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Japanese Phrases for Tourists: 116 Essential Phrases for Your Japanese Vacation

Before I traveled to Japan for the first time, everyone assured me that “Everybody speaks English there,” and I wouldn’t need to use Japanese at all.

But in reality, most of the people I encountered in Japan had a fairly elementary level of spoken English .

For a better travel experience, you should learn some basic travel words and phrases in Japanese.

Greetings and Basic Japanese Phrases

Airport phrases you’ll hear, airport phrases you’ll use, asking for directions, receiving directions, transportation phrases, hotel phrases, eating and drinking in japan: what you’ll hear, eating and drinking in japan: what you’ll say, shopping in japan: phrases you’ll hear, shopping phrases you’ll use, number of items in japanese, tips to use your new phrases: politeness and pronunciation, how to study these japanese travel phrases.

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I’ll provide the hiragana, kanji and romaji for each word, and will explain the use of certain Japanese phrases for tourists in context.

1. Hello — konnichiwa

2. good morning — ohayou gozaimasu, 3. nice to meet you — hajimemashite, 4. goodbye — sayounara, 5. please — onegaishimasu, 6. thank yo u — arigatou gozaimasu, 7. you’re welcome — dou itashimashite, 8. excuse me/sorry — sumimasen.

This is definitely one to memorize. I say すみません at least 30 times a day in Japan. It’s a magical word.

It helps you push through a crowd, get attention from a waiter, ask for directions or be excused for basically any touristy blunder.

Simply saying すみません and gesturing is a pretty good way to express that you need help, but don’t speak Japanese.

9. Yes — hai

10. no — iie, 11. let’s eat/ “bon appetit” — itadakimasu .

Similar to the French “ bon appetit” , this is what Japanese people say before they eat. It doesn’t have a literal translation in English, but it’s a way to give thanks for a meal .

You should also remember this phrase’s pair: ごちそうさま (gochisousama) or ごちそうさまでした (gochisousama deshita). These phrases are used at the end of a meal and translate as “What a good meal,” or “Thank you for the meal,” the latter being the more polite form.

12. I don’t understand — wakarimasen 

13. i don’t speak japanese —   nihongo o hanashimasen, 14. do you speak english — eigo o hanashimasu ka , 15. can you please repeat that — mou ichido itte kudasai, 16. can you please speak slowly — yukkuri hanashite kudasai, 17. what is your name — onamae wa nan desu ka, 18. my name is… — watashi no namae wa…, 19. what is this — kore wa nan desu ka.

これ and それ literally just mean “this” and “that.”

20. How much does this cost? — kore wa ikura desu ka? 

If you’re pointing at something that you can’t reach, you say それは いくらですか?

21. Can you please help me? — tasukete moraemasuka ?


Japanese airports aren’t just places to land: they’re an entire cultural showcase on their own. For example, at the Narita Airport , you’ll see pet hotels , gacha machines , the (in)famous smart toilets and even a Pokémon Store !

22. Welcome, please come in — yokoso, o-hairi kudasai

23. please show your ticket — chiketto o misete kudasai, 24. please show your passport — pasupooto o misete kudasai, 25. what is your reservation name — yoyaku-mei wa nan desu ka, 26. the flight is delayed — furaito chien shiteimasu, 27. the flight has been canceled — furaito kyanseru saremashita, 28. baggage claim is this way — baggeji kureimu wa kochira desu, 29. we have arrived at … airport — … kuko ni tochaku shimashita, 30. we will depart for … airport — … kuko e shuppatsu shimasu, 31. there is a delay in the flight — furaito ni okure ga arimasu, 32. there are restrictions on carry-on baggage — kinai mochikomi no nimotsu niwa seigen ga arimasu.


33. Please tell me how to get to the airport — kuko e no ikikata o oshiete kudasai

34. is this a departure flight — korewa shuppatsu-bin desu ka, 35. is this an arrival flight — korewa tochaku-bin desu ka, 36. where is the boarding gate — tojyo-guchi wa doko desu ka, 37. i’ll check my baggage — tenimotsu azukemasu, 38. please call a taxi — takushii o yonde kudasai, 39. i’d like to rent a car — rentakaa o karitai desu, 40. where is the gate for the connecting flight — noritsugi-bin no geeto wa doko desu ka.


