be useful, you can travel successfully even if you don’t know any Japanese words. English is taught in Japanese schools, so even if they are not fluent, most people you meet will speak some English as well. In areas frequented by tourists, signs may also be written in English.
If you’d like to learn some words for travel, however, you’ve come to the right place. The following words and sentences are common in everyday use and will aid you in getting around, ordering at restaurants, and greeting those you may meet.
The word for “hello” in Japanese is often used in popular culture , so don’t be surprised if you or your children already know it. If you want to say “hi,” simply say kon-nichiwa .
In order to say “how are you?” you will ask Ogenki desuka? If someone asks this question of you, say Genki desu. Arigato! That means, “I’m fine. Thanks!”.
Watashi wa no namae wa…
If you’d like to introduce yourself, say Watashi no namae wa (insert your name) desu. In this sentence, watashi means “I” and namae means “name.”
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Thank you, please and sorry
The simplest way to say “thank you” in Japanese is Arigatou . If you are in a formal situation, you would elongate the thanks to Arigatou gozaimasu. Most people bow while saying thank you in order to add emphasis to their words of gratitude.
Similar to saying “please” in English , (name of item) wo kudasai is a way of politely asking to look at or purchase an item. If you don’t know the item’s name – such as when ordering food from a display case – feel free to point or gesture.
Whenever you immerse yourself in an unfamiliar culture, you are bound to make a few mistakes. If you bump into someone, forget to take off your shoes, or find some other reason to apologize, simply say sumimasen for “excuse me” . This word can also be used to get someone’s attention, such as when you wish to summon a waiter in a restaurant or to ask someone to repeat something they’ve said.
Getting around and shopping
When asking “where is (something)?” in Japanese , you will notice that the “something” comes first in the sentence. For example, if you ask “Where is Tokyo Station?” you will say Tokyo eki wa doko desu ka? In this phrase, eki means “station” and wa doko desu ka means “where is?” You may also want to know how to ask, “Where is the bathroom?” That’s Otearai wa doko desu ka?
Even though you may not understand the spoken answer, you will likely be pointed in the right direction. Don’t be surprised if the person you asked walks with you to show you where to go – even if that means walking several blocks or more!
A good vacation calls for souvenirs, but you’ll likely wish to know what an item costs before you buy. If you don’t know what the item in question is called, hold it up or point to it and ask “ Ikura desuka?”, Japanese for “How much does it cost?”. If you know the name of the item, insert it before the question.
Since we live in a technological society, this question can be important, especially if you are traveling for business purposes. To ask for access to wi-fi in a store, restaurant, hotel, train station, or café, say Wi-fi arimasuka? If you’re in need of something besides the internet, replace “wi-fi” with the word for the item you need. Although you won’t need to ask if you have your Pocket Wi-Fi or Japanese Data SIM Card with you!
“Do you speak English?”
Finally, to ask if someone speaks English, say Eigo wo hanashimasu ka? In this sentence, eigo is the word for “English.” But really, it is ok (and easier) to simply ask it in English!
Other useful phrases
You’re welcome: Dō itashimashite . Yes: Hai . No: Iie . I’m sorry: Gomen’nasai. Good morning: Ohayō. Good evening: Konbanwa. Good night: O-yasumi nasai. I don’t understand: Wakarimasen. I understand you perfectly: Yoku wakarimasu. That’s all right: Dai jōbu desu.
“Honorifics” are a common part of Japanese speech. These are words that show respect in social situations. Don’t worry – all the useful phrases listed in this article are in teineigo , or “polite language. ”
Your attempts at speaking Japanese will be appreciated by the local residents that you meet. If all else fails, gesturing – such as pointing to a photograph in a menu – may be of help. And most importantly, have fun using these common Japanese phrases during your upcoming travels!
Related tours & activities.
You said kudadai in the kudasai definition. Is that a typo? Searching other sites, it doesn’t seem to be a common word.
Sorry, that was just a typo. Thank you for pointing out!
What is most live at new beautiful places because why Japanese was than friendly all so official language native”countries” how to focus better practically greetings useful difficultly how to understand communicative vowel accent sound along “Japanese character per-sentence pronoun non-actions”.
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20+ Super Useful Phrases in Japanese for Tourists (& FREE PDF Cheat Sheet!)
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” ~ Nelson Mandela.
Are you planning a trip to Japan ? Worried about the language barrier? Don’t be! It’s easy to learn a few handy phrases in Japanese before your trip to get by — this is just as important as knowing what to pack for Japan . For quick reference, I’ve created this list of the most useful phrases in Japanese for tourists below so you don’t have to scour the internet putting together bits and pieces!
These are phrases I used daily on my trips to Japan . I’ll guarantee this will help you get the most out of your trip, as I’ve also created a super easy and FREE downloadable PDF cheat sheet of these phrases so you can use it offline when in Japan.
I’m a HUGE fan of being an invisible tourist when travelling (hence the name of this blog). So much so, I’ve even written a book to help you learn how to as well! In the book I explain how I’m a firm believer that it’s possible to blend in when abroad by learning some local lingo. It has to be one of the best ways to not stand out as a stereotypical tourist . Read on for more!
TIP: This guide covers everyday Japanese travel phrases that tourists will find useful when in Japan. For fascinating expressions and their meanings you can use at home, take a look at my guide to beautiful words in Japanese .
This guide to Japanese phrases for tourists will cover:
- Notes on basic Japanese phrases and pronunciation
- 20+ useful phrases in Japanese for tourists
Brief introduction to numbers
- FREE cheat sheet PDF download of Japanese phrases for offline use
- Additional resources to learn Japanese and where to find them
This post contains affiliate links, at no extra cost to you. I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.
Notes on basic Japanese phrases for travelers and pronunciation
Of course, there are dozens more Japanese phrases for travel I could add to this list. However, the aim of this article is to help you learn the most effective phrases you’ll use on a daily basis as a tourist. There’s no need to become fluent in Japanese or be daunted by the task of learning THREE alphabets (if you don’t want to!)
I’ve got to admit though, being able to read Hiragana (the swirly one), Katakana (the pointy one used for “borrowed” or foreign words) and some basic Kanji (derived from Chinese) is SUPER helpful when you’re navigating your way around Japan. It’s even better when you can read what’s in some of the interesting Japanese foods at the convenience stores!
I’m so glad I learnt to read before my first trip (even if sometimes I didn’t know what I was reading but I could piece the puzzle together). More on this at the end of the article.
As a general rule with Japanese, pronounce the words by breaking them down into their syllables . In English and other Romance languages we tend to have letters that blend together to make some sounds. Japanese doesn’t really which makes pronunciation much easier!
Here’s my little guide for how to pronounce Hiragana and Katakana (my Japanese phrases cheat sheet PDF is further down the page).
TIP: One super important thing to be mindful of, though: Much of the time the letter “u” is somewhat silent, or its full sound is cut short. For instance, the sound “su” す is mostly pronounced with just the “s” sound, so my images and pronunciation guide below reflect this.
Also, words ending in ます “masu” are pronounced like “muss” rather than “mAs”. For example, “arigato gozaimuss.”
Here are 20+ super useful phrases in Japanese for tourists & FREE cheat sheet
So, you’re ready to master basic Japanese phrases for travel? I highly recommend listening to some Japanese audio so you can get the hang of how to pronounce the words and phrases correctly to avoid locals looking at you like you’ve got two heads. Keep on reading as I’ve listed where you can find them at the end of this article!
Japanese is a very syllable-based, vowel-sounding language that’s easy for English speakers to pronounce without many exceptions. I’ll detail each useful phrase and the most appropriate time to use them below.
TIP: A little disclaimer for people who have extensively studied Japanese: I taught myself how to read Hiragana and Katakana , and have completed two Japanese for travel courses that covered the language at a beginner’s level. I have also asked expats living in Japan to proofread this guide for accuracy. My advice below is purely so tourists can get their message across and be understood.
So, let’s dive into the most useful Japanese phrases for travellers:
1. Hello: Konnichiwa こんにちは
The famous word you’re probably already familiar with! Konnichiwa こんにちは is best used when meeting and greeting people.
2. Good morning: Ohayou gozaimasu おはようございます
Ohayou gozaimasu おはようございます is a bit self-explanatory. You’ll be greeted with this phrase in the morning by staff at your hotel, or in stores. It’s one of the most common expressions in Japanese you’ll hear.
