Essential Japanese Phrases for Travelers to Japan

Essential Japanese Phrases for Travelers to Japan

If you’re planning a trip to Japan and are concerned about the language barrier or simply love languages, we’ve got you covered with these essential Japanese phrases. Learning a few key words and phrases can enhance your travel experience and make your trip even better. Let’s dive into it!

The Most Essential Japanese Words & Phrases for Your Trip to Japan

Learning Japanese may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. While you don’t need to learn the language to have a great time in Japan, making a little effort can go a long way. We’ve narrowed down the most important words and phrases and divided them into categories:

  1. The Basics: Key Japanese Words and Phrases
  2. Food and Drink: Eating Your Way Around Japan
  3. Now or Later: Time-Related Phrases in Japanese
  4. Getting Around Japan: Transportation-Related Phrases

Here are the top 20 essential Japanese travel phrases you’ll find in each category:

  1. Konnichiwa (こんにちは) – Hello
  2. Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) – Thank you
  3. Sumimasen (すみません) – Excuse me
  4. o Kudasai (をください) – I would like __, please
  5. wa Doko Desu ka? (はどこですか) – Where is __?
  6. Itadakimasu (いただきます) – An expression of gratitude for the meal you’re about to eat
  7. Omakase de (お任せで) – Used to order chef’s recommendation (often for sushi)
  8. O-sake (お酒) – General term for alcohol
  9. Nihonshu (日本酒) – Japanese sake
  10. Kinen Seki (禁煙席) – Non-smoking seat
  11. Ima Nanji Desu ka? (今何時ですか) – What time is it now?
  12. Nanji ni? (何時に?) – At what time?
  13. Asa (朝) – Morning
  14. Kyou (今日) – Today
  15. Ashita (明日) – Tomorrow
  16. ni Ikitai (に行きたい) – I want to go to __
  17. Tomete Kudasai (止めてください) – Stop, please
  18. Kippu (切符) – Ticket
  19. Shinkansen (新幹線) – Bullet train
  20. Dono Densha? (どの電車?) – Which train?
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While these phrases are helpful, you don’t need to memorize them all. Learning just a few words and phrases can make a big difference during your trip. If you want to learn even more Japanese words and phrases, download our free Japanese Phrasebook.

Basic Japanese Words and Phrases

Let’s start with the most basic yet essential Japanese words and phrases. Even if you only remember how to say hello or thank you, Japanese people will appreciate your efforts.

  1. Konnichiwa (こんにちは) – Hello

Konnichiwa is a versatile greeting used during the day. It simplifies greetings by avoiding specific times such as good morning or good evening. Use it throughout the day to greet people.

  1. Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) – Thank you

Politeness is vital in Japanese culture, and saying thank you is essential. Arigatou Gozaimasu is the formal expression for thank you, while arigatou is more casual but still appropriate in most situations.

  1. Sumimasen (すみません) – Excuse me

Sumimasen is an important phrase used to get someone’s attention or to apologize. It’s a useful word to know and can be used in various situations.

  1. o Kudasai (をください) – I would like __, please

When ordering food or purchasing items, this phrase becomes handy. Just fill in the blank with the item you want. It’s beneficial to learn a few vocabulary words like water, beer, sake, and others you might need.

  1. wa Doko Desu ka? (はどこですか) – Where is __?

Knowing how to ask for directions is valuable while traveling. Use this phrase to ask where a specific place is. For example, wa doko desu ka? means “Where is ?” Combine it with key vocabulary such as eki, meaning station, to navigate more easily.

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Eating Your Way Around Japan: Food and Drink Phrases

Japanese food is a must-try for many travelers. These phrases will help you navigate culinary experiences and make the most of your dining adventures.

  1. Itadakimasu (いただきます) – An expression of gratitude for the meal you’re about to eat

While not required, saying itadakimasu before a meal shows appreciation and respect. It’s a simple way to acknowledge the food you’re about to enjoy.

  1. Omakase de (お任せで) – Used to order chef’s recommendation (often for sushi)

If you’re a sushi enthusiast, you might have heard of omakase. It means leaving the meal selection to the chef. When you want to try the chef’s recommendation, use this phrase.

  1. O-sake (お酒) – General term for alcohol

O-sake is the general term for alcohol in Japanese. It’s useful to know when asking for a beverage, but if you’re specifically looking for sake, use the word nihonshu.

  1. Nihonshu (日本酒) – Japanese sake

Nihonshu refers to traditional Japanese sake. If you’re a fan of sake, use this term to order the specific type of sake you want.

  1. Kinen Seki (禁煙席) – Non-smoking seat

For travelers sensitive to smoke, this phrase comes in handy. Use kinen seki to request a non-smoking seat when dining out or in other establishments that offer smoking and non-smoking sections.

Time-Related Phrases in Japanese

Understanding time-related phrases can be helpful in various travel situations. These phrases will assist you in planning and navigating your schedule.

  1. Ima Nanji Desu ka? (今何時ですか) – What time is it now?

If you need to know the time, ask Ima Nanji Desu ka? This phrase will help you get the current time, and people will be able to assist you even if you don’t understand the answer.

  1. Nanji ni? (何時に?) – At what time?
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When making reservations or asking for specific departure times, use this phrase. By adding ni, you’ll convey your intention more clearly.

  1. Asa (朝) – Morning

Asa means morning. Use this word when discussing breakfast or any morning-related activities.

  1. Kyou (今日) – Today

Kyou means today. It’s a useful word when purchasing train tickets or planning daily activities.

  1. Ashita (明日) – Tomorrow

Ashita means tomorrow. Remember that the i is nearly silent when pronouncing this word. It’s helpful for scheduling and making future plans.

Getting Around Japan: Transportation-Related Phrases

Navigating transportation in Japan can be a concern for travelers. These phrases will assist you in getting around the country smoothly.

  1. ni Ikitai (に行きたい) – I want to go to __

To express your desired destination, use __ ni ikitai. Fill in the blank with the place you want to go. For example, Kyoto ni ikitai means “I want to go to Kyoto.”

  1. Tomete Kudasai (止めてください) – Stop, please

When riding a taxi or using public transportation, tomete kudasai is useful. Use it to ask the driver to stop at your desired location.

  1. Kippu (切符) – Ticket

Kippu means ticket, specifically for train tickets. Knowing this word will assist you when purchasing tickets to different destinations.

  1. Shinkansen (新幹線) – Bullet train

Japan’s famous bullet train is called the shinkansen. If you’re planning to travel long distances within Japan, chances are you’ll be using the shinkansen. Enjoy the ride and grab some bento and nihonshu for the journey.

  1. Dono Densha? (どの電車?) – Which train?

If you are unsure which train to take, this phrase is helpful. By asking dono densha, someone will be able to point you in the right direction.

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While it’s not necessary to speak Japanese to travel in Japan, learning a few essential phrases can enhance your experience and make it more enjoyable. Japanese people appreciate any effort to learn their language, and it can lead to more meaningful interactions. Download our free Japanese Phrasebook for more words and phrases to help you navigate Japan. Remember to embrace the culture and enjoy your trip to Japan!

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