Asking for directions is sort of daunting, especially when the person answers in a whole stream of fast-paced Japanese.

But you’ll find that Japan is one of the best places to be a lost and hopeless tourist. There’s always someone nearby who’s more than happy to help. I’ve even had people take time out of their days to walk me where I needed to go!

Simply say wherever it is that you want to go followed by どこですか? — doko desu ka? (Where is …?).

41. I want to go… (here) — (koko) ni ikitai desu 

Say ここ if you have an address written down or a point marked on a map of where you want to go.

If you know the name or address of the place where you want to go, simply say the place name followed by に行きたいです . For example, if you want to go to Shinjuku station, you simply say 新宿駅に行きたいです   — Shinjuku eki ni ikitai desu . (I want to go to Shinjuku station.)

42. Where is the…? — …wa doko desu ka?

43. can you please show me where we are on the map — watashitachi ga doko ni iru no ka, chizu de oshiete kudasai.

This might seem like an odd question (and a bit of a mouthful), but it can be a lot more helpful than asking for directions from someone who doesn’t know English.

44. Is it near? — chikai desu ka?

45. is it far — tooi desu ka.


46. Go straight ahead — massugu itte kudasai 

47. turn left — hidari ni magatte kudasai, 48. turn right — migi ni magatte kudasai.


In Japan, public transportation is how most people get around. If you’re not used to taking the bus, train or anything similar, better keep the following phrases handy!

49. Take me to this address, please — kono jyusho made tsureteitte kudasai

50. what is the fare — ryoukin wa ikura desu ka, 51. stop here, please — koko de tomatte kudasai, 52. does this bus go to (street name) — kono basu wa … ni ikimasu ka, 53. does that train stop at … — sono denshya wa … de tomarimasu ka, 54. a map, please — chizu o onegai shimasu, 55. this hotel — k ono hoteru, 56. the subway — chikatetsu , 57. the train station — denshya no eki, 58. the bus stop  — basutei, 59. the taxi stand — takushii noriba, 60. the exit — deguchi, 61. the entrance — iriguchi, 62. the bathroom — toire.


Like other service-oriented businesses in the country, Japanese hotels subscribe to the concept of omotenashi , which roughly translates to pouring your whole heart into service. That means you can expect employees at Japanese hotels to go above and beyond when it comes to making you feel welcome.

63. I have a reservation under the name of … — … no yoyaku o shiteimasu

64. i would like to check-in — chekkuin shitai desu, 65. what time is check-in — chekkuin wa nanji desu ka, 66. is breakfast included — choshoku wa fukumareteimasu ka, 67. where is my room — watashi no heya wa doko desu ka, 68. please give me a wake-up call at …  — … ni weikuappu kooru onegaishimasu., 69. where is the nearest convenience store — ichiban chikai konbini wa doko desu ka, 70. can you recommend a good restaurant nearby — chikaku no oishii resutoran o shokaishite moraemasu  ka, 71. what time is check-out — chekkuauto no jikan wa nanji desu ka, 72. where can i store my luggage — nimotsu wa dokoni azukeraremasu ka, 73. is there wi-fi in the hotel — hoteru ni wa wai-fai ga arimasu ka, 74. where is the nearest atm — ichi-ban chikai atm wa doko desu ka, 75. i’d like to have some extra towels, please — yobun no taoru o kudasai., 76. what time is breakfast served — choshoku wa nanji kara desu ka, 77. excuse me, i need an iron and ironing board — sumimasen, airon to iron-dai ga hitsuyo desu..


Like Japanese hotels, Japanese restaurants also practice omotenashi. Here are some of the more common phrases you’ll hear from Japanese restaurant staff.

78. Welcome — Irasshaimase

79. how many people in your party — nan mei sama desu ka, 80. this way, please — kochira e douzo, 81. certainly (in response to your order) — kashikomarimashita, 82. thank you for waiting — omatase itashimashita.


The best restaurants in Japan are the authentic ones that don’t cater to tourists. But these are also the places that have no English menus, and sometimes no English-speaking waitstaff.