Be sure to reciprocate the greeting, and slightly bow your head in return! But how much to bow? See my guide for using correct etiquette in Japan .
3. Good afternoon: Konnichiwa こんにちは
No, this isn’t a typo! To greet someone in the afternoon, konnichiwa こんにちは is also used. Well I guess that’s one less phrase you’ll have to remember now, heh.
4. Good evening: Konbanwa こんばんは
Kinda obvious, konbanwa こんばんは is useful if you’ve finished eating dinner at a restaurant and saying goodnight to the chef and staff as you leave, or greeting staff at your hotel when you return for the night.
5. Good bye: Sayonara さようなら
This is used as a final goodbye, when you know you may not see that person again. Handy to use if you’re following one of my itineraries for Japan !
If you know you’ll be seeing the person again soon, ja matane じゃあまたね meaning “see you later” is more appropriate.
6. Please: Kudasai ください
You can use kudasai ください when you’re asking for something, for instance buying items from a convenience store or purchasing train tickets .
If you’re offering something, like allowing someone to enter a doorway before you, dozo どぞ” and an open hand will take your politeness to the next level.
When you’re wanting to say please in the context of asking someone to help you out, you can finish the sentence with onigashimas おねがいします instead.
7. Thank you: Arigato gozaimas ありがとうございます
You’ll hear and use this one A LOT in Japan. If you can only master one of the phrases in my article, let it be this! You can also use domo arigato どうもありがとう or simply domo どうも if you want to be super polite.
Much like other languages, there are different dialects in Japan. For instance in Kansai-ben (dialect of the Kansai region eg Kyoto, Osaka, Nara), if you’d like to delight locals there say okini おおきに with a long “o” sound instead!
8. How are you?: O genki des ka? お元気ですか?
You may be asked this by service people, or any friendly locals you encounter. This is a great one to use if you get talking to some locals at an izakaya (Japanese style pub). It’s a great ice-breaker to help you practice some Japanese.
9. I’m fine, thanks: Hai, genki des はい, 元気です
A polite way to answer “how are you?” to anyone who asks. They may go on to think that your Japanese vocabulary is larger than it seems!
10. Excuse me / Sorry: Sumimasen すみません
Sumimasen すみません is used for getting someone’s attention. Contrarily, gomennasai ごめんなさい is the more literal translation of “I’m sorry” but that’s more used as an apology. However, if you accidentally bump into someone sumimasen すみません is more commonly used.
You’ll definitely use this one a lot when exploring the famous sites in Japan !
11. My name is…: Watashi no namae wa … des 私の名前は…です
Simply insert your name where the dots are, for instance mine is “namae wa Alyse des.” You can actually ditch the watashi as this literally translates to “I am” rather than referring to your name, the context will be obvious.
This is a useful to know when introducing yourself to someone you’ve just met, or when checking into your hotel or accommodation.
12. Yes: Hai はい 13. No: Kekko des けっこうです
It’s pretty obvious when you would want to use hai はい, so no explanation needed here. However, no (literally iie いいえ) is a different story. Every other guide to Japanese for tourists will tell you to say “iie,” but I disagree.
Because Japanese people are so polite, they don’t really use the word “no” directly. They may say something that alludes to the meaning of no, but not say it specifically. You may need to read between the lines!
If you say “iie” (ee-eh) for no you may receive a strange look. You really need to draw out that “ii” sound otherwise the word ie means “house!” You’re not really meant to use it when refusing something. Chotto ちょっと meaning “it’s a little…” is a more correct way to say no in Japanese.
Reader’s Tip: Another handy replacement for “iie” is daijyobu desu 大丈夫です. It can mean “I’m good” or “no worries” without sounding disrespectful. A politer and more formal way to say it would be kekko desu けっこうです, so I have included this on my graphic.
14. I’d like…: … O kudasai …をください
Perfect to use in restaurants or when eating out, … o kudasai …をください this is a polite way to ask the food or item you wish to order. Just insert the word you need where the three dots are.
15. What is this?: Kore wa nan des ka? これは何ですか
This is one of the popular everyday Japanese phrases. It’s especially useful when shopping for food!
Remember to learn some possible responses like chikin チキン (chicken), beefu ビーフ (beef), porku ポーク (pork) or sakana 魚 (fish). Better yet, learn about these traditional Japanese snacks so you know what to expect in advance.
I’d also advise learning the names for the foods you are adverse to so you don’t order them by mistake!
16. How much is this?: Ikura des ka? いくらですか
Great little phrase to find out how much something costs. If you don’t know the names of numbers in Japanese when they respond, ask the shopkeeper to write it down.
You’ll likely need this one when purchasing souvenirs and things you can only buy in Japan , and it’s one of my most-used daily Japanese phrases.
I’ve got a little guide to numbers further down the page to help you out. Thankfully after World War II, Japanese people adopted using the same Hindu-Arabic numerals we do in the Western world!
17. Enjoy the meal: Itadakimas いただきます 18. Cheers! Kanpai! かんぱい !
From a young age, Japanese children are always taught to give thanks before their meals. You may notice locals even when dining on their own will say itadakimas いただきます before eating.
While English has adopted the French phrase bon appetit to say before meals, itadakimas いただきます translates to “I humbly receive” and is usually said when quietly clapping hands together once.
If going out drinking with locals, saying kanpai かんぱい and a clinking together of glasses is the norm. It’s our equivalent of “cheers” before a toast and translates to “dry cup!”
19. The bill / check, please: Okaikei wo, onegaishimas お会計をお願いします
Once you’ve finished your meal in a restaurant, say this handy phrase to your waiter for the bill/check to be brought over to you for payment.
If you’d like to show your gratitude to who prepared the food, you can say gochi so samedeshita ご馳走様です which means “thank you for the meal.” It can also mean, “It tasted good!”
20. Do you accept credit cards?: Kurejittokado wa tsukaemas ka? クレジットカードは使えますか?
While credit cards and things like Apple Pay are widely accepted, cash is king in Japan and usually the preferred way to pay for smaller things. If you’re spending big on a particular item, this is a handy phrase to check you don’t need to withdraw cash to carry out your purchase.
21. Where is the toilet?: Toire wa doko des ka? トイレはどこですか?
When nature calls, this is an essential phrase in Japanese to know! If you’re looking for something else other than a toilet, you can replace the word for toilet toire トイレ with the thing you’re after. For instance, eki 駅 (train station) would be “eki wa do ko des ka?” .
22. Can you speak English?: Eigo wa hanasemas ka? 英語を話せますか?
The word for English eigo 英語 is pronounced more like “air-go”. Most Japanese people will politely shake their head in response to this question, despite having learnt some English at school. Generally speaking, they tend to be a little shy in practicing their English because they aren’t fluent.
But you’ll soon find their definition of not speaking English is different to yours! In my experience, the people I encountered who said they couldn’t speak much English spoke well enough to get their message across.
In major cities like Tokyo and Osaka , English will be more widely understood, but not so much the further south you go towards Hiroshima . Just keep your sentences short, simple, clear and it’s likely you’ll be understood.
23. Can you translate this for me?: Yakushite, kudasai? 訳してください
Great for asking a native speaker to translate a paper map, tickets, or anything else you can’t seem to understand in its context.
24. I don’t understand: Wakarimasen 分かりません
If Japanese is all getting a bit much for you, this is a good phrase to use. You may need to throw in a few hand gestures from here!
25. Help: Taskete たすけて
If you’re in need of help from locals, this is the word to use. It’s particularly useful if there’s an emergency and you need assistance.
Luckily for English-speakers, the Arabic numerals we all know and use in the Western world are widely used in Japan. This makes reading numbers easy for us! Their pronunciation is different, though.
You may see the traditional numbers used throughout the country, especially at temples, shrines and they are sometimes used at market stalls. In terms of price, you’ll notice the 円 symbol for Japanese yen rather than ¥ that we tend to use in the West.
If you’re in a store asking for a quantity of something, it’s good to be able to pronounce numbers 1 through 10 so you can get by. If all else fails, at least you can write it down!
TIP: Some guidebooks and other blogs may teach you to say shi for the number four. I recommend to not do this; the word “shi” has a negative connotation as it’s associated with death in Japan.
