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Basic Japanese Phrases You Need To Learn before Traveling to Japan

By Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor July 12th, 2020 Posted in Asia Travel Blog, Travel Blog One Comment

Japan, the Land of the Rising Sun, is an amazing Country with an exciting culture, delicious cuisine and a blend of Nature and Modernness in their cities. Lately, they have proclaimed a new Emperor and to be in the generation to witness such thing happen is an honor.

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In Japan, besides Japanese, English is being taught to students. However, there are some who are too shy to speak the language. The older generation might not speak or will tell you that they can’t. My friends who went to Japan experience a lot of times when she tends to ask for directions people will say “No English.”

This guide will help you in your travel to Japan as this will list common phrases to be used in Japan. Also, speaking the native language will make locals appreciate you and could get you more help or attention.

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Here are basic Japanese phrases for your Japan Travel including Greetings, Introduction, Basic Responses, Accommodation, Transportation, Food, Emergency and practical terms that will be helpful in your travel in Japan.

Japan 101

The Japanese language has three components: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. Hiragana is used for Japanese words, Katakana for foreign words, Kanji are Chinese characters. The Japanese are syllables and a pair of consonants and vowels. The lone alphabets are the vowels (A, I, U, E, O) and N. The others are paired (Ka, Ki, Ku, Ke, Ko). Reading is quite easy as you just read it the way it is, except for m, p, t, and those ending with -u as you make it silent.

Hiragana: にほん

Katakana: ニホン

Kanji: 日本

Romaji (Romanized): Nihon

This is Japan in Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji. All is read as Ni-Hon. For Kanji, this Ni means Sun while Hon means Roots.

There are casual and polite in speaking the Japanese Language; casual is usually good for friends. However, for those tourists, though it is better to use the more polite version, broken Japanese or casual Japanese can be accepted as the polite ones are long and hard to memorize. Let’s say we want to ask where the train is, polite versions is “Eki e doko desu ka?,” you can say “Eki doko?”

Also, the Japanese are very polite; so you need to greet them with a bow and they will bow back. There are different kinds of bow depending on the degrees. A 15-degree bow is okay.

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Why is it important for Travelers to know Japanese Phrases?

As I have stated in the introduction, many people are shy in speaking English. When I asked my Japanese Friend why it’s because they are afraid to make mistakes. However, they may understand what you are saying, so you can speak especially the younger generation.

Older generations like those 60 and above might not understand. Also, for outer cities and provinces, English may not be spoken so you will definitely put this in good use.


Here are the basic greetings, you can do this with a head bow or a 15-degree bow.

Konnichiwa – Hi. Hello. Good day. Good afternoon.

Ohayou (Gozaimasu) (polite with Gozaimasu, read as Gozaimas) – Good Morning

Konbanwa – Good Evening

Oyasumi(nasai) – Good Night

Sayonara – GoodBye.

Ja or Mata ne (informal) – Good Bye or See You Later

(O)genki desu ka – How are you?

Genki desu – I am fine


Sumimasen – Excuse Me.

If asking questions or directions, you may start with this line to locals or strangers.

Please note that when it ends with u like -masu then you say at at -masu.

Watashi wa … desu – I am …

or Onamae wa … desu – My name is …

… kara kimashita – I am from …

… ni sundeimasu – I live in …

Watashi wa (country)-jin desu – I am (nationality).

(Example: Watashi wa Firipin-jin desu – I am Filipino)

Basic Responses

Hai – Yes

Iie – No

Tabun – Maybe

Honto? – Really?

Onegaishimasu (or add kudasai in the sentence) – Please

(Doumo) Arigatou (gozaimasu) (polite) – Thank You

Dou itashimashite (pronounced as do itash-mash-te) – You are Welcome


… wo hanashimasu ka (formal) – Do You Speak (language)?

Eigo wo hanashimasu ka – Do You Speak English?

Nihongo – Japanese

Sometimes, you can say “Eigo?” with a questioning tone and they can understand that you are asking if they speak English.

Wakarimasu – I understand

Wakarimasen – I don’t understand

Nihongo wa wakarimasen – I don’t understand Japanese.