Luckily, it’s very common for Japanese menus to feature photos of all the dishes. And many places have models of their dishes on display, so you likely won’t be going in completely blind.

Use these phrases , and you should be in and out of a restaurant without too many hiccups.

83. A table for two, please —  futari you no teeburu o onegai shimasu

You can also replace futari with the number of people who you need to have seated:

  • one — hitori ( 一人 )
  • three — sannin ( 三人 )
  • four — yonin ( 四人 )

If you’re confused about Japanese numbers and counters, don’t despair. You can just do as the locals do and indicate the number of diners by holding up your fingers.

84. The menu, please — menyu o onegai shimasu

85. what are today’s recommendations — kyo no osusume wa.

If everything on the menu looks appetizing and you’re not quite sure what to order, use this phrase.

86. Water, please — mizu o onegai shimasu

87. two beers, please — biiru o nihai onegai shimasu, 88. can i please have (one, two) of this — kore o (hitotsu, futatsu) onegai でdekimasu, 89. do you have a vegetarian dish — bejitarian youno ryouri ga arimasu ka.

I’ve traveled in Japan with vegetarians twice, and this question usually draws quite strange looks. Vegetarianism basically doesn’t exist in Japan, although Japanese cuisine is generally quite vegetarian-friendly.

It might work better to say これは肉ですか? — kore wa niku desu ka? , to say “is this meat?” Follow up with 私は肉を食べません — watashi wa niku o tabemasen,  which means “I don’t eat meat,” if you want to make yourself understood.

90. Is … in it? — … wa haitte imasu ka?

Alternatively, you can also ask if specific ingredients are included in your food, so you’ll know whether you should order it or not.

91. That’s okay — daijyoubu desu

You can also use this expression to ask someone if they’re okay. Just add the question particle  ka to the end: 大丈夫ですか ? — daijyoubu desu ka? 

92. The check, please — okanjyou o onegai shimasu 

Say the above, or you can do as the locals do and catch the waiter’s eye (with a smile!) and draw a clockwise circle in the air with your index finger pointing towards the roof.

In some restaurants, you need to bring the check to the cash register which is usually located by the restaurant’s doorway.

93. Cheers! — kanpai!

94. it was delicious — oishikatta desu, 95. water — mizu, 96. wine — wain, 97. beer — biiru , 98. tea — ochya, 99. coffee — coohii, 100. juice — juusu, 101. meat — niku, 102. chicken — toriniku , 103. pork — butaniku, 104. beef  — gyuniku , 105. fish — sakana , 106. rice — gohan, 107. bread — pan , 108. vegetables — yasai  , 109. fruit — kudamono.


When you’re met with cries of いらっしゃいませ!, you’re not really expected to respond to this greeting. As for me, I just smile and say こんにちは which means, of course, “hello.”

Walking into a department store is particularly surreal, with each assistant taking cues from the others, so that every time a customer walks in, いらっしゃいませ bounces around the entire floor.

110. Are you looking for something? — nani ka osagashi desu ka?

111. is that all — ijyou de yoroshii desu ka, 112. here it is / here you go — hai, douzo.


113. I would like this — kore o onegai shimasu

114. i would like one of those — sore o hitotsu onegai shimasu, 115. i would like to pay in cash  — genkin de onegai shimasu, 116. i would like to pay by credit card — kurejitto kaado de onegai shimasu.

The only real challenge with ordering meals in Japanese is the use of counters.

We have counters in English, too (for example “sheets” of paper, “glasses” of water, “blades” of grass), but not as many or as complicated as in Japanese.

Luckily Japanese has a “universal” counter, つ ( tsu ), which you can use for anything, including food.

The numbers one to four as つ counters are pronounced 一つ ( hitotsu )、 二つ ( futatsu )、 三つ ( mittsu ) and 四つ ( yottsu ). You can use this counter for drinks too, and the waiter will understand you.

However, if you want to be a little more impressive, you can use the drinks counter: 杯 ( hai/bai/pai depending on the number used with it). The numbers one to four using this counter are 一杯 ( ippai )、 二杯 ( nihai ) 、 三杯 ( sanbai ) and 四杯 ( yonhai ).

