10 Basic Japanese Phrases to Survive Your First Trip in Japan

10 Basic Japanese PhrasesHOW TO

So you bought your ticket to Japan, booked your hotel, planned your itineraries, done your packing, all travel preparation checked, so what next? Some of first-time travelers to Japan normally feel anxious because they can’t speak Japanese.

Although most of the signboards or menus in Japan are written in both Japanese and English, you might still need to learn some basic Japanese phrases just to make your trip less stressful. Here are our 10 basic Japanese phrases you might need in Japan.

1. Ohayou Gozaimasu (おはようございます), Konnichiwa (こんにちは), Konbanwa (こんばんは)

As soon as you arrived in Japan, you will be greeted in Japanese by the immigration officer at the airport. Although you don’t speak Japanese, it would feel great if you can reply greetings in Japanese. Let’s try to remember some greetings you can practice once you’re in Japan.

  • Good morning – Ohayou gozaimasu / Morning – Ohayou
  • Hello / Good afternoon – Konnichiwa
  • Good evening – Konbanwa
  • Good night – Oyasuminasai or Oyasumi
  • See you – Mata ne

2. Onegaishimasu (おねがいします) and Kudasai (ください)

“Onegaishimasu” and “kudasai” are both have the same meaning, which is “please”. You can say “onegaishimasu” when you’re paying at the cashier.

And “kudasai” can be used together with a noun. For example, “gohan (wo) kudasai” (may I have rice, please) when you’re asking for a bowl of rice at the restaurant.

Or with demonstratives pronouns like this/these (kore) and that/those (sore). You can tell the waiter “kore (wo) onegaishimasu” or “kore (wo) kudasai” when you’re pointing at the dish on the menu.

3. Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます)

“Arigatou gozaimasu” means thank you, or you can also say “arigatou” for an informal situation like thanking the waiters for their great hospitality.

4. Doko desu ka? (どこですか?)

This may be one of the phrases that will be needed the most when you have to go to the toilet, “doko desu ka” which means “where”. Here are some examples you can use when you’re traveling in Japan.

  • Where am I? – Koko (wa) doko desu ka?
  • Where is it? – Doko ni arimasu ka?
  • Where is the toilet? – Toire (wa) doko desu ka?
  • Where is the station? – Eki (wa) doko desu ka?

5. Migi (みぎ), Hidari (ひだり), Ue (うえ), Shita (した), Massugu (まっすぐ)

You certainly need to express directions in Japanese, especially when you have to ask locals how to get somewhere. At least, you must know some basic directions in Japanese such as right (migi), left (hidari), up (ue), down (shita) and go straight (massugu).


6. Itai Desu (いたいです)

We sure hope that you don’t get sick when you are in Japan or anywhere, but in case you get sick in Japan, you have to tell the doctor about your health condition. “Itai desu” means “it hurts”, but this phrase isn’t enough to explain your symptoms. So we provide some basic phrases you can use when it’s needed.

  • I have a headache – Atama (ga) itai
  • My throat is hurt – Nodo (ga) itai
  • My stomach is hurt – Onaka (ga) itai
  • I have a cold – Kaze (wo) hiita or simply, kaze desu
  • I have a fever – Netsu desu
  • I have diarrhea – Geri desu

7. Sumimasen (すみません)

“Sumimasen” means “excuse me” or “sorry”. This phrase can be used when you’re going to ask direction to someone on the street. Or, when you bump into someone, do apologies with “sumimasen.”

8. Wi-Fi arimasu ka? (Wi-Fi ありますか?)

Now, most travelers don’t use a paper map anymore but use Google Maps. And they no longer bring a pocket dictionary, they have an online dictionary installed on their smartphone. But all of them won’t work if not connected to the internet or Wi-Fi. When you want to ask Wi-Fi availability in the restaurant or shop, you can say “Wi-Fi arimasu ka?” which means “do you have Wi-Fi?”.

“ — arimasu ka?” means “do you have — ?”, you can use this phrase to ask for something by changing “Wi-Fi” with the object you need.

9. Daijoubu Desu (だいじょうぶです)

“Daijoubu desu” is a phrase with great versatility, it can mean both yes and no depends on the situation. When you don’t need too much Wasabi on your meals, say “daijoubu desu” (no, thanks) to the waiter at the restaurant. When someone offers you to sit on the train but you prefer to stand, or to respond when someone asks your feeling or condition (daijoubu desu: I’m fine).

10. — made, koko kara arukemasu ka? ( — までここから歩けますか?)

This phrase means “is it possible to walk to — from here?” For example, if you need to know whether you can go on foot to Tokyo Station, you can ask “Tokyo eki made, koko kara arukemasu ka?” to the locals. This phrase is very useful for travelers who want to walk to their destinations or who want to save up on transportation expenses. Well, you can check whether you can walk or not to your destination with Google Maps, however, this phrase is useful when you’re getting lost.