Sukoshi Nihongo wo hanashimasu – I speak a little Japanese.

Mou Ichido Onegaishimasu – Again, please (In case someone is speaking to you and you didn’t get some words you can say this)

Yukkuri Onegaishimasu – Slowly, please

Dareka wa Eigo wo hanashimasu ka – Does someone can speak English?

… no Nihongo no iikata – How to say … in Japanese?

Directions and Places

Doko – Where?

… wa doko desu ka (formal) – Where is the …?

Example: Eki wa doko desu ka – Where is the train station?

Eki – Train Station

Hikouko – Airport

Basu – Bus

Hoteru –  Hotel

Byouin – Hospital

Konbini – Convenience Store

Depato – Department Store

… ni tsurete itte kudasai – Take me to …, please

… made dore kurai desu ka – How far is it to …

Dono Gurai no … ni tsure te iku no desu ka – How long does it take to …

Dou yatte … ni ikimasu ka – How do I go to ..?

Dochira – Which way?

Dochira e eki desu ka (formal) – Which way is the train station?

Migi – Right

Left – Hidari

Massugu – Straight

… e no chiketto wo 1-mai kudasai – One ticket to …, please


Kushitsu wa arimasu ka – Do you have any rooms available?

1-paku wa ikura desu ka – How much is one night?

Watashi wa … haku shimasu – I will stay for … nights.


…-yo no teburu wo onegaishimasu – A table for … person(s), please.

Menyu o goran kudasai – Can I see the menu, please?

Kono resutoran no senmon wa nan desu ka– What is the specialty of the Restaurant?

Nihon-ryouri wo tabetai – I want to eat Japanese cuisine.

Watashi wa … wo tabemasen – I don’t eat ….

Nomimasu – Drink

Niku (butaniku, toriniku, gyuuniku) – Meat (pork, chicken, beef)

Sakana – Fish

Biru – Beer

Mizu wo itadakemasu ka – May I have water, please.

Kampai! – Cheers!

Ryousho-sho wo onegaishimasu –The bill, please?

Before eating, you may say Itadakimasu – thank you for the meal and Gouchisousama deshita after eating


Ikura – How much

Hyaku-en (100-en) – 100 yen

Kore wa ikura desu ka – How much is this?

Kono wa watashi no saizu de motte imasu ka – Do you have that (near you) in my size

Ka-do wo ukeiremasu ka  – Do you accept credit card?

Kawase reto wa ikura desu ka – What is the exchange rate?

… ga hitsuyou desu – I need …

kusuri – medicine

tabemono – food

nomimono – drinks

omiyage – souvenirs


Tasukete – Help.

Tetsudatte itadakemasen ka – Could you please help me?

Keisatsu wo yobimasu – Call the Police

Mayotte imasu – I’m lost.

Baggu wo nakushita – I lost my bag

Kega o shite imasu – I am injured.

Watashi wa isha o hitsuyou to suru – I need a doctor.

Taishikan ni renraku shitai – I want to contact my Embassy.


There are different counting terms in Japan, for example for sticks it is i-pon, ni-pon; for hours ichi-jikan, ni-jikan; for months ichi-gatsu, ni-gatsu … But here are the basics on how to count.

Ichi – One

Ni – Two

San – Three

Yon/Shi – Four

Go  – Five

Roku – Six

Shichi / Nana – Seven

Hachi – Eight

Kyuu – Nine

Juu – Ten

Juu-ichi – Eleven

Ni-juu-ni – Twenty Two

Hyaku – One Hundred

Sen – One Thousand

man – Ten Thousand

Other terms that Maybe of use

Shashin wo totte kudasai – please take my picture

Shashin wo totte mo ii desu ka – can I take pictures?

Haitte mo ii desu ka – can I enter?

Iriguchi (deguchi) wa doko desu ka – where is the entrance (exit)

Kirei – Beautiful

Basic Japanese Phrases You Need To Learn before Traveling to Japan
Jezael Melgoza

Bookmark this article and use these Basic Japanese Phrases for your travel in Japan. This will really be of help to you and will help you experience talking to Japanese people or make a new friend. ​

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Written by Two Monkeys Travel - Contributor

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