Basic Japanese Phrases And Words For Travelers

Are you planning your trip to Japan? If you travel to Japan for the first time, you may have language barriers as not many Japanese can speak English. However, fear not.

Here are some essential Japanese phrases and words to help you with greetings, ordering at restaurants, shopping, counting, and getting around. 

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Greetings in Japanese

One of the main things that I love about Japanese culture is their communication. The basic “Hello” in Japanese is “Konichiwa.”

Here are other Japanese phrases that you can use when greeting:

  • Good morning: Ohayo gozai masu (おはようございます)
  • Good afternoon: Konichiwa (こんにちは). It can also be used when greeting the first meeting, regardless of the time of day, similar to Hello.
  • Good evening: Konbanwa (こんばんは)
  • What’s your name?: Namae wa?
  • My name is …: Watashi wa …
  • Nice to meet you: Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu. (よろしくおねがいします)
  • How are you?: Ogenki desuka? (お元気ですか)
  • Goodbye: Sayonara (さよなら)
  • See you again!: Mata ne. (またね)
  • I don’t understand: Wakarimasen (わかりません)

Basic Japanese phrases and words

Here are some essential Japanese phrases and words to know when visiting Japan. Besides greetings, learning how to say “thank you” and “sorry” is also helpful.

  • Thank you: Arigatou (ありがとう)
  • Yes: Hai (はい)
  • No: Ie (いいえ)

When disturbing someone, even if it is the smallest thing – please don’t forget the apology because that’s how the person who gets the apology feels less bothered.

  • Sorry/ Excuse me: Sumimasen (すみません)
  • Sorry (If you make a mistake: Gomen nasai (ごめんなさい)
  • Please: Onegaishimasu (おねがいします)
  • You’re welcome: Doitashimashite (どういたしまして)
  • When: Itsu (いつ)
  • Where: Doko (どこ)
  • What time is it: Ima wa nan ji desu ka. (今は何時ですか)

How to order Japanese food in a restaurant?

Basic Japanese phrases and words

If you are traveling to Tokyo or other main tourist areas, the restaurants usually have a menu in English. However, not all Japanese restaurants have an English menu for foreigners, so it may not be easy to order.

Here are some basic Japanese phrases and words you can use at restaurants in Japan.

  • Can I have a beer?: Biru Onegaishimasu
  • Can I have (name of food or drinks)?: (Name of food or beverages) Onegaishimasu

Before meals, Japanese people often clasp their hands in front of their chests and say: Itadakimasu (いただきます)

Essential Japanese words for food & drinks

Many Japanese menus don’t have English, so you may try to recognize the words or ask the waiter in Japanese.

  • Sweet: Amai (甘い)
  • Salty: Shiokarai (塩辛い)
  • Spicy: Tsurai (辛い)
  • Beef: Gyu Niku (牛肉)
  • Pork: Buta Niku (豚肉)
  • Chicken meat: Tori Niku (鶏肉)
  • Fish: Sakana (魚)
  • Rice: Gohan (ご飯)
  • Soup: Supu (スープ)
  • Beer: Biru (ビル)
  • Alcohol Liquid: Sake (お酒)

-> Please check the Japanese food list for more words. 

Counting in Japanese

Here are some basic phrases you can use when going shopping. Please note that Japanese people don’t bargain when selling their products.

  • How much is it?: Ikura desu ka? (いくらですか)
  • I want this: Kore o kudasai (これをくださ)

Here is how to pronounce the Japanese numbers.

  • One: Ichi 一
  • Two: Ni 二
  • Three: San 三
  • Four: Yon 四
  • Five: Go 五
  • Six: Roku 六
  • Seven: Nana 七
  • Eight: Hachi 八
  • Nine: Kyu 九
  • Ten: Jyu 十

How to ask for direction in Japanese?

For those traveling or living and working in Japan, the problem of getting lost is inevitable. You may need to ask for the help of the natives. 

Where is it?: Doko? (どこ)

If you’d like to ask for any location, you can ask …. + [doko desu ka?] (どこですか)

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For example:

  • Where is the hotel?: Hoteru wa doko desu ka?
  • Where is the restaurant?: Resutoran wa doko desu ka?
  • Where is the toilet?: Toire wa doko desu ka?

Japanese phrases to ask for directions

1. Excuse me. I’m lost. I don’t know where I am right now.
(Sumimasen,-dō ni mayotte shimaimashita. Ima doko ni imasu ka?)

2. Excuse me, on this map, where am I? Can you please help me?
(Sumimasen, kono chizu de, watashi wa doko ni imasu ka? O oshiete moraemasen ka.)

3. Excuse me. I want to go to … can you show me how to go?
(Sumimasen,… E ikitai ndesuga, dō yatte ikemasu ka?)

4. Excuse me. I want to go to … where is the nearest train or subway station?
(Sumimasen,… E ikitai desuga, ichiban chikai eki ya chikatetsu nado wa dokodesu ka?)

5. Excuse me, from here to … is it far? From here to … how long does it take?
(Sumimasen, koko kara… Made tōidesu ka? Dono kurai kakarimasu ka?)

6. Excuse me, can I walk to …?

7. Excuse me, is there a bus stop here?
(Sumimasen, … E aruite itte mo īdesu ka?)

8. Excuse me, besides taking to go to …, is there any other way?
(Sumimasen,… e wa takushī igai no wa, nani ga arimasu ka?)

Basic Japanese words for location

  • Hotel: Hoteru (ホテル)
  • Restaurant: Resutoran (レストラン)
  • Toilet: Toire (トイレ)
  • Police station: Keisatsusho (警察署)
  • Hospital: Byoin (病院)
  • Train station: Eki (えき – 駅)
  • Bank: Ginko (銀行)
  • Park: Koen (公園)
  • Post office: Yuubinkyoku (郵便局)
basic Japanese phrases and words when traveling

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