Japanese survival guide for living Zero Waste in Japan

Updated: Sep 24, 2020

Today I am finally going to be giving you my key phrases for getting around Japan zero waste. If you missed my last few blog posts about vegan survival guide for Japanese phrases, Japanese phrases for travelers, and the basics of Japanese pronunciation, you can check them all out here.

These phrases are literally essential to get around Japan for low waste because they are quite plastic obsessed. If you’re interested in a video about why Japan is so obsessed with plastic let me know below and I’d love to make it. But, for example, they bag individual limes and bananas. I once used my own produce bag and the cashier STILL put it into a plastic produce bag. It’s quite insane, so I want to help you guys, too, to reduce some plastic consumption while in Japan and continue to live low waste lifestyles.

For this video, I’m going to drive around and run some errands so you can see these phrases in action. I will use the phrases live and then, once I’m back home, I’ll review the phrases slower so you can get a good idea of how to say them yourself. If you have questions, leave them down below.

The most important thing to remember when learning a new language, even just a few phrases, is to just say them. It’s scary at first, but once you do it a few times, it gets so much easier! Practice on your own, and don’t be too nervous. The Japanese are so nice and understand the effort you are putting in. Asking in Japanese, even rough Japanese, shows that you care and are trying!

Something else to note with Japanese is that they use a lot of non-verbals. First, speak politely, and don’t be rude. Other small gestures like using your hand to signal “none,” slightly nodding your head or bowing, and of course, don’t forget a smile to soften the message.

First, I headed to Starbucks. Now, I don’t normally support Starbucks, but Starbucks Japan always has AMAZING seasonal flavors, and summer’s flavor is peach, so I thought why not?! Unfortunately, I am restricted from going inside the shop during the pandemic and can’t use my own cup in the drive-thru. But, I’m still going to show you how I would ask to use my own cup as well as how I ask for soy milk vs regular milk.

First, how to use your own cup:

“kono kappu o tsukaemasu ka?”

(この カップ を使えます か)

It literally translates into, can I use this cup? Here it is broken down slowly:

This phrase might be a bit tricky for new Japanese learners, so give it a lot of practice! The best tip I have typed it into Google Translate (plug in the phrase and let Google tell you how to say it) and listen to how it is said via Google.

Next, how to ask for soy milk instead. There are a couple of ways, but I simply ask:

“tounyuu wa arimasu ka?”


Which literally translates to “do you have soy milk?” If they do, they might ask if you want soy milk to which you can reply “hai.”

Alternatively, you can ask, “can I get it with soy milk?”

“tounyuu de kaemasu ka?”


Another phrase you might have caught me saying is “no straw please” or “I don’t need a straw.” This one is fairly simple and is just:

“sutoroo wa irimasen”

(ストロー はいりません)

Alternatively, you can use

“wara iranai”


Which this directly translates into “I don’t need” but they can imply you don’t need a straw (or even a bag) if that is what is being referred to.

I will include an entire list of ways to say these phrases in the blog post if you prefer one phrase over the other. Just as a disclaimer, though, I am not fluent in Japanese so these might not be solid, but they should work. If you speak Japanese and you’re reading this, please feel free to help us out below!

Next, I headed to the konbini, or convenience store. In this case Family Mart. I needed to meet someone here to drop off a SCOBY for Kombucha making and figured I’d snag a few snacks to have at work. Plus, this was a great opportunity to show you just how hard it is to shop plastic-free in Japan! If you’d like a more in-depth video about shopping low waste in Japan let me know below!

The first phrase I used to say, “no bag please” was...

“baggu nashi de”


Which literally translates to “without a bag.” I have had no problem using this phrase and they usually know what I am intending to say.

This phrase is very easy to pronounce and very easy to remember, in my opinion. I started out using this phrase because it was easiest for me, but there is another way to say it, too. Check it out.

Now, I’m at JA (or San A) to pick up a few dragon fruits for a future video. I’m going to try to make my own natural clothing dye so stay tuned for that. But, I wanted to show you another way to say, no bag please, because, trust me, they ALWAYS want to use a bag! If they don’t understand one phrase or the other, I usually say the other phrase to really get my point across.

This is another way to say “no bag, please” and is a bit more formal. Both phrases work just as well though.

This one is “fukuro wa irimasen”


This one translates more into “I don’t need a bag” and can be used at any store, restaurant, and so forth. Alternatively to this phrase, you can also use “fukuro wa iranai desu” which literally translates into “I don’t need a bag.” Again, a complete list of phrases will be linked in the description to the blog post that goes along with this video. There are several phrases for each phrase in English, they all mean the same and are widely accepted, just choose your favorite to remember.

Another phrase that might come in handy is something that roughly translates to...

“I don’t need anything, you can leave it as it is” and that is...

Nani mo iranai desu. Kono mama de daijoubu desu”


Or, you can just simply use, “kono mama de ii desu” to say “it is okay how it is.”

Lastly, the magic phrase that can get you through almost any wasteful situation is “daijoubu desu.” (大丈夫です) It literally translates to “it’s okay” but can be used to mean “I’m okay.”

You can use this when someone is about to hand you a bag or a straw, just a simple “daijoubu desu” will save the day.

There are a few other things you might want to refuse such as Oshibori (Japanese-style wet hand towels), spoon/fork, and so forth. Here is a general template you can use:

First, you can use “______ nashi onegaishimasu” (literally, without)

Second, “______ wa iranai desu”

Third, “______ wa irimasen”

All three of these get the point across though they have slightly different meanings. Choose which one works best for you. All you have to do is plug in the word you need such as:

  • Baggu (バッグ)

  • Sutoroo (ストロー)

  • Supun (スプーン)

  • Fooku (フォーク)

  • Oshibori (おしぼり)

  • Reshiito (レシート)

  • Kappu (カップ)

  • And so forth

Another template you might want to use is: “Kono _____ o tsukaemasu ka.” (この_____を使えますか)

Sound familiar? I used this example when talking about using my own cup at Starbucks! You can use this to build sentences like “can I use this bag” or “can I use this container.”

You can substitute words for the blank such as:

  • Kontena (コンテナ)

  • Baggu (バッグ)

  • Kappu (カップ)

  • And so forth