⬇️ Grab your FREE J apanese travel phrases PDF CHEAT SHEET here!
Click on the image below to download my FREE PDF of all the useful Japanese phrases for tourists I’ve listed above. It’s super handy as you can print it out to take with you, or store it on your phone for offline use when you’re adventuring around Japan!
But that’s not all… Don’t forget to keep reading below to discover more resources for learning Japanese and where you can find them!
Additional resources to learn Japanese for tourists
As explained in my detailed guide to learning any language for travel , to learn simple phrases in Japanese my favourite app that helped me learn Hiragana and Katakana was Memrise . It’s free to use, while it does come with a premium version I never purchased it as the free option provided what I needed.
If you’re a book lover like me, you may want to use a phrasebook to study some extra phrases. Sure, these days it’s all too easy to use language apps like Google Translate to do all the hard work (but where’s the fun in that?!)
Knowing some Japanese phrases beforehand will save you having to use pocket wifi or data roaming when exploring your Japan tourist destinations and you’ll get a more authentic exchange with locals. Getting your hands and ears on some Japanese audio will help you be well on your way to being an invisible tourist in Japan!
As you can probably guess from the photo above, I have loads of books that helped me prepare for my first trip to Japan and subsequent visits. You definitely don’t need this many but I found each helped me in a different way, which I explain below.
AJALT Japanese for Busy People (latest prices, order here →)
Recommended by the university where I studied a short course in Japanese, Japanese for Busy People was is a really helpful book as it doesn’t go into a crazy amount of detail. Just the situations you would normally use Japanese to survive as a tourist (or there on a business trip).
The book has exercises so you can test your knowledge and also includes some notes about Japanese culture (I’ve also written my own article about do’s and don’ts when visiting Japan ). A 70-minute audio CD covers the pronunciation from exercises from the book, which is also great.
Berlitz Japanese Phrasebook and Audio (latest prices, order here →)
After using Lonely Planet phrase books exclusively for years I was introduced to Berlitz phrasebooks by a paid language course I took at my community college. Although the content is very similar to Lonely Planet’s (more below) I found some of the Berlitz phrases were more simplified, which made them easier to say and remember. The phrasebooks are also compact and cover most travelling situations.
Chineasy by Shaolan (latest prices, order here →)
Overwhelmed by the thought of 2000+ Kanji? Chineasy is going to be your best friend! Although this book is to help you learn Chinese, it’s a game changer when learning Kanji (as this is derived from Chinese).
The pronunciation of the symbols may be different than Japanese, but this this book is awesome because it easily breaks down the Kanji into simple pictures to help you remember what they mean. If you forget how to say them at least you’ll be able to read the basics and know what they mean, which is perfect if you’re a visual learner like me.
You can even take it one step further and play the Chineasy Memory Card Game – what a fun way to learn Kanji!
View this post on Instagram A post shared by Chineasy (@hello_chineasy) on Feb 9, 2018 at 1:19am PST
Lonely Planet Japanese Phrasebook and Audio (latest prices, order here →)
With their strong reputation Lonely Planet is the industry leader when it comes to learning language for travel. This Japanese phrasebook covers almost every situation you’d expect when travelling and provides the phonetics of foreign words. As with Berlitz, this book is compact and pocket-sized so it’s perfect for on the go. It makes it easy to brush up on your Japanese phrases on the plane before you get there (without having to rely on pocket wifi)!
TIP: Specifically for Japanese – The Lonely Planet audio is useless for a beginner. The native speaks the Japanese phrases so fast and it’s very difficult for a beginner to determine what’s been said. Berlitz audio is a much better alternative, so I’d highly suggest Berlitz.
Lonely Planet Small Talk Asia (latest prices, order here →)
This is a handy little phrasebook if you’re planning on visiting Japan as well as other Asian countries. Small Talk Asia covers the basic survival phrases you’ll need in Japanese, as well as Cantonese, Korean, Lao, Thai, Vietnamese and more. At the beginning of each chapter is a super useful table about how to pronounce vowels and how they can change the meanings of words if not spoken correctly. Very handy to know!
Concluding learning easy phrases in Japanese for tourists
If you’ve made it this far, you must be really keen to learn Japanese so I wish you the best on your learning journey. Now you’re set to visit Japan with the basic phrases you’ll need, as well as how to pronounce them and the best context to use each. I hope you’ll also find my free PDF cheat sheet helpful, too!
Hungry for more? I’ve have written about loads of tips and tricks for Japan , focused around how to be an invisible tourist while you’re there. If it’s your first trip or revisiting, my popular travel blog for Japan includes do’s and don’ts for etiquette, detailed itineraries, hidden gems, city guides, places you must visit in Japan and much more . Why not take a look while you’re here?
If you found this helpful or know someone who is planning a trip to Japan, please share it around as it really helps me in return! You can also come and join me on Facebook, Pinterest , Instagram and TikTok for more Japan inspiration!
Until next time,
Do you love Japanese sweets, snacks and candies? Read my Tokyo Treat Review and get popular Japanese snacks delivered here , or read my Sakuraco review and get traditional Japanese sweets delivered here !
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Australian-based Alyse is founder of The Invisible Tourist, the #1 travel blog encouraging visitors to better "blend in" abroad. Alyse's passionate advice about cultural, historical & responsible travel has been especially popular with visitors to Japan, helping millions of tourists since 2017.
Her first book details strategies for more enriching travel experiences without contributing to overtourism, and became a #1 Amazon New Release in two categories including Japan Travel. Alyse's unique approach to travelling has resulted in her work being featured on Japanese TV, in tourism textbooks, and has been shared by numerous tourism organisations.
Wow!! love your style. its uniquely rare… to be honest, I love the Japanese culture and I cant wait to one day take a pic in those kimono dress while speaking in Japanese. So thanks once again for this guide. Its life saving
So glad to hear it, Yors! Wishing you the best with your Japanese journey 🙂
Brilliant. I plan to take my daughter to Japan over New Years 2022 and your advice and other content I found invaluable.
I am so happy to hear that, Andrew! Really glad you found my other Japan content helpful too. I hope you and your daughter have a wonderful time being “invisible” in Japan and thanks for your comment! 😃
Omg I love the graphics, it makes it so easy to read for beginners like me! This is going to be so handy when I go to Japan (hopefully once borders reopen)
Thank you, Nemma! I’m an old-school graphic designer so it helps to differentiate myself from others 😉 I hope you get to Japan someday!
I really enjoy your blog, just discovered it yesterday and am binge-reading through it! Hope you can come over to Japan soon when restrictions are lifted…!
A tip from me: 大丈夫です(Daijyobu desu) is also a really handy word you can use instead of “iie”, I think it’s probably one of the most commonly used Japanese words here! It can mean ‘I’m good” or “no worries” without sounding disrespectful. A politer way to say it would be 結構です (kekkou desu).
Thank you so much, Yoko san! Ahh yes, I had forgotten about “kekko desu” – this is definitely a great little tip I’ll be sure to include within the article. Thanks for the suggestion and for binge-reading my blog, I really appreciate it 😊
Thank you very much for sharing about Japanese for tourists, it’s difficult for me to get such kind of information most of the time always… I really hope I can work on your tips and it works for me too, I am happy to come across your article.
I’m so glad to hear that, christjonesan! Wishing you success with your Japanese language learning 😊
Japanese are friendly people. Learning Japanese is good advice to bring generosity, and corrections those need to participate in English also Japanese. Thanks for this!
As many people already know,Japanese (Nihonjin) are obsessed with foreigners (gaijin). This guide is great !
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83 Must-Know Japanese Travel Phrases For Your Next Trip To Japan
If you're learning Japanese and considering a trip to Japan, you'll probably want to learn some Japanese travel phrases so you can make the most of your trip.
Getting a feel for which expressions will be most important to you can vary depending upon your specific interests and goals while traveling. But some vocab is particularly useful no matter what.
If you spend time learning any basic Japanese phrases and words, start with these 83 Japanese travel phrases so that you can head into Japan on the right foot!
Regardless of where you are or what you’re doing, two of the most important words you’ll need to know are arigatou gozaimasu and sumimasen .
Arigatou (gozaimasu ) means “thank you,” and it’s very polite; you can use it with anyone. Sumimasen means “excuse me” (when trying to get someone’s attention) or “I’m sorry” (if you’ve inconvenienced someone, such as by misunderstanding or taking up time).
