13 Basic Japanese Phrases To Learn Before Visiting The Country

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Of all the countries in the world, you’ll only get to see heroic samurais, beautiful Geishas, Kabuki theaters, or Zen philosophers in the Land of the Rising Sun – Japan. It’s a place where there’s always striking art, tranquil gardens, and, of course, a fascinating culture where everything implies and signifies, and less is considered more. For these reasons, Japan may be on every traveler’s bucket list. Aside from the culture and sights, the food is to die for. The Japanese people love to bond over food, and you might even meet someone who’ll give you the rundown on the best ramen in Tokyo.  

When you meet some friendly Japanese, and there are plenty of them, keep the connection by sending them something from your homeland. That’s why you need to learn how to write addresses in Japanese. Writing them in the correct format will ensure that your friend will receive whatever you send, whether a postcard or a box of goodies.

Those are Japanese traditions and so many more that distinguish Japan from other countries. As a result, some non-Japanese individuals worldwide have chosen to incorporate those traditions into their life. Others have chosen to learn Japanese online to visit the country and experience its distinctiveness for themselves. While other opted to hire a Japanese english translation service for fast and effective learning and adaptation of their native language.

With that in mind, are you planning a trip to Japan but are concerned about the language barrier? You don’t have to, though! It is pretty simple to learn a few and useful Japanese words before your trip. For easy reference, here’s a list of the most frequently used Japanese phrases, so you won’t have to surf online for titbits.

Hello: Konnichiwa  こんにちは

You presumably already know how to say ‘hello’ in Japanese, but if not, this is one of the simplest terms to learn before visiting Japan! 

‘Konnichiwa’ can be used to say hello or to greet someone. This phrase can be used in both formal and informal settings. You can say it when you meet an old acquaintance or begin a session with your students. Although ‘Konnichiwa’ is technically only used in the daytime, there are alternative terms for good morning and good night:

  • Good morning: Ohayou Gozaimasu おはようございます
  • Good evening: Konbanwa こんばんは

Excuse Me: Sumimasen すみません 

There are two instances where you can use the phrase ‘Sumimasen.’ Firstly, if you want to get someone’s attention, you can use it. For example, if you’re asking a stranger for directions, just say ‘Sumimasen’ before throwing your question.

The second instance where you can use the phrase is when you want to apologize. If you accidentally bumped into someone, you can say ‘Sumimasen.’

Uttering this phrase in the right situation will show respect for the Japanese people and their ways. Incidentally, you might notice that they show uncommon respect to the elderly, persons in authority, and strangers. 

Thank You: Arigatou Gozaimasu ありがとうございます 

If a stranger just offered you recommendations or you want to thank a waitress, you can simply say ‘Arigatou Gozaimasu,’ which translates to ‘Thank you.’ You may want to keep this in mind because people in Japan’s service industry are always kind and deserving of a thank you. It’s essential to note that this phrase is used formally, but adding the word ‘Domo’ before it makes it sound a little casual.

I’m Sorry: Gomen Nasai ごめんなさい 

While ‘Surimasen’ is already a phrase that means you’re apologizing in Japanese, ‘Gomen Nasai’ is another phrase you can say when you badly want to apologize for something. People in Japan often use this while bowing to show their sincerest apologies. So, when you spilled a hot coffee on someone or stepped over their toe, you’ll know what to say.

Excuse Me, Do You Speak English?: Sumimasen, Ei-go Wakarimasu ka? すみません、英語分かりますか? 

Since you’re not a native Japanese speaker, you’ll have to rely on your English-speaking skills to converse with Japanese people. So, for you to know if someone speaks in English, you can say ‘Sumimasen, Ei-go Wakarimasu ka?’  

Moreover, ‘Ei-go’ is the Japanese term of English. So if you want to ask if they speak another language, you’ll need to use another term.

This phrase will be precious since you don’t want to get lost in translation. You might not know this, but a third of the Japanese population can speak and understand English.  

I Don’t Understand: Wakarimasen わかりません

When you’re in the middle of touring the beautiful country of Japan, there’ll surely be a time where you’re confused with what someone is saying. Therefore, saying ‘Wakarimasen’ will be handy so they’ll know you don’t speak their language.

Yes: Hai はい

When someone’s telling you something, and you agree with it, you may say ‘Hai.’ It simply means yes. But if you don’t agree or want to say no to someone, ‘iie’ or いいえ is the proper response.   

Moreover, ‘Hai’ can also mean you understand what someone is saying. 

Welcome: Irasshaimase いらっしゃいませ 

‘Irasshaimase’ is a phrase you’d often hear when you enter a restaurant or visit a friend’s home in Japan; this simply means welcome! Likewise, if you want to greet your relatives or someone else when they visit your place, you may say this phrase.

Please: Onegai Shimas おねがいします

When you’re asking someone for something, saying ‘Onegai shimas’ would mean that you’re being polite. For instance, you may use this phrase whenever you’re buying at a store or requesting something from someone.

How Are You?: O genki desu ka? お元気ですか

‘O genki desu ka?’ is a common phrase you’ll hear on any friendly encounter in Japan. Whenever you start a conversation with some Japanese locals, it’ll be an ice-breaker if you ask them how they’re doing first.

Goodbye: Sayonara さようなら

When you say ‘Sayonara,’ it means you know that you might not be meeting with that person again. But when you know you’ll still be seeing the same person again, you can say ‘Ja Matane’ or じゃあまたね, which means ‘see you later.’

I’m Fine: Daijyoubu Desu だいじょうぶです 

Saying ‘Daijyoubu Desu’ is a phrase to be used when you’re declining an offer. For example, if you’re dining in a Japanese restaurant and a waiter offers to pour you a drink, you may politely say no by saying this phrase as it simply means you’re fine.  

I Like You/This/It: Suki Desu すきです

Suki is the Japanese word for ‘like.’ By saying ‘Suki Desu,’ you’re expressing what you like without having to mention the object or person you’re admiring. This term will be handy if you don’t know the Japanese word of something.  

Moreover, there might come a time where you don’t like something. As this might sound offensive or negative to the other person, you can still express yourself more gently – by saying ‘Suki Jyanai Desu.’

Final Thoughts

Those are just thirteen of the most common Japanese phrases that’ll come in handy when you visit the country; there are still more to know! Even so, at least you get to learn the basic phrases you need in Japan as well as how to use them in the proper context. That said, best wishes on your journey to learning Japanese and visiting the country itself!

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