Top Japanese Phrases for Travel

For the most part, you could probably survive in Japan without actually knowing any Japanese, especially if you are doing a guided tour of Japan. Most of the signs have English translations, and many of the train stations have announcements in English as well as Japanese. However, I think that your trip overall is a lot less stressful if you know at least some basics in Japanese. Check out my list of recommended survival Japanese phrases for travel in Japan!

Top Japanese Phrases for Travel | Footsteps of a Dreamer

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Greetings

Greetings are essentials. You’ll likely hear at least one of these during any conversation you have.

Japanese – HiraganaJapanese – Roman CharactersEnglish
こんにちはKonnichiwa“Good afternoon” or general “hello”
おはようございますOhayou Gozaimasu“Good morning”
こんばんはKonbanwa“Good evening”
いらっしゃいませIrasshaimase“Welcome!”
(Typically shouted by store attendants and waitresses when walking in shops and restaurants.)

Being Polite

Being polite is huge in Japan, and it reflects in the language. Knowing these will and using them often will go a long way with native Japanese.

Japanese – HiraganaJapanese – Roman CharactersEnglish
ありがとうございますArigatou gozaimasu“Thank you”
すみませんSumimasen“Excuse me”
ごめんなさいGomen nasai“I’m sorry”

You can give a more informal “thanks” by dropping the “gozaimasu” and just saying “arigatou.” The same goes for “I’m sorry.” Dropping the “nasai” and just saying “gomen” makes it more informal. However, you are better off erring on the side of politeness and formality by saying the full “arigatou gozaimasu” and “gomen nasai.”

Answers

This is pretty self-explanatory. If you are asked a question, you’ll want to be able to give a basic answer.

Japanese – HiraganaJapanese – Roman CharactersEnglish
はいHai“Yes”
いいえIie“No”

Introductions

I wouldn’t considered introductions to be absolutely essential Japanese phrases for travel, as most scenarios likely won’t require you to actually introduce yourself. However, if you are looking to make some basic conversation with the locals and maybe even make a new friend, it might be worth knowing simple introductions.

Japanese – HiraganaJapanese – Roman CharactersEnglish
私の名前はNAMEですWatashi no namae wa [name] desu“My name is [name]”
お名前は何ですか
Onamae wa nan desu ka?“What’s your name?”
初めましてHajimemashite“It’s nice to meet you”
ご出身はどちらですか?Goshusshin wa dochira desu ka?“Where are you from?”
私はPLACEからですWatashi wa [place] kara desu “I am from [place]”

Directions

Asking for directions is probably one of the most common situations you’ll find yourself in, and unfortunately also one of the most difficult. Depending on why you are trying to go, the other person’s answer could be one word, or it could be three sentences. Even if you can’t understand the other person’s full response, knowing basic directional words should help you comprehend the gist of it.

Japanese – HiraganaJapanese – Roman CharactersEnglish
PLACEに行きたいです[Place] ni ikitai desu“I want to go to [place].”
(For example, I want to go to Shinjuku station would be, “Shinjuku eki ni ikitai desu.”)
PLACEはどこですか?[Place] wa doko desu ka?“Where is [place]?”
(For example, where is the restroom would be, “toire wa doko desu ka?”)
まっすぐMassugu“Go straight” or “continue forward”
Migi“Right”
Hidari“Left”

Transportation

For the most part, you’ll find that many trains and signs have English translations after the Japanese. However, there may be rare occasions (especially if you get outside the big cities) where there are no English translations. Plus transportation often comes up when asking for directions. So, I highly recommend you commit these basic travel Japanese phrases to memory, or at least have them easily available for reference.

Japanese – HiraganaJapanese – Roman CharactersEnglish
電車Denshya“Train”
地下鉄Chikatetsu“Subway”
Eki“Train station”
バスBasu“Bus”
バス停Basutei“Bus stop”
普通Futsuu“Local train”
快速Kaisoku“Rapid” or “Semi-express train”
急行Kyuukou“Express train”
特急Tokkyuu“Limited Express”
この(電車/バス)はPLACEに行きますか?Kono [denshya/basu] wa [place] ni ikimasu ka?“Does this [train/bus] go to [place]?”
(For example, does this train go to Asakusa station would be, “Kono denshya wa asakusa eki ni ikimasu ka?”)

Numbers

Numbers are especially useful Japanese phrases when traveling, as you’ll likely hear them any time you go shopping. When you check out at the counter, the attendant will tell you how much you owe. In many cases, the cash register will show the numeric number you owe, but just in case it doesn’t, you’ll need to know how much you owe in order to know what cash to give them.

For this reason, I also recommend knowing more than just the basic on through ten. Even the cheapest items in Japan are ¥100. Most things like meals will be closer to ¥2,000. You’ll need to know how to say things like one hundred and one thousand.