Let's discover the other Japanese travel phrases that will be a must on your next trip to Japan.
By the way, if you want to learn Japanese fast and have fun while doing it, my top recommendation is Japanese Uncovered which teaches you through StoryLearning®.
With Japanese Uncovered you’ll use my unique StoryLearning® method to learn Japanese naturally through story… not rules. It’s as fun as it is effective.
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At The Airport
So you have arrived in Japan, and you’re in the airport. Depending on how your travels went and what you’re planning on doing next, you might have multiple places you need to visit.
To start, review your vocab and see if any of these locations apply to you for your next stop:
#1 currency exchange ( ryougaejo 両替所) #2 toilet ( toire トイレ) #3 customs ( zeikan 税関) #4 immigration ( nyuukoku shinsa 入国審査) #5 information ( desksougou annaijo 総合案内所) #6 souvenir shop ( omiyageya お土産屋) #7 Seat ( seki 席) #8 Train ( densha 電車) #9 Taxi ( takushi タクシー)
These are the most likely places you’ll need to stop next once you arrive. If you need to locate a certain establishment or find where to go, you can always ask someone:
#10 Where is the ______? (____ ha doko desu ka? ＿＿はどこですか。)
After you conclude your business wandering around the airport, you’ll probably be heading out into the city. In order to do that, you’ll most likely need to take a train out of the airport. If you feel confident using the airport’s self-service ticket machines, you can buy your own ticket.
However, if you have a JR Pass or need to use special train services, or if you don’t know how to use the machines, you can approach the manned ticket counter and ask:
#11 Can I have a ticket to _______ please? (____ made no chiketto wo kudasai. ＿＿までのチケットをください。)
If you are concerned that you may have to change trains during the process, you can ask about this too by saying:
#12 Is there a transfer? ( Norikae ha arimasu ka? 乗り換えはありますか。)
Taking A Taxi
Taxis in Japan are much more economical options than people give them credit for, so if you’re overwhelmed about navigating by yourself, a taxi can be a great option. The vocabulary for taking a taxi is simple, and drivers typically go above and beyond to help you.
#13 Taxi ( takushi タクシー)
When you have located the taxis, you will see that they typically drive up in a line. Wait your turn, and when one drives up, approach. Remember: do not open or close the taxi doors yourself; the driver has an automated button to do this for you.
#14 I’d like to go to _____, please. (____ made onegaishimasu ＿＿までお願いします) #15 How much does it cost? ( Ikura desu ka? いくらですか。)
One important thing to remember is that Japan is a very cash-centric society . The use of credit cards is much rarer than you may be used to, so you should plan to carry larger than normal amounts of cash with you in general. This also means that you should be prepared to ask your taxi driver if he or she accepts credit cards at all.
#16 Is paying by credit card okay? ( Kurejitto kaado de ii desu ka? クレジットカードでいいですか。)
Checking Into Your Hotel
So you have taken a taxi or train, and you’ve arrived at your hotel. Hotels have a wide array of commodities that you can take advantage of, which means that you’ll also get to use a lot of unique vocabulary.
Check out some of the words you’re most likely to use:
#17 Key ( kagi 鍵) #18 Front desk ( chouba (but furonto desuku is more common) 帳場 (フロントデスク)) #19 Lobby ( robii ロビー) #20 Dining room ( shokudou 食堂) #21 Hall ( rouka 廊下) #22 Towel ( taoru タオル) #23 Soap ( sekken 石鹸) #24 Toothbrush ( ha-burashi 歯ブラシ) #25 Toothpaste ( ha-migaki 歯磨き) #26 Razor ( kamisori かみそり) #27 Television ( terebi テレビ) #28 Housekeeping ( kaji-gakari かじがかり) #29 Laundry ( sentaku 選択)
If you are looking to do laundry at a hotel, be aware that Japanese dryers are not as powerful as most countries’, so you may need to run the dryer multiple times or simply hang your clothes to dry.
When you are ready to check in, you can approach the front desk. Depending on what you need to do next, you can use phrases such as:
#30 I’d like to check in. ( Chekku in wo onegaishimasu .チェックインをお願いします。) #31 My name is _______. ( Namae wa _____desu .名前あ＿＿＿です。) #32 I’d like to make a reservation. ( Yoyaku wo shitai desu .予約をしたいです。) #33 Is there wifi? ( Wi-Fi ga arimasu ka? WIFIがありますか。) #34 What time is checkout? ( Chekku auto wa nanji desu ka? チェックアウトは何時ですか。`) #35 Can you hold my luggage for me? ( Nimotsu wo koko ni oite itte mo ii desu ka? 荷物はここに置いていってもいいですか。)
Now that you have settled into Japan a little bit, you’ll probably enjoy going for a walk to see the sights. As you interact with other people, the phrases you’re most likely to hear them say are:
These are the “daily” greetings that mean “hello.” Ohayou (good morning) is typically used until about 11:30 or noon, then people switch to konnichiwa (good afternoon). At about 5pm, most people will switch to konbanwa (good evening).
When you leave and return for the day, you may be greeted with unique phrases. Itterasshai means “have a safe trip” or simply “goodbye for the day,” said as you leave. Your hotel staff may say this to you. They may also greet you with okaeri (welcome back) when you return.
Whenever you enter a business, you’ll likely be greeted with irasshaimase , a very formal welcome. You are not expected to say anything in response; it’s sort of like the staff saying hello while also thanking you for shopping or visiting.
If you can’t go a day without your morning brew, take heart—Japanese coffee shops are everywhere, and the vocabulary is actually almost identical to what you may be used to ordering.
#39 Coffee shop ( kissaten 喫茶店) #40 Hot coffee ( hotto kohi ホットコーヒー) #41 Iced coffee ( aisu kohi アイスコーヒー) #42 Cafe latte ( kafe rate カフェラテ) #43 Drip coffee ( dorippu kohi ドリップコーヒー) #44 Soy milk ( soi miruku ソイミルク)) #45 Espresso ( Esupuresso エスプレッソ)
When it comes time to order your drink, you can specify what you want via the following format:
#46 I’d like to order [number] of [item]. ([item] wo [number] onegaishimasu .[item] を [number]お願いします。)
The [item] can be kohi, mizu (water), or any other item you would like to order. If you don’t know how to say what you want to order, you can point to a menu and simply say “kore” (this) in the [item] place. You can fill the [number] slot with the quantity you would like; the words hitotsu, futatsu , and mitsu mean one, two, and three, respectively.
- I’d like one hot coffee, please. ( Hotto kohi wo hitotsu onegaishimasu. )
After this, the waitress may ask what size you would like. You can typically choose from small (S), medium (M), and large (L).
Use the letter to indicate which size you would like:
#47 Size ( saizu サイズ) #48 Medium M ( saizuM サイズ)
In A Japanese Restaurant
If you’ve decided to stop by a Japanese restaurant instead of a café, you might need a wider variety of words to make sure you can get by.
The good news is that many restaurants—especially in large cities—have pictures on their menus, and no one will be upset if you point and simply say “this, please.”
To start, the vocabulary you’re most likely to need include:
#49 Fish ( sakana 魚) #50 Meat ( niku 肉) #51 Vegetables ( yasai 野菜) #52 Vegetarian ( begitarian ベジタリアン) #53 Beer ( biiru ビール) #54 Water ( mizu 水) #55 Tea ( ocha お茶)
As you enter a restaurant, you will likely be asked how many people are in your party. Using basic Japanese numbers 1-10, you can create the following sentence:
#56 There are [number] people. ([number] mei desu .___名です)
Once you have been seated, you may need to use some of the following phrases:
#57 Do you have an English menu? ( Eigo no menyu arimasu ka? 英語のメニューありますか。) #58 What is this [while pointing]? ( Kore ha nan desu ka? これは何ですか。)
When you have decided what you would like to order, you can simply state:
#59 [item] please. (____ onegaishimasu .＿＿お願いします。)
If you do not know the name of the item and would like to order just by pointing at the menu, you can use:
#60 I’d like to order [number] of [item]. ([item] wo [number] onegaishimasu .[item] を [number]お願いします。)
When your meal is over, your next step is to pay. Important phrases that can get you through this phase of the interaction include:
#61 Could we have the bill, please? ( Okaikei kudasai. お会計ください。) #62 Can I pay with a credit card? ( Kurejitto kaado de daijoubu desu ka? クレジットカードで大丈夫ですか。)
In A Convenience Store
If you don’t feel like stopping by a restaurant, or if you’d just like a quick bite to eat or other item, the thousands of convenience stores (called konbini , short for konbiniensu sutoa , “convenience store”) that appear on nearly every street corner are ready to serve you.
