Japanese Survival Phrases – Guide

Gain confidence in travelling with our Japanese language tips

By Edward Yagisawa Cannell   Jun 23, 2015 - 11 min read

Perhaps the biggest worry tourists face when travelling to Japan is the language – how are you expected to get by in a country with three different alphabets, two of which have 50 characters and the other over 3,000!

Overview

While many Japanese people know rudimentary English and the standard of English in Japan has been rising in recent years, there is always the fear of a misunderstanding in communication throwing your plans off kilter. But fear not – just keep this guide of survival phrases handy and you should have no problem!

Top 10 Japanese Phrases

Phrase Japanese Romanization
Hello こんにちは Konnichiwa
Excuse me すみません Sumimasen
Where is _______? ___はどこですか。 ____ wa doko desu ka.
How much is this? これはいくらですか? Kore wa ikura desu ka?
Can you speak English? 英語を話せますか? Eigo wo hanase masu ka?
Please take me to _____. ___に連れて行ってください。 _____ ni tsurete itte kudasai
May I have a map? 地図をください。 Chizu wo kudasai.
What do you recommend? おすすめは? Osusume wa?
Does this train/bus go to _____? この電車/バスは___に行きますか? Kono densha/bus wa ____ ni ikimasu ka?
Thank you. ありがとうございます。 Arigatou gozaimasu.

Greetings

Let’s start with the basics - get off on the right foot and leave a good impression by mastering hello, please, and thank you! And don’t panic if they talk to you in Japanese – use some of the phrases below and you’ll be fine!

Phrase Japanese Romanization
Hello こんにちは Konnichiwa
Good bye さようなら Sayounara
Good morning おはようございます Ohayou gozaimasu
Good evening こんばんは Konbanwa
Good night おやすみ Oyasumi
Yes はい Hai
No いいえ Iie
Excuse me すみません Sumimasen
Please お願いします Onegai shimasu
Thank you ありがとうございます Arigatou gozaimasu
Thank you in advance よろしくお願いします Yoroshiku onegai shimasu
You're welcome どういたしまして Dou itashi mashite
Sorry ごめんなさい Gomennasai
Sorry (more formally) 申し訳ありません Moushi wake arimasen
I understand わかります Wakari mashita
I don't understand わかりません Wakari masen
That's okay/I'm okay 大丈夫です Daijoubu desu.
My name is _______. 私の名前は___です Watashi no namae wa _____ desu.
What is your name? あなたのお名前は何ですか Anata no onamae wa nandesuka.
Mr./Mrs./Ms. ________ ____さん ______ san
How are you? お元気ですか? Ogenki desuka?
I’m fine. 元気です Genki desu
Nice to meet you. 初めまして Hajime mashite.
Zero, one, two, three, four ゼロ、一、二、三、四 Zero, ichi, ni, san, yon
Five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten 五、六、七、八、九、十 Go, roku, nana, hachi, kyuu, jyuu
Do you speak English? 英語を話せますか? Eigo wo hanase masuka?
I don’t understand Japanese. 日本語がわかりません。 Nihongo ga wakari masen.
Could you repeat that please? もう一度お願いします。 Mou ichido onegai shimasu.
Could you speak slower please? もう少しゆっくりお願いします。 Mou sukoshi yukkuri onegaishimasu.

Getting around

It goes without saying that Japan is full of wonderful tourist sites, from temples and shrines to modern skyscrapers. But at the same time, Japan’s expansive public transportation system, while definitely impressive, can be completely confusing for first time tourists, even with the English signs and announcements. While many taxi and bus drivers and station staff know basic English, get to your desired location by learning these phrases!

