The most intimidating thing about traveling to Japan is the language barrier. After taking four years of Japanese in school, we were so happy to finally put that knowledge to use during our trip to Tokyo, Japan. But during the trip, much less Japanese was required than expected. Good news! You don’t need to know much Japanese to get around in Japan!
Over the years, Japan has become more tourist friendly. Most restaurants will have an English menu or at least pictures for you to see what the dish looks like so you’re not ordering blindly. At most attractions you’ll find signs directly translated into English or multiple languages, and all transportation signs have the Japanese words romanized as well.
If you need to ask someone for directions, Japanese people are super helpful and will typically go out of their way to assist you even if they don’t understand English. But knowing a few useful Japanese phrases will go a long way. Here are 15 useful Japanese phrases to know before traveling to Japan!
Useful Japanese Phrases
We’ll start with the basics and move onto the more difficult stuff.
Treat letters that are in parenthesis as silent.
Nice to meet you
I don’t understand
Do you speak English?
Eigo o hanasemasu ka?
Ei-go o ha-na-se-mas(u) ka?
How much is it?
Ikura desu ka?
I-ku-ra des(u) ka?
I like _________. // I like ice cream.
_________が好きです // アイスクリームが好きです
_________ ga suki desu // aisukurimu ga suki desu
_________ ga su-ki des(u) // ai-su-ku-rī-mu ga su-ki des(u)
_________, please. // Ice cream, please.
_________をください // アイスクリームをください
_________ o kudasai // aisukurimu o kudasai
________ o ku-da-sai // ai-su-ku-rī-mu o ku-da-sai
Where is _________? // Where is the toilet?
_________はどこですか? // トイレはどこですか？
_________ wa doko desu ka? // Toire wa doko desu ka?
_________ wa do-ko des(u) ka? // Toi-re wa do-ko des(u) ka?
Please and thank you
If you use this term, Japanese people will love you. There really isn’t a direct translation of yoroshiku onegaishimasu, but please and thank you sums it up fairly well. Use this phrase to formally thank someone, or even as a formal “nice to meet you” after introducing yourself.
Consider taking a language lesson while visiting Tokyo, Japan! We had the chance to check out EBISU Japanese Language School and did a brief 1-hour level one lesson. Even though we already knew some Japanese, it was quite refreshing to review! We recommend doing the lesson at the beginning of your trip so that you have the chance to apply and use what you learned during the reminder of your trip. For more information, visit their website.
Did you find these phrases useful?
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