The easiest meals in terms of simplicity will be bento boxes, or small boxes (in the cold section) that serve as a whole meal. If you pick one of those up and stand in line, you will almost always hear the following three phrases (to which you can answer yes or no, which keeps things simple):
#63 Next in line, please! ( Otsugi no kata douzo! お次の方どうぞ。) #64 Do you have a point card [a rewards card for the convenience store]? ( Pointo ka-do ha omochi desu ka? ポイントカードはお持ちですか。) #65 Would you like your bento warmed up? ( Obento atatamemasu ka? お弁当温めますか。)
Getting Directions And Getting Lost
Almost inevitably, you’ll find yourself turned around once you start exploring. That’s not such a bad thing! Japan is full of small, tucked away secrets, and the people are eager to help you get back to a familiar place much more often than not.
If you need to ask directions, the phrases that will serve you best are:
#66 Where is [place]?( ____ ha doko desu ka? ＿＿ はどこですか。) #67 Can I ask you for directions? ( Michi wo kiite mo ii desu ka? 道を聞いてもいいですか。) #68 Can you help me? ( Tasukete kudasaimasen ka? 助けてくださいませんか。)
In response, Japanese people are likely to use the following words:
#69 Next ( totonari となり) #70 In front of ( mae 前) #71 Behind ( ushiro 後ろ) #72 Nearby ( chikaku 近く) #73 North ( kita 北) #74 South ( minami 南) #75 East ( higashi 東) #76 West ( nishi 西) #77 Right ( migi 右) #78 Left ( hidari 左) #79 Street/road/path ( michi 道) #80 Bridge ( hashi 橋) #81 Corner ( kado 角)
Thanks to the consistent presence of trains and other forms of public transport, you should feel emboldened to explore as much as you like. There will always be a train station or bus nearby where you can ask directions or head back to a familiar place!
Japanese Travel Phrases
So there you have it – 83 Japanese travel phrases to hit the ground running on your next trip to Japan. From the airport to the convenience store and from the hotel to Japanese restaurants these knowing these Japanese travel phrases will help you feel less like a tourist.
And who knows, maybe getting started with these Japanese travel phrases will be your gateway into learning the language.
By the way, if you'd like to learn some more Japanese phrases before your trip, make sure you check out this post on basic conversational Japanese for your first chat with a native speaker. You might also like this list of Japanese conversation starters.
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Basic Travel Phrases in Japanese (with Etiquette)
Irasshaimase! (いらっしゃいませ), or "welcome!" to your guide to Japanese travel phrases.
If you're planning a trip to Japan or simply interested in learning Japanese , this guide to using and understanding Japanese travel phrases is a must-read.
You don't need to learn the entire language before you make the trip of a lifetime. Still, knowing some key phrases, cultural differences and mannerisms will make Japan more accessible for English speakers.
Related: Saying Hello in Japanese: Pronouncing Japanese Greetings
First, we'll discuss the Japanese language and writing styles. Then, we'll cover some essential Japanese travel phrases, including "please", "thank you", "excuse me" and "I don't understand Japanese". Formality in Japanese will be explained, followed by restaurant vocabulary and etiquette.
Next, we'll cover certain phrases related to transport and travel, followed by pronunciation tips for common phrases used in Japan. Finally, we will answer frequently asked questions about Japanese phrases and travel to Japan.
The Japanese Language
Japanese words can be written in symbols or in Romanized characters, so beginners can still read and write before they learn the Japanese script.
However, when you learn Japanese characters you can better understand the nuances of the language.
Kanji are Chinese characters taken from the Chinese script and used in Japanese writing. This writing system was introduced to Japan in the 4th or 5th century, as Japan had a talking system but no means to write it down. Kanji are complex symbols that represent words or ideas.
However, Kanji characters are used along with the more recently created syllabic scripts of Hiragana and Katakana, which represent sounds.
Some people find these scripts easier to read as the symbols are simpler. Hiragana is generally used to represent Japanese words, while Katakana represents foreign words imported into the Japanese language.
While it is possible to write everything in Hiragana or Katakana, i t w o u l d l o o k l i k e t h i s . So, it is better to replace words with Kanji when possible. Japanese people use the three scripts interchangeably, as they are needed.
10 Essential Japanese Phrases
- Konnichiwa (こんにちは) – Hello/ good afternoon
- Ohayo Gozaimasu (おはよう ご ざ い ます) - Good morning
- Konbanwa (こんばんは) - Good evening This phrase is made up of Ohayo (おはよう), meaning "early" and Gozaimasu (ご ざ い ます) meaning "is"/"am"/"are". So, its literal translation is "it is early". As you can see below, Gozaimasu can be added to Arigatou, meaning "thank you", to make it more polite.
- Arigatou (Gozaimasu) (ありがとう (ご ざ い ます)) – Thank you (polite way)
- Onegaishimasu (お願い し ます)/ Kudasai (くだ さい) - Please
- Sumimasen (すみません) – Excuse me
- Hai (はい) - Yes/ I understand
- Iie (いいえ) - No
- Nihongo ga wakarimasen (日本語がわかりません) - I don't understand Japanese
- Gomen nasai (ごめんなさい) - I'm sorry
Formality In Japanese
Social hierarchy, or your rank compared to others, determines how you will talk to someone in Japanese.
The generally accepted pecking order puts parents above children, teachers above students, customers above shopkeepers, bosses above employees, and elders above younger people.
Moreover, familiarity plays a part in how formal or informal you are with someone. Families will speak more casual Japanese with one another, while strangers use formal terms. Good friends drop formalities entirely and use slang to communicate.
Japanese words are conjugated based on formality. Formal Japanese can be divided into three categories: polite language, honorific language, and humble language.
There is also an informal way of communicating in Japanese, but when you learn Japanese, you often learn the formal first as the conjugation is easier.
Gozimasu and Arigatou
You do not need to worry too much about this as an absolute beginner. Just remember that you can make simple adjustments such as adding gozimasu (ご ざ い ます) to ohayō (おはよう) when saying "good morning" to make it more formal, or to arigatou (ありがとう) to say "thank you" the formal way.
Domo arigato (共 ありがとう) "thank you so much" is also formal. This is a phrase many westerners are familiar with due to the song Mr Roboto by Styx!
Arigato or domo used in isolation are two ways to say "thanks", informally. Use the latter two with friends and family.
Onegaishimasu and Kudasai
Finally, let's revisit when we use Onegaishimasu (お願い し ます) and Kudasai (くだ さい) for "please".
- Kudasai is the more familiar term, while onegai shimasu is more polite and honorable.
- So, you can ask for water, for instance, by using Kudasai (ください) or onegai shimasu ( を お願い し ます), depending on who you are talking to. For example:
- Mizu o onegai shimasu ( 水を お願い し ます) - I would like water, please (formal)
- Mizu o kudasai (水 お ください) - Give me water, please (informal)
Kudasai is a familiar request word that you use when you know you are entitled to something.
For instance, asking a friend or peer for something, or making a request from someone of a lower rank than you. Take a look at the following phrases:
- Mō yamete kudasai (もう やめて くだ さい ) - Please stop
- Chotto matte kudasai (ちょっと 待って くだ さい) - Wait a minute, please
- Kutsu o nuide kudasai (靴を脱いで くだ さい) - Please remove your shoes
- Shio o watashite kudasai ( 塩を渡して くだ さい) - Pass the salt, please
If you are speaking to a teacher, elder, or boss in Japan and don't understand something, you can ask: Mou ichido onegai shimasu (もう一度お願いします) - Could you repeat that, please?
As well as language, gestures also play a part in formality and respect in Japanese culture. One such gesture is the bow, and it matters how deep you bend!
A short bow at 15° is appropriate for a casual greeting. A 30° bow is good for greeting strangers and bosses, while a 45° bow conveys deep respect or an apology.