Phrase Japanese Romanization
I want to go here. ここに行きたいです Koko ni ikitai desu
Where do you
recommend?
おすすめはどこですか Osusume wa doko desuka
Please take me to _____. ___に連れて行ってください ____ ni tsurete itte kudasai
How do I go to ____? ___にはどうやって行けますか ____ ni wa dou yatte ikemasuka
Turn left/right 左/右に曲がる Hidari/migi ni magaru
Straight まっすぐ Massugu
Where is _______? ___はどこですか ____ wa doko desuka
Bathroom トイレ Toire
Convenience store コンビニ Konbini
Train station Eki
Bus stop バス停 Basu tei
Airport 空港 Kuukou
Hospital 病院 Byouin
Embassy 大使館 Taishikan
Police box 交番 Kouban
Bank 銀行 Ginkou
How long does it take to get there? / How much will it cost to get there? どれぐらいかかりますか Dore gurai kakari masuka
Is it within walking distance? 歩いて行けますか Aruite ikemasuka
Is it near from here? ここから近いですか Koko kara chikai desuka
Does this train/bus go to ____? この電車/バスは___に行きますか Kono densha/bus wa _____ ni ikimasuka?
May I have a map please? 地図をください Chizu wo kudasai
Reservation 予約 Yoyaku
Can you take a picture for me please? 写真をとってもらえますか Shashin wo totte morae masuka

Shopping

Traditional intricate ornaments, quirky electronic gadgets, authentic powdered tea leaves, rare limited edition Kit-Kats, Uniqlo – the list of potential souvenirs for yourself and for others are endless when you’re in Japan. Master these useful phrases for shopping in Japan and go on a shopping spree!

Phrase Japanese Romanization
Store Mise
Money お金 Okane
I want this. これが欲しいです Kore ga hoshii desu
I want _____. __が欲しいです ____ ga hoshii desu
Do you have ____? __はありますか ____ wa ari masuka
How much is this? これはいくらですか Kore wa ikura desuka
Cheap 安い Yasui
Expensive 高い Takai
Free 無料 Muryou
Can I pay with credit card? カードで払えますか。 Kaado de harae masuka
Clothes 洋服 Youfuku
Shoes Kutsu
Electronics 電子機器 Denshi kiki
Souvenirs お土産 Omiyage
Duty-free goods 免税品 Menzei hin
What products do you recommend? おすすめの商品は何ですか Osusume no shouhin wa nandesuka
What time are you open until? いつまで営業してますか Itsu made eigyou shite masuka
May I have a receipt please. 領収書をください Ryoushuu sho wo kudasai
Where can I exchange money? 両替はどこでできますか Ryougae wa doko de dekimasuka

Dining

Don’t limit yourself to fast food restaurants or convenience stores because you don’t know the language - you’re missing out on way too much! Look at the list of dining phrases below and you’ll find out that ordering food in Japan is much easier than you think!

Phrase Japanese Romanization
Restaurant レストラン Resutoran
Where is a good to eat? おすすめのレストランは? Osusume no resutoran wa?
What do you recommend? (Menu) おすすめは? Osusume wa?
Food 食べ物 Tabemono
Drink 飲み物 Nomimono
Meat Niku
Rice ご飯 Gohan
Noodles Men
Vegetables 野菜 Yasai
Water (お)水 (O) mizu
Chopsticks (お)箸 (O) hashi
May I have this? これをください Kore wo kudasai
(before eating) いただきます Itadakimasu
(after eating) ごちそうさまでした Gochisousamadeshita
This tastes good! おいしいです! Oishii desu!
Do you have a vegetarian menu? ベジタリアン用のメニューはありますか Bejitarian you no menyuu wa arimasu ka
May I pay? お会計をお願いします Okaikei wo onegai shimasu

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Edward Yagisawa Cannell

Edward Yagisawa Cannell @Edward Yagisawa Cannell

Intern at JapanTravel & rising 4th year (senior) at the University of Virginia.  3/4 Japanese and 1/4 Australian; born and currently live in Yokohama.  My favorite spots in Japan (aside from Yokohama) are Hokkaido, Okinawa, and Tochigi, but hopefully someday I'll get to visit all 47 prefectures.

Join the discussion

Victoria Vlisides 3 years ago
Definitely linking this to my friend who just moved to Japan!
Louis Tan 3 years ago
I have visited Japan with only limited knowledge of Japanese. This list is certainly useful.
Justin Velgus 3 years ago
You forgot "toriaezu biiru!" Let's start things off with a beer!
Edward Yagisawa Cannell Author 3 years ago
I can't believe I forgot; it's probably the most commonly used Japanese phrase at night!
Lester Goh 3 years ago
This is fantastic. I only wish I had this guide when I first visited Japan. Very handy. Thanks Edward!
Tom Roseveare 3 years ago
Yes – this should be a fantastic resource for new visitors to Japan.