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15 Phrases For Travelling in Japan

1. どうぞ

Douzo: please, kindly, by all means

Douzo might actually be the most common word you hear as a tourist in Japan. Seriously. It’s used in a wide variety of ways, but generally, it’s used as, “here you go”, or “please”. You’ll most likely hear this word in service interactions, such as someone passes you a shopping bag or a train ticket.

2. どうもありがとうございました

Doumo arigatou gozaimashita: thank you very much.


You can shorten this down to “doumo” or “arigatou”. All together it sounds very formal like you are extremely thankful. By using individual words alone, it can sound a little more casual. The ending of the phrase should end in “mashita” as it conveys that are you thankful for what they have already done for you.


3. これは何ですか?

kore wa nan desu ka?: what is x?

This is super handy in a multitude of ways, for example – if you someone hands you a ticket and the entire thing is written in kanji. You can simply ask what is this? Or by pointing to an item on a menu that you can’t understand.


4. something は どこ に あります か?

something wa doko ni arimasu ka?

You can just about pop anything into the spot for x. This sentence means “where is there a 'something'” this can be used from a train station that you’re looking for.

5. すみません

Sumimasen: excuse me

Sumimasen means “excuse me, pardon me”, and with the completely mind-blowing amount of people in Japan (especially in Tokyo), it’s nearly impossible not to walk into another person. Unless of course, you’re a Japanese person and you’ve got the streamlined walking down-pat. If you’re like me, and a giant bumbling foreigner though, you’ll most likely have to say “excuse me/pardon me” at least one.


6. こんにちは

Konnichi-wa: hello

Nothing too crazy. It simply means hello. It’s great! We also have おはよう(ohayou) for 'good morning', and こんばんは (konban-wa) for 'good evening'.


7. something をください

something o kudasai: something please?


Kudasai means please, and you can use anything in the space of 'something'. For example おこのみやき(okonomiyaki) o kudasai! For those that don’t know yet, okonomiyaki is a beautiful gift from Japan. It’s a vegetable pancake with seafood. I’m actually not entirely sure how to explain what it is, but it’s beautiful. This is the phrase to use to get you some of that.


8. おいしい

Oishii: delicious

Once you use your new phrase to get you some okonomiyaki, or teriyaki, or sukiyaki, or basically any dish ending with “yaki” – this is the word that you can use to give your big thanks to the chef.


9. カンパイ

Kanpai: cheers!

Cheers! Need I say more?


10. something が ありますか?

'something' ga arimasu ka?: do you have? Is there a something?

Super, super helpful. For example: ウィフィがありますか?(wifi ga arimasu ka?) do you have wifi? What about, do you have vegetarian food? Or do you have okonomiyaki? (I have a problem)


11. 'somewhere' に行きたいです

'somewhere' ni ikitai desu: I want to go to 'somewhere'.

You want to go to Osaka and you are in Tokyo with no idea what to do next? Instead of learning how to explain that you are lost, that you need help, that your iPhone internet isn’t loading and you can’t read signs, simply tell someone (a service personnel would be best), that you would like to go somewhere, and they’ll most likely understand that you’re stuck and need help!


12. これはいくらですか

Kore wa ikura desu ka? How much is this? 

Simple right? Point and question. You’re most likely to be shown a number on a screen, as the Japanese counting system is kind of bananas. Learning to count to 10,000 (as the currency is inflated and requires larger numbers), is a little bit more of an involved process. 

13. だいじょうぶです!

Daijyoubu desu: it’s all good!

14. わかりません

Wakarimasen: I don’t understand

So a Japanese person mistook you for a fellow nihon-jin (Japanese person), and is now speaking a million words a minute at you? Or maybe you have been handed a train ticket, or hotel check in instructions with no idea what to do? Simply tell someone “I don’t understand”. Japanese people will immediately understand (thank you don't understand), and they will do their best to either use English, point, or find someone who can help you.


15. 英語が話せますか?

Eigo ga hanasemasu ka? Can you speak English?

Finally, we have “can you speak English?” This might be one of the most important phrases here, and if you get stuck or lost – and if you can only remember one, this might be the one to stick to. It’s useful and is bound to get you help if someone around speaks English. But! Try not to use it as your go-to phrase. While in Japan, try to speak as much Japanese as you can manage. Most people are likely to LOVE your attempt and appreciate the effort you are putting in to learn just a few phrases.


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