10 Food & Drink Basic Phrases in Japanese
- Menyū (メニュー) - Menu
- O-sake (お酒) – General term for alcohol (not to be confused with the below)
- Nihonshu (日本酒) – Japanese saké (rice wine)
- Bīru (ビール) - Beer
- Mizu (水) - Water
- Gohan (ご飯) - Rice
- Misoshiru (みそ汁) - Miso Soup
- Sushi (すし) - Sushi
- Mochi (餅 ) - Mochi (a traditional Japanese glutinous rice cake)
- ___ o Kudasai ( をください) – I would like __, please ___ o onegai shimasu (を お願い し ます) - I would like ___ please
In addition to food and drink, you might want to know how to ask for other specific services in a Japanese restaurant.
- Kin'en seki (禁煙席) - Non-smoking seat
- Kurejittokādo wa tsukaemasu ka? (クレジットカードは使えますか) - Do you accept credit cards?
Japanese Restaurant Etiquette
It is not enough simply to know a few polite phrases in Japanese. You will also need to understand a bit about restaurant etiquette.
In many Japanese restaurants, there are low tables with cushions, rather than or in addition to western-style tables and chairs.
Cushions will be placed on tatami floors, which are a traditional kind of mat flooring in Japanese restaurants. You should never wear shoes or slippers on tatami flooring, and avoid stepping on anyone's cushion except your own.
Japanese Restaurant Vocabulary in Context
When the food comes, it is customary to wait for everyone's meals to arrive, then say:
- Itadakimasu (いただきます) - "I gratefully receive (this meal)"
You should say this before starting to eat. This is similar to the French "bon appetit".
However, if a dish is best eaten hot and it arrives before the others, the following phrase can be used:
- Osaki ni douzo (お先 に どうぞ) - "Please go ahead"
Other useful Japanese resturant phrases include:
- Daijyoubu Desu (だいじょうぶです) - "I'm fine now" (this is a polite way to decline something from a waiter offering you more water or food).
You can conclude the meal by saying the phrase:
- Gochisousama deshita (ごちそうさま でした) - "Thank you for the feast."
This expresses gratitude to the chef and for the ingredients of the meal.
At the end of your meal, you should use the following:
- Okaikei wo onegaishimasu (お会計 を お願いします) - "The check, please."
Manners in Convenience Stores
The following piece of vocaulary will be useful:
- Konbini (コンビニ) - Convenience store
In Japan, simple things like unfolding your bills before you hand them over to the cashier and not throwing down your coins are considered polite as they make the worker's job easier.
Customer service in Japan is famously excellent, so treat the clerk with respect and kindness, as you should in any other foreign country.
10 Transportation-Related Phrases to Get Around Japan
- ___wa doko desu ka ( は どこ です か) – Where is __?
- Eki (駅) - Train station eg. Eki wa doko desu ka (駅 は どこ です か) - Where is the train station?
- Basu noriba (バスのりば) - Bus stop
- Dono Densha (どの電車)/ Dono basu (どのバス) – Which train?/ Which bus?
- (Tōkyō) ni ikitai ( ([東京) に行きたい) – I want to go to (Tokyo)
- Kippu (切符) – Ticket
- Katamichi kippu (片道切符)/ Kaeri no kippu (帰りの切符) - One-way ticket/ return ticket
- Hoteru (ホテル) - hotel
- Toire ( = トイレ) - Bathroom / toilet
- Ikura desu ka (いくら です 化) - How much is it?
Japanese travel phrases in context
Now, you can start to put some of the words we have learned together to create a proper phrase.
- Hiroshima e no kaeri no kippu o onegai shimasu, ikura desu ka (広島への帰りの切符をお願いします、いくらですか) - "I would like a return ticket to Hiroshima, how much is it?"
These essential Japanese travel phrases will come in handy when visiting Japan, as an estimated 70% of the population does not speak English.
You'll find more people with some level of English in the top destinations, such as Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, while you might hit a language barrier in smaller towns.
Basic Japanese Phrases and Pronunciation in Japanese
An important phrase you will likely say a lot is desu ka ( です か).
This indicates a question when placed at the end of a sentence. So, let's make sure you can say it correctly, as it may not be pronounced as you'd expect.
You want to pronounce desu like “dess.” Remember, the “u” sound at the end is dropped.
This happens a lot with words that end with “u” sounds, including:
- Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとう ご ざ い) - "thank you" (which is pronounced "arigatou gozaimas").
We have already seen desu ka in the phrase ikura desu ka, " how much is it?", and wa doko desu ka , "where is it?".
It is also used in the following key Japanese phrases:
- O genki desu ka (お元気 です 化) - How are you? (Pronounced "o genki dess ka").
- Nani desu ka (何ですか なにですか) - (polite) What?
- Sou desu ka (そうですか) - Is that so?/ Really? The response, Sou desu (そうです), pronounced "so dess", means "that is so" or "yes, really".
- Kore wa na ndesu ka (これ わ なん です か) - What is this?
You can create many more Japanese phrases for asking questions by using desu ka , so try to remember this pronunciation as it will get you a long way.
Basic Greetings Tourists Should Know in Japan
If you only have a short time before your trip to Japan, at the very least learn these simple greetings and make sure you know the dos and don'ts of public affection.
- Kon'nichiwa, watashinonamaeha ___ (こんにちは、私の名前は) - "Good afternoon, my name is ___"
- Konbanwa, hajimemashite (こんばんは、はじめまして) - "Good evening, nice to meet you."
- Namae wa nandesu ka? (名前はなん です か) - "What is your name?"
Making Friends in Japan
Now that you know how to greet Japanese people appropriately, you can start to build a relationship with them.
Generally, when you meet people while traveling abroad, you ask:
- Eigo o hanashimasu ka? (英語を話せますか) - "Can you speak English?"
- Anata wa doko no kuni no shusshindesu ka (あなたはどこの国の出身 です か) - "Which country are you from?"
- Doko no shusshindesu ka? ( どこの出身 です か) - "Where are you from?" (more simple phrase).
- Anata wa doko ni sun deru nodesu ka? (あなたはどこに住んでるの です か) - "Where do you live?"
If you would like to become friends or make a date, you might want to gauge the person's interests:
- Anata wa (eiga ga) sukidesuka? (あなたは (映画が) 好き です か) - "Do you like (the cinema)?"
Travel Tips for Japan
Remember Japanese manners! This includes restaurant etiquette, limiting public displays of affection, using polite language, and respecting the culture.
You cannot expect everyone in the world to speak your language, but by using a simple Japanese phrase here and there you can show that you are willing to try and meet them halfway.
Choose the season wisely. Visit Japan in Winter for the ski season, or in Spring for unforgettable views of cherry blossoms.
Or, choose an Autumn trip to avoid tourist crowds and peak travel seasons. The same applies to Summer, though this is typhoon season, which puts a lot of tourists off.
What is Ryokou?
Ryokou (旅行) is a Japanese noun meaning "travel" or "trip".
Broken down, 旅 is the kanji character meaning "travel", "trip", or "journey", and 行 is the kanji character used to express the act of going or visiting.
Use this next phrase if you want to impress your new Japanese friends by using their local language:
- Watashi wa ryokou ga sukidesu (私は旅行が好きです) - "I love traveling".
If you're studying Japanese so you can take a trip to Japan, this is undoubtedly true!
How to Learn Japanese Naturally
If you are looking for additional resources for learning Japanese, check out Lingopie .
This is an online streaming platform that is designed to get you speaking Japanese and learning Kanji with ease through immersion in Japanese TV and movies.
Lingopie provides an authentic and natural way to learn other languages and makes learning Japanese fun.
This is a great tool for busy people who cannot sit through hours of Japanese classes every week.
Simply relax in the evening and watch half an hour of Japanese TV. Allow your brain to absorb the language naturally and pick up useful phrases and pronunciation.
And if you want to keep binge watching awesome shows check out our other Japanese articles. We listed 9 Japanese Movies on Netflix that can help your studies and we also did a guide to learning Japanese with anime ! We also recommend you to check out our free guide " Best way to learn Japanese ".
Summing up: Basic Travel phrases in Japanese
Now you can travel to Japan armed with some useful Japanese phrases and a basic understanding of the culture and mannerisms of the country.
