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100 Phrases To Memorize Before Traveling To Japan

japanese phrases

Translated by Miki Takeshita

Written by Matcha Admin

2020.04.02 Bookmark

Want to help you trip to Japan go smoothly? Here are 100 useful expressions covering major topics like shopping, restaurants and emergencies to help you along in most situations.

100 Japanese Phrases to Learn

English is still not widely spoken in Japan, though there are many multilingual signs and information centers within train stations and major sightseeing spots.

In order to make your visit go a bit more smoothly, we have picked out useful phrases and words for you to practice in Japanese.

Handy Japanese Phrases

1. Basic Expressions
2. Transportation
3. Sightseeing
4. Shopping
5. Restaurant/Izakaya
6. Accommodation
7. When in Trouble

1. Basic Expressions

おはようございます OHAYOUGOZAIMASU (Oh-ha-yo-go-za-i-mas)
Good morning

こんにちは KONNICHIWA (Kon-ni-chi-wah)

こんばんは KONBANWA (Kon-ban-wah)
Good Evening

またね MATANE (Ma-ta-ne)
Bye/See you

People may often translate "goodbye" as being "sayonara" in Japanese, but this is a much more formal word and tends to have a more permanent tone to it, like a farewell. When speaking casually, "matane" is typically used.

すみません SUMIMASEN (Sue-me-ma-sen)
Excuse me/Pardon?

ごめんなさい GOMENNASAI (Go-men-nah-sigh)
I'm sorry

ありがとう ARIGATOU (A-li-gah-toe)
Thank you

おおきに OOKINI (O-o-ki-ni)
Thank you (used in Kansai, especially Osaka prefecture)

わかりません WAKARIMASEN (Wa-ka-ri-ma-sen)
I have no idea/I don't know

はい HAI (Hi)

いいえ IIE (E-aye)

あなた ANATA (A-na-ta)

わたし WATASHI (Wa-ta-she)
Me, myself, I

英語 EIGO (Eh-go)

If you are trying to find information in English, you may want to ask someone for help, most easily done by saying "Eigo?" However, you may have some trouble finding an English speaker when outside of major sightseeing areas.
これはなんですか? KOREWANANNDESUKA? (Ko-re-wa-nan-des-ka)
What is this?

Don’t hesitate to ask questions. People in Japan are kind and will definitely try their best to help you.

それはどこですか? SOREWADOKODESUKA? (So-re-wa-do-ko-des-ka)
Where is that?

◯◯に行きたい ◯◯NI IKITAI (◯◯ni I-ki-tai)
I want to go to --.

失礼します SHITSUREISHIMASU (She-tsu-ray-she-mas)
May I enter?/Thank you for your time/Goodbye

This is a more formal sentence used when entering or leaving a room, hanging up the phone, or other business/formal situations. Just keep in mind that this is a formal phrase and spoken when being very polite.

かわいい KAWAII (Ka-wah-e [rhymes with "Hawaii"])

"Kawaii" is a useful word, it can describe any number of things, from foods to goods to people.

うれしい URESHII (U-re-she)
I’m happy.

かなしい KANASHII (Ka-na-she)
I’m sad.

たのしい TANOSHII (Ta-no-she)
I’m having fun.

すき SUKI (Sue-ki)
I like it/I like you.

きらい KIRAI (Ki-rai)
I don’t like it/I don’t like you.

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2. Transportation

両替 RYOUGAE (Ryo-ga-eh)
Cash exchange

初乗り HATSUNORI (Ha-tsu-no-ri)
The base fare (on taxi)

"Hatsunori" is found inside taxis, near the car navigation system on the front. Generally, it is written like “初乗り◯◯円”, showing how much the base fare is. Also, there should be a small monitor on the front displaying the total fare for the distance run. You are unlikely to be ripped off by taxi drivers in Japan, so don't be afraid to ask what the rate is.

Suica, Pasmo, ICOCA (Sue-e-ka, Pas-mo, I-co-ka)

These are the IC smart cards you can use when getting on trains, metros, buses, and monorails. These cards are available at most train stations.

みどりの窓口 MIDORINOMADOGUCHI (Mi-do-ri-no-ma-doh-gu-chi) "Green Reception Counter” at JR stations

Look for this green-colored counters when you want to buy Suica, or reserve seat tickets for trains and Shinkansen.