If you want to learn more about counters, this post explains them  in more detail.

All the examples I’ve given are in the polite, neutral form of speech . You basically can’t go wrong speaking this way in Japan, so you don’t need to worry about making any social faux pas!

Some notes on pronunciation:

  • Avoid turning vowels into dipthongs (vowel sounds that run into each other, like the oi in “coin”). Pronounce each vowel on its own even when there are two vowels next to each other. Onegai is read as “o-ne-ga-i,” not “o-ne-gai”
  • The sound  ou and repeated vowels like ii and  ee are exceptions: they show an elongation of the sound.  Ohayou is read as “o-ha-yoh,” not “o-ha-yo-u.”
  • Treat ん (n)  as its own syllable.   Konnichiwa is read “ko-n-ni-chi-wa,” not “ko-ni-chi-wa.” It’s subtle, but it makes a difference!
  • Repeated consonants are pronounced. For an example of how to do this, just read the word “bookkeeper” out loud.
  • The small kana っ like in いって signify a break between the sounds —”it-te,” not “i-te.”
  • Small y- kana like ゃ in おちゃ add the  y sound to the preceding syllable —”o-chya,” not “o-chi-a.”
  • は (ha)  as a particle is pronounced wa,  and を (wo)  as a particle is pronounced  o.

The beauty of Japanese is that it’s an extremely phonetic language, so if you say the words exactly as you read them, you can’t really get them wrong.

Having said that, people will probably struggle to understand you if you speak in a strong non-Japanese accent, so it might pay to listen to some spoken Japanese before you start practicing pronunciation.

The most important thing to remember is that, unlike English speakers, Japanese speakers don’t put emphasis on the second or third syllable of a word—there’s some emphasis on the first syllable, but it’s subtle.

Some ways that you can listen to Japanese being spoken is by watching Japanese films , television programs , anime or YouTube clips .

The Japanese language program FluentU has a little bit of everything in the media, with interactive subtitles and customizable flashcards for a well-rounded learning experience.

Maybe this seems like a lot, but learning Japanese travel phrases for tourists will make your trip run more smoothly, and the people you meet will appreciate your effort.

Speaking the local language tends to get people on your side. They’re less likely to try to rip you off, and often will want to become your best friend.

I like to make little phrasebooks for myself when I travel, so I can have these Japanese travel phrases and vocabulary always on hand.

I’ve been treated to tea and dinner in people’s homes, and once was driven around a city with a personal guide/impromptu friend all day, just because I struck up conversations in the local language.

Don’t be scared! Give it a try!

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learn basic japanese for tourist

Boutique Japan

20 Essential Japanese Phrases for Travelers to Japan

If you’re visiting Japan and a little worried about the language barrier (or you simply love languages), we’ve got you covered with these essential Japanese phrases for travelers.

In our guide to what we believe are the most important Japanese phrases for travel, we’ll introduce you to a selection of key words and phrases — and explain why the Japanese language barrier is not as worrisome as you might think.

The truth is, you do not need to speak any Japanese to have a successful, wonderful trip to Japan (and if you’re looking for travel inspiration, check out our favorite destinations in Japan ). However, learning a few key Japanese phrases can make your trip just that much better. So let’s get into it!

Download our Free Japanese Phrasebook:

Originally written in 2014, this post was updated and republished on November 1, 2019.

learn basic japanese for tourist

The Most Essential Japanese Words & Phrases for Your Trip to Japan

Learning Japanese can seem daunting, but don’t worry. You don’t need to learn any of these words or phrases to have a great time (see why we love Japan ).

However, as any seasoned traveler knows, making a little linguistic effort can go a long way, and it can be helpful to learn even a little of the local language for your travels. We’ve narrowed it down to a small selection of key words and phrases, divided by category:

  • The Basics: Key Japanese Words and Phrases
  • Food and Drink: Eating Your Way Around Japan
  • Now or Later: Time-Related Phrases in Japanese
  • Getting Around Japan: Transportation-Related Phrases

Here is a quick look at the words and phrase you’ll find below:

Top 20 Essential Japanese Travel Phrases:

