Basic Japanese phrases every traveler should know

If this is your first time looking at Japanese, I recommend you start here instead to learn the basics of pronunciation, reading, and writing!

I think that when traveling to a foreign country, it is amazing to try to learn some of their native language. It helps you get around, it shows the locals that you care and respect their language, and learning languages is such a valuable tool.

It can be easy to learn a new language, but scary to actually go out and use it. Trust me, the first few times I went out, I was nervous to even say thank you! But now, I have no problem saying other phrases to help me get around.

From my experience, the locals don't care if you mess up, stutter, or look at your phone because you forgot how to say something. Rather they are happy that you are even trying!

There are many basic phrases I think are important to learn when traveling abroad. Things like:

- Do you speak English?

- I don't speak your language

- Help!

- Please/thank you

- etc, you know, the basics

But, what I am also going to include in this short lesson are a few extra travel phrases as well as a few phrases that can help you stay low waste while you're traveling throughout Japan.

So, let's dive right in!

The basics:

Hello/good afternoon: konnichiwa (koh-knee-chi-wah) こんにちわ

Good evening: konbanwa (pronounced how it looks) こんばんわ

Good morning: ohaiyou gozaimasu (Ohio go-zai-mas, no "u" sound on the end) おはいよう ございます

Thank you: arigatou gozaimasu (a-ri-gah-toh go-zai-mas, no "u" sound on the end) ありがとうございます

Please: kudasai or onegaishimasu (koo-dah-sai or o-neigh-guy-she-mas, no "u" sound on the end) (Kudasai is more general and onegaishimasu is more formal or polite, though both are understood in any situation) ください or おねがいしあます

You're welcome: doitashimashite (doh-ee-tah-she-mahsh-teh) どいたしまして

Yes: hai (high) はい (I use with phrase all the time)

No (not commonly used though): iie (ee-ay) いいえ

My name is ____: watashi wa ____ desu (wah-tah-she wa ____ dace) わたしわ____です

*watashi means I or me

Crossing the language barrier:

Do you speak English? eego wa hanasemasu ka (eggo (like the waffle) wah hah-nah-say-mas ka) ええごわはなせますか

I don't speak Japanese: Nihongo wa hanasemasen (knee-hone-go wah hah-nah-say-ma-sin) にほんごわはなせません

I speak a little Japanese: sukoshi Nihongo o hanashimasu (sko-she knee-hone-go oh hah-nah-she-mas) すこし ンいほんご お はなします

I don't understand Japanese: Nihongo ga wakarimasen (knee-hone-go gah wah-kah-ree-mah-sin) にほんご が わかりません

I am learning Japanese: Nihongo o benkyoo shite imasu (knee-hone-go oh bin-kyo she-teh ee-mas) にほんごおべんきようしています

Please speak slower: yokkuri hanashite kudasai (yo-koo-ree hah-nah-she-teh koo-dah-sai) ようっくりはなしてください

I don't understand: wakarimasen (wah-kah-ree-mah-sin) わかりません

I do understand: wakarimasu (wah-kah-ree-mas) わかります

Could you repeat that, please? moikkai itte itadakemasu ka (moh-ee-kai ee-teh ee-tah-dah-keh-mas ka) もいっかい いって いただけますか

Staying low waste in Japan:

No bag, please: baggu nashi desu (bag-goo nah-she dace) バッグなしです

Can you fill this with water? Kore o mizu de mitasemasu ka (koh-re oh mee-zoo day mee-tah-say-mas ka) これ お みず で みたせます か

Travel phrases:

Where is the ____? ____ wa doko desu ka? (____wah dough-koh dace ka?) ____ わどこですか Just plug in whatever word you need at the beginning, for example: toire wa doko desu ka; where is the bathroom?

- bathroom/toilet: oteari or toire (oh-teh-ah-ree or toh-ee-re) おてあり or トイレ

- train station: tetsudou eki (teh-tsue-dough eh-key) てつどう えき

- hotel: hoteru (ho-teh-roo) ホテル

- airport: kuko or eapoto (koo-koh or eh-ah-poh-toh) くうこう or エアポート

- police station: kouban (koh-bahn) こうばん

- convenience store: konbini (kohn-bee-knee) コンビニ

How much does it cost? ikura desu ka (ee-koo-rah dace ka) いくらですか

Excuse me: sumimasen (soo-mee-mah-sin) すみません this also works for "I'm sorry"

I'm sorry: gomennasai (goh-men-nah-sai) ごめんなさい this does not really work for excuse me

Do you have ____? ____ wa arimasu ka? (___wah ah-ree-mas ka?) ____ わありますか Just plug in whatever word you need at the beginning, for example: ramen wa arimasu ka; do you have ramen?

- ramen: ramen (rah-men, don't forget the hard "r") らめん or ラメン

- vegan/vegetarian food: biigan or bejitarian (bee-gin or beh-gee-tah-ree-in) ビーガン or ベジタリアン

- water: mizu (mee-zoo) みず

It was delicious: oishikattadesu (oh-ee-she-kah-tah-dace) おいしかったです

Go ahead: hai dozo or dozo (high dough-zoh or dough-zoh) はいどぞ or どぞ

That's right: so so or so desu (soh-soh or soh dace) そそ or そです

Please wait a minute: chotto matte (cho-toh mah-teh) ちょっとまって

What is this? kore wa nan desu ka? (koh-re wa nan dace kah) これわなんですか

What? nani (nah-knee) なに

Is credit card okay? kaddo wa daijoubu desu ka? (kah-dough wah die-joh-boo dace ka?) カッドわだいじょうぶですか

Help: tasukete (tahs-keh-teh) たすけて

Phrases you might hear:

Welcome: irasshaimase or irasshai (ee-ra-shy-mah-say or ee-ra-shy) いらっしやいませ or いらっしやい

Are you okay? daijoubu desu ka? (die-joh-boo dace ka?) だいじょうですか you might also hear shortened versions like, daijoubu or daijoubu desu


One: ichi (ee-chi) いち

Two: ni (knee) に

Three: san (sahn) さん

Four: yon (yohn) よん

Five: go (pronounced like English) ご

Six: roku (roh-koo) ろく

Seven: nana or shichi (nah-naha or she-chi) なな or しち

Eight: hachi (hah-chi) はち

Nine: kyuu or ku (kyoo or koo) きゅう or く

Ten: ju (joo) じゅう

Thanks for reading! Let me know if you'd like to see more small lessons. I hope this helps and you enjoy your travels throughout Japan.


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My name is Emma. I am a 20-year-old new to this sustainable lifestyle. I am here to give you