各駅停車 KAKUEKITEISHA (Ka-ku-eh-ki-tei-sha)
Local train

Stops at every station on the line until its final stop; usually displayed in light green lights on the digital displays.
快速 KAISOKU (Ka-i-so-ku)
Rapid train

The rapid train may skip a few or many stations, it depends on the line. If you are going to a major station, it may be more convenient to take these trains, but please be careful to not miss your stop.

通勤快速 TSUUKINKAISOKU (Tsu-u-kin-kai-so-ku)
Commuter express

The commuter express trains only run on certain lines or only during rush hours in big cities. They tend to be very crowded trains.

特急 TOKKYU (To-kkyu)
Express train

You need to buy an additional ticket along with the usual one to get on this train. There are two types: reserved seat tickets and non-reserved seat tickets. Reserved tickets have to be bought in advance before the ride. Non-reserved ones can be bought in the train when the conductor comes by.

グリーン車 GREEN-SHA (Green-sha)
“Green car,” the first-class car

You need to buy the “green car ticket” in addition to basic fare tickets mentioned above to ride in these cars. There’s a ticket dispenser at the platform. You also can buy it inside the car, but it would cost more than buying in advance. Green cars offer better seats and environment compared to others. You are also offered food services.

最寄り駅 MOYORIEKI (Mo-yo-ri-e-ki)
The nearest railway station to the destination.

This word often shows up in the access information for shops and restaurants. One characteristic of the Japanese language is that several words are sometimes combined into one. In this case, "最寄り(= the nearest)" and "駅(= station)" are put together.

時刻表 ZIKOKUHYOU (Zi-ko-ku-hyoh)

運賃 UNCHIN (Un-chin)

The fare depends on which company’s bus you took. Some set the all-commodity rate and some do not. When to pay the fare differs by the bus, too. For details, ask the driver when boarding.

先払い SAKIBARAI (Sa-ki-ba-rai)
Pay first

If the bus driver tells you “SAKIBARAI," then you have to pay first before the ride.

後払い ATOBARAI (A-to-ba-rai)
Pay after

In this case, you have to pay for the distance traveled when you get off the bus. The fare will be displayed on a screen above the front window.

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3. Sightseeing

拝観料 HAIKANRYOU (Hai-kan-ryoh)
Entrance fee at shrines and temples

おみくじ OMIKUJI (O-me-ku-g)
Written fortune

Written below is the seven ranks of lucks commonly found in Japan, from the best to the worst. The type of luck will be written on an omikuji at a shrine or temple.

大吉 DAIKICHI (Die-ki-chi)
Excellent luck

中吉 CHUKICHI (Chu-ki-chi)
Higher than average luck

小吉 SHOUKICHI (Show-ki-chi)
Slightly higher than average luck

KICHI (Ki-chi)
Average luck

末吉 SUEKICHI (Sue-e-ki-chi)
Slightly bad luck

 KYOU (Kyo)
Bad luck

大凶 DAIKYOU (Da-i-kyo)
Very very bad luck

お守り OMAMORI (O-ma-mo-ri)
Good-luck charm

お賽銭 OSAISEN (O-sigh-i-sen)
Monetary offering

When visiting a temple or shrine, you should offer some money when you go up to pray; usually, a 5 yen coin will suffice because the word "go en" (5 yen) also sounds like the word "goen" which means good relationships.

観光案内所 KANKOUANNAISHO (Kan-koh-an-nai-sho)
Tourist Information Center

It’s often said that these centers are not easy to find. Check the location beforehand on the internet or guide books.

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4. Shopping

これください KORE KUDASAI (Ko-re ku-da-sigh)
I want this.

お願いします ONEGAISHIMASU (O-ne-guy-she-mas)
Yes, please.

When you are offered something by the staff and you would like to have it, say this phrase.

大丈夫です DAIJOUBUDESU (Die-joe-bu-des)
No, thank you.

If you want to decline that offer, then this is what you should say.
いくら? IKURA? (E-ku-ra)
How much is this?

おすすめ OSUSUME (O-sue-sue-may)

試食/試飲 SHISHOKU/SHIIN (She-sho-ku/She-n)
Food tasting, Drink Tasting

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5. Restaurant/Izakaya

牛丼 GYUDON (Gyu-don)
A bowl of rice with sliced beef on top.

たこ焼き TAKOYAKI (Tah-ko-yah-ki)
Fried octopus dumplings.

お好み焼き OKONOMIYAKI (O-ko-no-mi-yah-ki)
Meat (or seafood) and vegetable pancakes.