  • Konnichiwa (こんにちは) – Hello
  • Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) – Thank you
  • Sumimasen (すみません) – Excuse me
  • __ o Kudasai (__をください) – I would like __, please
  • __ wa Doko Desu ka? (__はどこですか) – Where is __?
  • Itadakimasu (いただきます) – An expression of gratitude for the meal you’re about to eat
  • Omakase de (お任せで) – Used to order chef’s recommendation (often for sushi)
  • O-sake (お酒) – General term for alcohol
  • Nihonshu (日本酒) – Japanese sake
  • Kinen Seki (禁煙席) – Non-smoking seat
  • Ima Nanji Desu ka? (今何時ですか) – What time is it now?
  • Nanji ni? (何時に?) – At what time?
  • Asa (朝) – Morning
  • Kyou (今日) – Today
  • Ashita (明日) – Tomorrow
  • __ ni Ikitai (__に行きたい) – I want to go to __
  • Tomete Kudasai (止めてください) – Stop, please
  • Kippu (切符) – Ticket
  • Shinkansen (新幹線) – Bullet train
  • Dono Densha? (どの電車?) – Which train?

If you’re concerned about memorizing all this Japanese, or want to learn even more words and phrases, download Boutique Japan’s Tiny Phrasebook for free.

And for an introduction to how to say these words and phrases, see our bonus video to help you practice your Japanese pronunciation .

Basic Japanese Words and Phrases

Let’s start with a few of the most basic-yet-essential Japanese words and phrases. Even if you only remember how to say hello or thank you , you’ll find that Japanese people will be appreciative of your efforts!

1. Konnichiwa (こんにちは) – Hello

Let’s start with one you’ve probably heard before: the word for hello is konnichiwa .

Konnichiwa is typically used during the day, and there are other phrases for good morning and good evening ( ohayou gozaimasu , and konbanwa , respectively). But when you’re starting out it’s best to keep things simple, and if you simply learn konnichiwa you can use it throughout the day to say hello !

konnichiwa hello

2. Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) – Thank you

In Japan, etiquette is no joke, and chances are you’ll be saying thank you a lot (learn more in our guide to Japanese etiquette ).

The word for thank you in Japanese is arigatou gozaimasu (in Japanese, the u at the end of some words is barely pronounced to the point of being nearly silent). You can usually simply say arigatou , which is a little more casual but usually perfectly fine. In Japan, where politeness is such a key part of the culture, you’ll be saying arigatou gozaimasu a lot!

arigatou thank you

3. Sumimasen (すみません) – Excuse me

Excuse me is an important expression in any language, and Japanese is no exception.

The word for excuse me in Japanese is sumimasen . Chances are you’ll also be using this one quite a bit, so if you can try and memorize it! It’s a doubly useful word, as it can be used both to get a person’s attention, and also to apologize.

For example, use sumimasen at an izakaya (a Japanese-style gastropub) to get a waiter’s attention. At izakaya , it’s often called out as sumimaseeeeee~n ! On the other hand, if you accidentally walk onto a tatami floor with your shoes on (something you’re likely to do at some point) you can use sumimasen to say I’m sorry .

sumimasen excuse me

4. __ o Kudasai ( をください) – I would like , please

Now that we’ve covered three basic essentials, we can move onto two key sentences that will hopefully help you a lot.

First is I would like __, please . This is useful in a variety of situations: at restaurants, in stores, and on many other occasions you’ll encounter while traveling. In Japanese, it’s __ o kudasai (simply fill in the __ [blank] with the item of your choice).

To get the most out of this phrase, you may want to learn a few vocabulary words, such as water (mizu), beer (biiru) , sake , and others you think you may need.

kudasai i would like japanese phrase

5. __ wa Doko Desu ka? ( はどこですか) – Where is __?

Last but not least, we think it’s quite useful to be able to ask Where is the __? This is useful even if you can’t understand the answer, because once you ask, people will be able to point you in the right direction, or even help you get to where you’re going!

In Japanese, it’s __ wa doko desu ka? (simply fill in the __ [blank] with the place you’re trying to reach, such as the Ghibli Museum ). One key vocabulary word that often goes along with this phrase for travelers is eki , which means station (for example, Shinjuku eki is Shinjuku station ).

doku desu ka where is

Eating Your Way Around Japan: Food and Drink Phrases

For many travelers, Japanese food is a top priority! From classic Tokyo sushi restaurants to the legendary food culture of Okinawa , there’s a lot to take in. For alcohol afficionados, Japan also offers sake , Japanese whisky , shochu , and other traditional beverages.

