Top 10 Essential Words/Phrases for Travelers in Japan

on
2.03.2017
Hello! Or I could say おはようございます、こんにちは、or こんばんわ depending on what timezone you're in! I know people regard konnichiwa as the standard greeting, but I think it's nice to personalize it to wherever you are ♥

So you clicked on this post and are wondering a few things, such as:

- what are some essential traveler words for Japan?
- will there be any listed that I may not know?
- does it matter if I can't speak Japanese when I'm in Japan?

Let's start with the last question first (so random, I know)- Does it matter if you can't speak Japanese when you're in Japan? 

If, for some reason, Japanese just doesn't come to your or you can't bother yourself to learn it, don't worry! Japan is actually a very English friendly place (I'm assuming you comprehend English to some point if you're reading this), and is increasing it's English friendly-ness all the time! 

You'll find the street signs are in English, and depending on the demographics of the tourists, you may even see Russian (I saw this a lot in Kyoto), Chinese, and Korean. 

cr: bevistravels

So if you can't read kanji, or a lick of Japanese, there's a good chance you'll still be able to get around.
However, I find learning a few words of the native language to be a sign of respect to the people who live in the country you're visiting. Not everyone is going to know your language, and since you're in a foreign area, it's definitely worth your while to learn at least a few words.


Let's start with some of the extreme basics that I hope you already know!

1.ありがとうございます/arigatou gozaimasu - This means "thank you". Keep in mind that "ri" will be pronounced like a Spanish "L", with the tip of your tongue touching the roof of your mouth, effectively making a "li" sound. 

2.すみません/sumimasen - You've seen the pictures of those crowded trains in Tokyo during rush hour right? When you're being jostled around and accidentally bump into someone, a polite "sumimasen!" can't hurt since it essentially means "excuse me", but in an apologetic manner. You can also use this to get the attention of your waiter/waitress, or the shop staff, or even a policeman if you need help with something. This is a good catch-all for the "Excuse me"/"Oh, sorry" category.

3.おねがいします/onegai shimasu/ください/kudasai - Essentially, both of these mean "please". However, since I've literally rewritten this section about 10 times, I want to direct you to this great example on the differences and when it's appropriate to use either!

4.日本語を少しわかります/nihongo (w)o sukoshi wakarimasu - "I understand a little Japanese". Basically, this will be a good indicator that, although you know a tiny bit of Japanese, whoever you are speaking to may use easier vocabulary, or even switch to English! My dad taught me this phrase when I was little, and even though I've been lazily studying Japanese for a few years now, I still use it!

5.____はどこですか/________wa doko desu ka? - "Where is _____?". This will be a great one to utilize if you're lost, or looking for something. "Where is the bathroom?"/おてあらいはどこですか?/otearai wa doko desu ka?. 

6.いただきます/itadakimasu/ごちそうさまでした/gochisousamadeshita - "I'll eat now" & "Thank you for the meal" are essentially what these translate into. I don't care for transliteration, so just knowing you say いただきます at the beginning of a meal and ごちそうさまでした at the end is enough. If you're eating with Japanese people, or eating at their home, this will impress them and show you did some research before you journeyed to Japan!

7.いくらですか/ikura desu ka - how much is it? You can ask this if  you're curious about a price when you're looking at an item. I think if you're planning on shopping for souvenirs (aka in Japan as おみやげ/omiyage), it might be useful to know the price.

8.はい/hai/そうです/sou desu - "Yes" and "yes", but in different formats, essentially. Hai is a lot more direct, while sou desu, usually ending with ne or ka to indicate a "is that so?" air, is a lot more common. I'm not really expecting anyone to use these unless they understand a more conversational level of Japanese, but just in case you were wondering what the words meant, I thought I'd include them.

9.けっこうです/kekkou desu - "I'm alright". This one is important to know in case someone is offering you something and you're really not interested, or if they're offering more and you're fine with whatever you have. Basically, it means "no thanks", but a lot more politely. Note: iie is sometimes said with this, but the word "no" in Japanese isn't exactly a popular one.

10.またね~!/mata ne~! - "See you later!" This is informal, but I figure since after you visit Japan once, you'll be leaving with a cheery またね!thrown over your shoulder, since you'll be back soon enough ♥

I hope this helped you! Do you have any questions, or suggestions for phrases/words one ought to know when traveling to Japan? Leave me a comment down below!

じゃ、またね!