You will be able to conduct yourself appropriately while dining, make your way around train stations, and if you speak slowly and clearly, begin to build relationships.
Remember, nobody will expect you to speak Japanese fluently, but if you can use these simple phrases, your travels will be simplified.
The average Japanese native speaker is unlikely to speak English fluently. You may hit a language barrier, but if you remember your polite gestures and restaurant etiquette, you can still do very well in Japan and impress the locals.
Hopefully, this guide has given you some travel inspiration. Have a wonderful time on your trip and good luck on your path to learning Japanese!
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Japanese Phrases for Travelers (A Cheat Sheet)
When traveling through Japan, it is VERY helpful to have some Japanese phrases under your belt. On my visit there, I found that many people I encountered did not speak English, so I’m so glad that I took some time to a (little) bit of Japanese before my visit.
Keep reading for a list of the top Japanese phrases for travelers, as well as some general information on the language and tips on how to start learning on your own! Your trip to Kyoto , Tokyo , and beyond will be better because of it.
Table of Contents
The Top Resources for Learning Japanese
- iTalki : Practice with Live Teachers at a low cost
- LingoPie : Learn the language by watching videos in Japanese
- Writing Practice Book : Learn how to write in Japanese script
START LEARNING TODAY!
Japanese Language Overview
The exact origins of Japanese are disputed by top linguists, as there is evidence that it could have originated from either the Polynesian, Chinese, or the Ural-Altaic languages. For a time, many scholars agreed that Japanese is part of the Ural-Altaic language family, which also includes Turkish, Korean, Manchu, and Mongolian. Japanese has been compared with Korean due to similarities in structure, use, and grammar, but the relation is still debated. Today, it the only major language whose origin is still unknown.
Japanese language history can be split into five main periods:
- Old Japanese (Prior to 8th Century)
- Late Old Japanese (9th – 11th Century)
- Middle Japanese (12th – 16th Century)
- Early Modern Japanese (17th-18th Century)
- Modern Japanese (19th Century – now)
Japanese has been a recognized language for the past 1200 years, from around the 8th century AD, where the earliest Japanese writings have been found. Some earlier evidence of the Japanese language has appeared in Chinese writings from as early as the 3rd century AD, but it is not known how long the language has existed on the island.
The Language Today
Today, Japanese is spoken by over 125 million people, most of whom reside in Japan. It is not the official language of Japan, but is the de facto national language of Japan. The standard form of the language is called hyojungo “standard Japanese or kyostugo “common language”. This is the variety of the language that is taught in schools and used in TV and official communications.
There are dozens of dialects spoken throughout Japan, as with many old languages. Some differences are more minor (e.g., changes to pronunciation or words used), while other dialects are so distinct from each other that they are mutually unintelligible. This is most often the case for dialects coming from peripheral regions, mountain villages, or isolated islands in the country.
I will also note, there are other languages spoken in Okinawa, as well as the Ryukyu and Amami Islands, known as the Ryukyuan languages. These languages are part of the Japonic language family, and some are considered endangered languages by UNESCO. Their decline is use is due to a shift in greater use of Standard Japanese and other dialects.
RELATED: Kyoto Travel Guide
An interesting fact about Japanese that did not know until recently, is that Japanese has no genetic relationship to Chinese. Which was surprising to me because the language does use mostly Chinese characters in its written script. There have been two methods of using Chinese script – the first by using them as characters to represent an object or idea. The second method involves using the script to pronounce Japanese words phonetically – which is not widely done today.
Over time, the Japanese script has been modified from the traditional Chinese characters with the overall simplification of some characters. Additionally, there has been the incorporation of hiragana characters, which are also simplified and have a more rounded appearance.
Additional Observations on Japanese
For the true language nerds out here are a few interesting facts about Japanese:
- There are no diphthongs in Japanese, only monophthongs, demonstrating that all Japanese vowels are “pure”
- Word order is classified as subject-object-verb, but the only strict rule there is that the verb must be at the end of the sentence
- The culture in Japan is VERY polite, and that is also represented in the spoken language as there is an extensive grammatical structure to express politeness, formality, and even differing levels of social status
Basic Japanese Words and Pronunciation
Japanese greetings – formal.
Here are some basic formal greetings (hi / goodbye) that you’d use on a regular day.
- Hello/Good day – Konnichiwa (こんにちは今日は)
- Good morning – Ohayō Gozaimasu (おはよう ございます お早う御座います)
- Good evening – Konbanwa (こんばんは)
- Good night – Shitsurei shimasu (しつれい します 失礼します)
- Goodbye – Sayōnara (さようなら)
Note, when greeting others in Japan be sure to accompany your words with a slight bow. This bow is often done again when saying goodbye as well.
Japanese Greetings – Informal
If you stay in Japan for a time and make friends, it may be appropriate for you to incorporate informal greetings into your vocabulary:
- Hi – Yā (やあ)
- Hey/Yo – Yō (よう)
- What’s Up? – Saikin dō? (さいきんどう最近どう)
- Bye – Jā / Jā ne (じゃあ / じゃあ ね)
- See you soon – Mata ne (また ね)
- See you again – Jā mata (じゃあ また)
- See you tomorrow – Mata ashita (また あした また明日)
- Be well – Genki De (げんき で 元気で)
Top 30 Japanese Phrases
Outside of Japanese greetings, here are the top 30 phrases that you should learn before visiting Japan:
- Hello – Kon’nichiwa (こんにちは)
- Yes – Hai ( はい)
- No – Iie (いいえ)
- Thank you – Arigatō* (ありがとう)
- Excuse me – Sumimasen* (すみません) – This phrase is important when trying to get the attention of your waiter in restaurants, and when passing people in tight quarters.
- Please – O-negai shimasu (おねがいします)
- You’re welcome – Dōitashimashite (どういたしまして)
- I’m sorry – Gomennasai (ごめんなさい)
- Do you speak English? – Eigo o hanasemasu ka (えいごをはなせますか。)
- I only speak a little Japanese – Watashi wa nihongo ga sukoshi shika hanasemasen. (わたしは にほんごがすこししか はなせません。)
- What is your name? – O-namae wa nan desu ka. (おなまえはなんですか。)
- My name is __ – Watashi no namae wa ___ desu. (わたしのなまえは かおりです)
- How are you? – O-genki desu ka. (おげんきですか。)
- I’m fine, thanks – Genki desu. (げんきです)
- I’m very glad to meet you – Oaidekite ureshī desu. (おあいできて うれしいです。)
- I don’t understand – Wakarimasen (わかりません。)
- What did you say? – Nante iimashita ka. (なんていいましたか。)
- Can you speak more slowly? – Motto yukkuri hanashite kudasai. (もっと ゆっくりはなしてください。)
- I understand you perfectly. – Yoku wakarimasu. (よくわかります。)
- How much is it? – Ikura desu ka? (いくらですか？)
- Do you have ___? – ______ wa arimasu ka? (はありますか)
- Help! – Tasukete (助けて。)
- I don’t need it. – Iranai (いらない)
- Great! / I’m glad! – Yokatta (良かった)
- Are you okay? – Daijoubu desu ka. (大丈夫ですか)
- What happened? – Doushitanda. (どうしたんだ)
- Welcome – Irasshaimase. ( いらっしゃいませ)
- How much does it cost? – Ikura kakarimasu ka? (いくらかかりますか？)
- It costs. .. – Hiyō ga kakarimasu (費用がかかります)
Note: I’ve put an asterisk by the phrases that I used the most while traveling through Japan.
Counting to 10 in Japanese
There are two methods of counting in Japanese: 1) Sino-Japanese and 2) Native Japanese. Sino-Japanese is used most often (by far), so this is what is demonstrated in the tabel below:
RELATED: The Link Between Languages and Travel
Pronouncing Japanese the Right Way
Check out this video from a native speaker that covers pronunciation for many of the phrases listed above. For best results, practice saying the words out loud so that you get used to speaking them.
Japanese Travel Phrases PDF
Keep your learning going by downloading this Japanese Phrases PDF. You will be able to practice as needed before your trip!
FAQs about Learning Japanese for Travel
Before your trip to Japan, some common phrases you should learn are “Arigatou gozaimasu” (Thank you very much), “Sumimasen” (Excuse me/I’m sorry), “Konnichiwa” (Hello), “O-genki desu ka?” (How are you?), and “Eigo o hanashimasu ka?” (Do you speak English?).