While you don’t need to speak any Japanese to enjoy eating and drinking in Japan, these key words and phrases will help you make the most of your culinary experiences.

6. Itadakimasu (いただきます) – An expression of gratitude for the meal you’re about to eat

Certainly not required, but if you say itadakimasu before you begin eating, whether in a restaurant or at a person’s home, they will surely be impressed with your manners.

Essentially, this phrase expresses humility and thanks for the meal you are about to enjoy. The website Tofugu does a very nice job of explaining the meaning of itadakimasu .

bon appetit itadaki-masu Japanese phrase

7. Omakase de (お任せで) – Used to order chef’s recommendation (often for sushi)

If you’re a passionate sushi enthusiast, you probably already know the meaning of omakase .

When you tell a chef omakase de , you’re letting them know that you’re placing the meal in their hands. Especially for travelers with adventurous palates, this is the best way to experience a meal at a Tokyo sushi shop , for example.

However, the phrase is not only used at sushi restaurants, and can often be used at other types of establishments as well.

your recommendation omakase de

8. O-sake (お酒) – General term for alcohol

Technically osake , this word has tripped many a non-Japanese speaker up! While in English the word sake means, well, sake , in Japanese the word sake — more politely, osake — refers to alcoholic beverages in general.

( Sake and osake are virtually interchangeable; the “o” is what is known as an honorific prefix, but unless you’re studying Japanese in more depth, you really don’t need to worry about this!)

So if you’re looking for sake (which in Japanese is called nihonshu) , it’s best to ask for nihonshu (see below). If you’re simply looking for an adult beverage (such as nihonshu , shochu , or Japanese whisky ), the catchall term sake will do the trick.

alcohol osake

9. Nihonshu (日本酒) – Japanese sake

See above for the distinction between sake and nihonshu !

10. Kinen Seki (禁煙席) – Non-smoking seat

Encountering cigarette smoke is somewhat of an unavoidable aspect of traveling around Japan. This being said, most of our travelers are quite averse to smoke, and fortunately it’s possible to travel around Japan without smoke becoming too much of a nuisance.

In some places, such as restaurants, you may have a choice between the smoking and non-smoking sections. Kinen means non-smoking, and seki means seat : put them together and you’ve just conveyed that you’d like to be seated in the non-smoking area!

non smoking area kinen seki Japanese phrase

Time-Related Phrases in Japanese

Time-related phrases can be extremely helpful in certain travel situations, and below you’ll find a few of the most practical Japanese words and phrases on this topic.

11. Ima Nanji Desu ka? (今何時ですか) – What time is it now?

Chances are you’ll have a watch or cell phone on you, but once in a while you may need to ask a stranger for the time.

The basic phrase is simply nanji desu ka? which means, What time is it? People also commonly say ima nanji desu ka? which simply means, What time is it now? ( Ima means now.)

what time is in ima nanji desu ka

12. Nanji ni? (何時に?) – At what time?

This is a particularly useful phrase while traveling. It can be helpful when purchasing rail tickets (see more on getting around Japan below), making meal reservations, or arranging tickets to events.

Sure, you could just ask nanji? ( what time? ) and hope your point gets across, but by adding the preposition ni you can be assured of much more clarity!

at what time nanji ni

13. Asa (朝) – Morning

This one is fairly self-explanatory: asa means morning . While it’s no surprise that a food-loving culture like Japan has multiple words for breakfast , one of the most common is asagohan ( gohan literally means rice , but is more generally used to mean food ).

morning asa

14. Kyou (今日) – Today

Words like today and tomorrow can be particularly useful when buying train tickets, for example. For more on transport, see the transport-related phrases below.

today kyou

15. Ashita (明日) – Tomorrow

When pronouncing the word for tomorrow, ashita , the i is virtually silent, so it ends up sounding more like ashta . If you need to express the day after tomorrow, the word is asatte .

tomorrow ashita

Getting Around Japan: Transportation-Related Phrases for Travelers to Japan

For some travelers, one of the biggest concerns about not speaking the language is the prospect of getting around the country, navigating the trains, and trying to avoid getting lost.