和風 WAFUU (Wa-fu)

無料 MURYOU (Mu-ryoh)

大盛り OOMORI (Oh-moh-ri)
Large serving

You sometimes might find "大盛り" in combination with "無料," which means you can eat more for the same price!

食べ放題/飲み放題 TABEHOUDAI/NOMIHOUDAI (Tah-beh-hoh-die/Noh-mi-hoh-die)

Quite a number of restaurants and bars offer such food and drink plans.

ベジタリアン/菜食 VEGETARIAN/SAISHOKU (Beh-ji-tah-ri-an/Sigh-sho-ku)

ヴィーガン/完全菜食 VEGAN/KANZEN SAISHOKU (Bi-gan/Kan-zen-sigh-sho-ku)

Vegetarian and vegan dining is gaining in popularity in Japan, but it can be hard to find at standard restaurants. Ask the employee at the restaurant just in case.

いただきます ITADAKIMASU (I-tah-da-ki-mas)

"Itadakimasu" is a phrase showing gratitude to the people who made the ingredients and cooked the dish. It is a basic manner to say this before eating the food.

おいしい OISHII (O-e-she)

おかわり OKAWARI (O-ka-wa-ri)
Another helping/cup

ごちそうさまでした GOCHISOSAMADESHITA (Go-chi-so-u-sah-mah-de-she-tah)

"Gochisosamadeshita" is similar to "itadakimasu," but you say this after your food is done. Don't forget to say it otherwise that is considered as rude to the cooks.

居酒屋 IZAKAYA (I-za-ka-ya)
Japanese bar

日本酒 NIHONSHU (Ni-ho-n-shoe)

地酒 ZIZAKE (Zi-za-ke)
Local sake

焼酎 SHOUCHUU (Show-chu-u)

Shochu is a Japanese distilled liquor made mainly from rice, barley, or potatoes.

泡盛 AWAMORI(A-wa-mo-li)
Strong Okinawa liquor

枝豆 EDAMAME (E-da-ma-me)

Edamame is green boiled and salted soybeans.

乾杯 KANPAI (Kan-pai)

トイレ/お手洗い/化粧室 TOIRE/OTEARAI/KESHOSHITSU (Toy-re/O-teh-ah-rai/Keh-show-she-tsu)

OTEARAI and KESHOSHITSU are formal expressions for the bathroom used in restaurants or hotels.

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6. Accommodation

ホステル HOSTEL (Ho-sue-te-lu)

カプセルホテル CAPSULE HOTEL (Ca-pu-seh-lu-ho-te-lu)
Capsule hotel

Capsule hotels give each guest a "capsule-like" space instead of rooms. They are efficient and ideal for those with a minimalistic travel style.

旅館 RYOKAN (Ryo-kan)
A Japanese-style hotel

民宿 MINSHUKU (Min-shoe-ku)
A Japanese-style private guesthouse

素泊まり SUDOMARI (Sue-do-ma-ri)
A stay without meals included

7. When in Trouble

盗まれた NUSUMARETA (Nu-sue-ma-re-tah)
My belongings have been stolen.

なくした NAKUSHITA (Na-ku-she-tah)
I’ve lost my belongings.

たすけて TASUKETE (Ta-sue-ke-te)

交番 KOUBAN (Koh-ban)
Police station

警察 KEISATSU (Kei-sa-tsu)

110 HYAKUTOBAN (Hya-ku-to-ban)

If you want to ask people to call for the police, tell them "HYAKUTOBAN." Or, push 1-1-0 on your mobile phone or public telephone nearby. Emergency calls on public phones are free.

きもちわるい KIMOCHIWARUI (Ki-mo-chi-wa-ru-i)
I’m feeling sick.

怪我した KEGASHITA (Ke-ga-she-ta)
I’m injured.

救急車 KYUKYUSYA (Kyu-kyu-sya)

119 HYAKUJUKYUBAN (Hya-ku-zyu-kyu-ban)

The Japanese 911 is 119. This number will call for an ambulance or fire services. When using certain SIM cards, you might not be able use such emergency calls. Ask for help around you.

大使館 TAISHIKAN (Tai-she-kan)
This is the word for foreign embassies.

Many embassies are located in the Roppongi area, but make sure you know where yours is in advance.

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The information presented in this article is based on the time it was written. Note that there may be changes in the merchandise, services, and prices that have occurred after this article was published. Please contact the facility or facilities in this article directly before visiting.

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