Japanese people often say “Ittekimasu” (I’ll go and come back) before leaving their home, which is a polite way of saying they are heading out. Similarly, upon returning, they say “Tadaima” (I’m back) to announce their arrival.
The Japanese word for travel is “tabi” (旅).
Some must-know phrases for Japanese travel include “Doko desu ka?” (Where is it?), “Ikura desu ka?” (How much does it cost?), “Eki wa doko desu ka?” (Where is the train station?), “Kudasai” (Please/give me), and “Osusume no o-sake wa arimasu ka?” (Do you have any recommended sake?).
Some cool Japanese phrases include “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (Please take care of it/Thank you in advance), “Kawaii” (Cute), “Oishii” (Delicious), “Ganbatte” (Good luck/Do your best), and “Natsukashii” (Nostalgic).
Learning Japanese for Travel | Final Recommendations
That wraps my list of essential Japanese phrases for travelers. Now that you know WHAT you need to learn, the next step is to take it into practice. I suggest that you do that by downloading the attached PDF of key Japanese phrases, and practice the phrases daily for at least a month before your trip.
To complement learning these phrases, there are a few additional resources that you may find helpful:
- iTalki – On this site you can practice with a tutor, formal teacher, or others just seeking to do a language exchange (for free!). The paid lessons have very cheap options, with some as low as $5 an hour. Check it out!
- LigoPie – Practice listening and reading Japanese with videos. You can make changes to the speed you are listening to as well. This is the best way to rapidly increase your comprehension skills!
- Japanese Pod – There are so many free resources on the website and through the podcast they offer. There are paid options as well.
- Duolingo – I don’t find this app useful for practicing spoken language, but it will help you remember key phrases through repetition.
Have you studied Japanese before? Let me know if you have any additional tips in the comments below!
Related Posts on Japan:
- 2 Days in Kyoto
- 4 Days in Tokyo
- Hakone Travel Guide
- The Best Samurai Experience in Kyoto
- Ninja Akasaka Review
Additional Travel Language Guides:
- Portuguese for Travel
- Spanish for Travel
- Italian for Travel
- Thai for Travel
- Greek for Travel
- Language and Travel
Don’t forget to pin this for later!
Christen Thomas is the founder of TravelWanderGrow, established in 2018. She has lived abroad and traveled extensively to over 30 countries. In addition, she is a certified Travel Advisor and is an expert in planning trips focused on city history and culture. As a frequent traveler, she also shares tips on how to prepare to travel well and how to save money while doing so.
Pinning this for later as we’re hoping to visit Japan in the next few years. Great breakdown of the common phrases. I had a Japanese roommate in high school so I’ve heard a lot of these phrases, but never knew how to spell them – so interesting!
Glad you have found the guide helpful, Emily! Hope you get to practice the phrases soon :).
I am Korean-American & can speak conversational Korean. I feel I would be able to easily pickup Japanese but they seem to talk so fast! Thanks for sharing this post! My husband & I hope to visit Japan later this fall…it will come handy!
Doesn’t it always seem that others speak so fast when you are learning a language? Hopefully you can put these to good use on your trip to Japan!
Very useful and interesting. Thank you! Keep it coming
Glad you found it helpful, Oliver!
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Top Japanese Phrases for Tourism and Travel
Discover the top japanese phrases for tourism and travel. enhance your communication skills, navigate tourist attractions, and engage with locals during your trip to japan., introduction.
Japan is a captivating destination known for its rich culture, vibrant cities, and stunning landscapes. Whether you're planning a short visit or an extended stay, knowing some useful Japanese phrases can greatly enhance your travel experience. In our short guide we will explore essential Japanese phrases for travel and tourism that will help you navigate Japan with ease and connect with locals.
Remember that the level of formality in Japanese greetings can vary based on the context and relationship between individuals. It's essential to be aware of the appropriate level of politeness when using these phrases.
Essential Japanese Phrases for Greetings:
These phrases will help you in everyday interactions and create a positive impression:
- こんにちは (Konnichiwa) - Hello / Good afternoon
- おはようございます (Ohayō gozaimasu) - Good morning
- こんばんは (Konbanwa) - Good evening
- おやすみなさい (Oyasumi nasai) - Good night
- さようなら (Sayōnara) - Goodbye
- お元気ですか？ (Ogenki desu ka?) - How are you?
- はじめまして (Hajimemashite) - Nice to meet you
- お久しぶりです (Ohisashiburi desu) - Long time no see
- お早うございます (Ohayō gozaimasu) - Formal Good morning
- ごきげんよう (Gokigen'yō) - Formal Greetings
- 英語を話せますか？ (Eigo o hanasemasu ka?) - Do you speak English?
- 分かりません (Wakarimasen) - I don't understand
- わかります (Wakarimasu) - I understand
- お願いします、教えてください (Onegaishimasu, oshiete kudasai) - Please, can you tell me?
- もう一度言ってください (Mō ichido itte kudasai) - Please say it again
- 駅はどこですか？ (Eki wa doko desu ka?) - Where is the train station?
- バス停はどこですか？ (Basutei wa doko desu ka?) - Where is the bus stop?
- ホテルまでの道を教えてください (Hoteru made no michi o oshiete kudasai) - Please tell me the way to the hotel
- タクシーを呼んでください (Takushī o yonde kudasai) - Please call a taxi
- レストランはありますか？ (Resutoran wa arimasu ka?) - Is there a restaurant nearby?
- メニューを見せてください (Menyū o misete kudasai) - Please show me the menu
- 注文をお願いします (Chūmon o onegaishimasu) - I would like to order
- おいしいです (Oishii desu) - It's delicious
- お勧めはありますか？ (Osusume wa arimasu ka?) - What do you recommend?
- お会計お願いします (Okaikei onegaishimasu) - The check, please
- 見る価値がありますか？ (Miru kachi ga arimasu ka?) - Is it worth seeing?
- どのくらい時間がかかりますか？ (Dono kurai jikan ga kakarimasu ka?) - How long does it take?
- どこで写真を撮れますか？ (Doko de shashin o toremasu ka?) - Where can I take photos?
- 入場料はいくらですか？ (Nyūjōryō wa ikura desu ka?) - How much is the entrance fee?
- ガイドブックをお借りできますか？ (Gaido bukku o okaridekimasu ka?) - Can I borrow a guidebook?
- いくらですか？ (Ikura desu ka?) - How much is it?
- 割引してもらえますか？ (Waribiki shite moraemasu ka?) - Can I get a discount?
- これは何ですか？ (Kore wa nan desu ka?) - What is this?
- 試着させてください (Shichaku sasete kudasai) - May I try it on?
- クレジットカードは使えますか？ (Kurejitto kādo wa tsukaemasu ka?) - Can I use a credit card?
Asking for Recommendations
- おすすめの観光地はありますか？ (Osusume no kankōchi wa arimasu ka?) - Do you have any recommended tourist spots?
- おすすめのレストランはありますか？ (Osusume no resutoran wa arimasu ka?) - Do you have any recommended restaurants?
- どこがおすすめですか？ (Doko ga osusume desu ka?) - What do you recommend?
- 何が有名ですか？ (Nani ga yūmei desu ka?) - What is famous here?
- お土産はありますか？ (Omiyage wa arimasu ka?) - Do you have any souvenirs?
- 助けてください (Tasukete kudasai) - Please help me
- 110番に電話してください (Hyaku Jū Ban ni denwa shite kudasai) - Please call 110 (emergency number)
- 医者を呼んでください (Isha o yonde kudasai) - Please call a doctor?
- 警察に連絡してください (Keisatsu ni renraku shite kudasai) - Please contact the police
- 急病人です (Kyūbyōnin desu) - I'm seriously ill
Mastering a few basic Japanese phrases can greatly enhance your travel and tourism experiences in Japan. Locals appreciate the effort to communicate in their language, and it opens doors to deeper cultural connections. Whether it's greetings, basic communication, getting around, ordering food, or dealing with emergencies, these phrases will help you navigate Japan with confidence and respect. Remember, embracing the local language and culture enriches your journey and creates lasting memories. 旅行をお楽しみください (Ryokō o o-tanoshimi kudasai) - Enjoy your trip!
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