Fortunately, Japan has an incredibly efficient and easy-to-use rail network, and you can read all about it in our guide to train travel and getting around Japan . And here are some key Japanese words and phrases to help you on your way.

16. __ ni Ikitai ( に行きたい) – I want to go to __

On its own, ikitai means, I want to go .

To express that you’d like to go somewhere, use the phrase __ ni ikitai (simply fill in the __ [blank] with the place you’re trying to reach). For example, Kyoto ni ikitai means, I want to go to Kyoto .

i want to go to ni iki-tai Japanese phrase for travelers

17. Tomete Kudasai (止めてください) – Stop, please

Tomete means stop , and is particularly useful in taxis. The kudasai here means please , and makes the phrase much more polite ( tomete on its own would come off as quite brusque).

stop here please tomete kudasai

18. Kippu (切符) – Ticket

Kippu means ticket (as in train tickets). As you can easily imagine, when purchasing rail tickets it can be very useful to be able to tell the ticket agent that you’d like a ticket to a certain place!

Made means until or to (in this case, to your destination). For example, Osaka made means to Osaka . Thus, Osaka made no kippu means ticket to Osaka . Put it all together with kudasai (for politeness) and you have Osaka made no kippu o kudasai .

tickets to made no kippu o kudas

19. Shinkansen (新幹線) – Bullet train

Ah, the shinkansen . One of the utter joys of traveling around Japan is the world-famous shinkansen (bullet train).

Whether you have the well-known Japan Rail Pass or not, if you’re doing any domestic travel within Japan, chances are you’ll end up on the incredible (and incredibly pleasant) shinkansen for at least one if not more of your journeys. Enjoy, and grab a bento and some nihonshu (see above) for the ride!

bullet train shinkan sen

20. Dono Densha? (どの電車?) – Which train?

Wondering which train you need? Imagine you’re in Kyoto Station, headed for Tokyo. You’re on your shinkansen’s departure platform, but you see two trains.

You show your ticket to a friendly Japanese person, and ask, dono densha? They take a look at your ticket and the two trains, and point you to the right one. And you’re on your way – happy travels!

which train dono densha

Download our Free Japanese Phrasebook PDF

For those of you who want to learn even more Japanese for travel, we’ve created the Boutique Japan Tiny Phrasebook.

Our Tiny Phrasebook features carefully selected Japanese words and phrases designed to help you get the most out of your trip to Japan. You’ll find all of the words and phrases featured above, and many more!

The phrasebook is a beautifully designed PDF (it may take a few moments to load depending on your internet speed).

Simply save it to your smartphone, tablet, or computer. We suggest using an app like iBooks (or another PDF reader) so you can search for words and navigate easily.

Bonus Video: Practice your Japanese Pronunciation

One of the best things about Japanese is that it’s surprisingly easy to pronounce. Unlike several other languages throughout Asia, Japanese is not a tonal language.

In the video below, we go over basic pronunciation for some of the most useful Japanese words and phrases for your trip to Japan.

Do you need to speak any Japanese to travel around Japan ?

Absolutely not. You can travel to Japan without learning any of these words and have a great time.

People ask us about the Japanese language barrier all the time, with common questions such as, Do Japanese people speak English? How much (or how little)? The language barrier is a common myth that shouldn’t get in your way. Most of our travelers don’t speak a single word of Japanese, yet come back with testimonials of how much they love Japan .

The truth is that most Japanese people speak at least a little bit of English. These days, all Japanese students study English for a minimum of six years in secondary school, and many students — as well as adults — also take English-language classes after school or on weekends.

English-language fluency is not widespread, so most people you meet probably won’t be fluent in English, but almost everyone you meet will know at least a few English words – and many will know anywhere from hundreds to thousands.

Sometimes you may find that the people you meet are hesitant to try their English on you, but you’ll likely find that you can communicate in basic English in a huge variety of situations while traveling around Japan.