Japanese – HiraganaJapanese – Roman CharactersEnglish
Ichi“One”
Ni“Two”
San“Three”
Yon“Four”
Go“Five”
Roku“Six”
Nana“Seven”
Hachi“Eigh”t
Kyuu“Nine”
Juu“Ten”
十一Juu ichi“Eleven”
十二Juu ni“Twelve”
十三Juu san“Thirteen”
二十Ni juu“Twenty”
三十San juu“Thirty”
四十Yon juu“Forty”
九十九Kyuu juu kyuu“Ninety-nine”
Hyaku“One Hundred”
二百Ni hyaku“Two Hundred”
三百San byaku“Three Hundred”
四百Yon hyaku“Four Hundred”
六百Roppyaku“Six Hundred”
八百Happyaku“Eight Hundred”

*Note that 300, 600, and 800 have irregular pronunciations. Try and say “Hachi hyaku.” Not easy to say, is it? As you get into the higher Japanese numbers, you’ll begin to notice a pattern that the pronunciation of certain numbers has been slightly changed to make them easier to say.

Japanese – HiraganaJapanese – Roman CharactersEnglish
Sen“One Thousand”
二千Ni sen“Two Thousand”
三千San zen“Three Thousand”
四千Yon sen“Four Thousand”
八千Hassen“Eight Thousand”
Man“Ten Thousand”
二万Ni man“Twenty Thousand”

*Note that 3,000 and 8,000 have irregular pronunciations.

Shopping

Many stores will display the price of the various items for sale. However, on occasion (especially at smaller shops or for unusual items), the price might not be immediately visible. If that’s the case you can ask an attendant how much an item is. Also, you can indicate to the attendant that you have decided to buy something.

Japanese – HiraganaJapanese – Roman CharactersEnglish
(これは)いくらですか?(Kore wa) ikura desu ka?“How much is this?”
(The “Kore wa” means “this.” If it is obvious, you can omit it and just say “ikura desu ka?”)
これをくださいKore o kudasai“I’ll take this”

Restaurants

Aside from transportation, probably some of the most useful Japanese phrases for travel are food related. If you plan on eating at some restaurants while in Japan, you’ll likely be asked how many people are in your group, and if you want a smoking or non-smoking section. Depending on the restaurant, you may also be asked whether you want to take out or dine in.

Japanese – HiraganaJapanese – Roman CharactersEnglish
こちらでめしあがりますか?お持ち帰りですか?Kochira de meshiagarimasu ka, omochikaeri desu ka?“Will you eat here or take out?”
てんないでTennai de“I’m eating here”
持ち帰りでMochikaeri de“I’m taking this to go”
何名様ですか?
Nan mei sama desu ka?“How many people?”
禁煙お願いしますKinen onegaishimasu“Non-smoking table please”
喫煙お願いしますKitsuenseki onegaishimasu“Smoking table please”
こちらへどうぞKochira e douzo“Please sit here”
英語のメニューがありますか?
Eigo no menyuu ga arimasu ka?“Do you have an English menu?”
ベジタリアン
メニュー はありますか?
Bejitarian menyuu wa arimasu ka?“Do you have a vegetarian menu?”
ITEMにアレルギーがあります[Food item] ni arerugi ga arimasu“I am allergic to [food item]”
ITEMおねがいします[Menu item] onegaishimasu“I’ll have [menu item]”
おすすめは何ですか?Osusume wa nan desu ka?“What do you recommend?”
ごちそうさまでしたGochisousama deshita“Thanks for the food”
(Typically said after you’ve finished eating)

Conversation

Learning a foreign language is hard. Actually using it in conversation is even harder. Most Japanese will be super appreciative that you made the effort to learn their language. Don’t be afraid to ask for a little assistance if you get stuck.

Japanese – HiraganaJapanese – Roman CharactersEnglish
日本語をわかりませんNihongo o wakarimasen“I don’t understand Japanese”
わかりませんWakarimasen“I don’t understand”
もう一度おねがいしますMou ichido onegaishimasu“Can you repeat that?”
(Literally translates to “one more time please”)
ゆっくり話してくださいYukkuri hanashi te kudasai“Can you please speak slower”
英語が話せますか?Eigo ga hanasemasu ka?“Can you speak English?”

Other useful phrases

Depending on the situation, you may also find these Japanese travel phrases useful as well.

Japanese – HiraganaJapanese – Roman CharactersEnglish
トイレはどこですか?Toire wa doko desu ka?“Where is the restroom?”
気分が悪いですKibun warui desu“I don’t feel well”
病院Byouin“Hospital”
靴を脱いで下さいKutsu wa nuide kudasai“Please remove your shoes”
(You may run into this when entering dressing rooms at clothing stores or when entering certain shrines and temples)

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Top Japanese Phrases for Travel | Footsteps of a Dreamer

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