Japanese language barrier signs Fushimi Kyoto Japan

The Japanese Written Language

You may also be worried about the written language. The good news is that you don’t need to be able to read or write Japanese to enjoy Japan.

Japanese people don’t expect you to be able to read the Japanese language, and you’ll find English-language signage throughout the country. This is especially true in places frequented by travelers, such as sightseeing spots, shopping areas, train stations, airports, and often even on the street.

As for at restaurants, though it’s not always the case, in some cases you will find English-language menus. When English-language menus are not available, photos are often included to make pointing and ordering possible.

Despite Japan’s travel-friendliness, every visitor to Japan at some point finds him or herself in a situation in which linguistic communication is simply not possible, and sign language and gesturing are required.

Getting lost in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language is a fear of many would-be travelers, but if you had to pick a country in which to get lost, you couldn’t do much better than Japan! Japan is by far one of the safest countries in the world, with crime rates that are astonishingly low compared to places like the US and most of Europe. And Japanese people will often go to surprising lengths to help tourists.

Back when I first moved to Japan I spoke very little Japanese, and on my first visit to Kyoto I accidentally took the wrong train and ended up wandering around a neighborhood with no idea how to get where I wanted to go. Luckily, an older gentleman with his wife spotted me looking confused and came up to me with perhaps one of the only English phrases he knew: “ Are you lost? ” I said yes and showed him the name of the place I wanted to go.

If he had simply pointed me in the right direction it would have been helpful, but instead he started walking me in the right direction. After a few minutes of walking his wife split off, presumably to go home, and we continued. After 15 minutes of walking he had dropped me off at exactly the spot I needed to be, and – as is typical in Japanese culture – expected nothing in return. I thanked him profusely and we had a good laugh despite our inability to communicate linguistically.

Nighttime neon Osaka Japan

Why Learn Any Japanese if You Won’t Need it?

Almost everyone who has visited Japan has a similar story of a random act of kindness and generosity from a Japanese stranger (or a tale of a camera or passport left on a train being miraculously returned). So you can rest assured that even if you forget all of the words and phrases we’ve shown, you’ll be in good hands with the wonderful people of Japan.

But aside from the fact that it’s a rich and fascinating language, learning even just one or two Japanese words or phrases will help endear you to the Japanese people you meet during your trip, and enhance your overall travel experience.

Japanese people tend to be extremely appreciative of visitors who take the time to learn even just a word or phrase or two, and if you try then chances are you’ll be greeted with oohs and aahs of encouragement.

We hope you’ve found our guide to Japanese words and phrases for travelers helpful. Arigatou gozaimasu!

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Japanese Phrases for Travelers (A Cheat Sheet)

When traveling through Japan, it is VERY helpful to have some Japanese phrases under your belt. On my visit there, I found that many people I encountered did not speak English, so I’m so glad that I took some time to a (little) bit of Japanese before my visit.

Keep reading for a list of the top Japanese phrases for travelers, as well as some general information on the language and tips on how to start learning on your own! Your trip to Kyoto , Tokyo , and beyond will be better because of it.

Table of Contents

The Top Resources for Learning Japanese

  • iTalki : Practice with Live Teachers at a low cost
  • LingoPie : Learn the language by watching videos in Japanese
  • Writing Practice Book : Learn how to write in Japanese script


Japanese Language Overview

Language history.

The exact origins of Japanese are disputed by top linguists, as there is evidence that it could have originated from either the Polynesian, Chinese, or the Ural-Altaic languages. For a time, many scholars agreed that Japanese is part of the Ural-Altaic language family, which also includes Turkish, Korean, Manchu, and Mongolian. Japanese has been compared with Korean due to similarities in structure, use, and grammar, but the relation is still debated. Today, it the only major language whose origin is still unknown.

learn basic japanese for tourist

Get your free download!

Japanese phrases pdf.

This free download includes all the key Japanese phrases that you will need for your travels to Japan. In addition, get details on the best resources to improve your speaking and listening skills as well.

Japanese language history can be split into five main periods:

  • Old Japanese (Prior to 8th Century)
  • Late Old Japanese (9th – 11th Century)
  • Middle Japanese (12th – 16th Century)
  • Early Modern Japanese (17th-18th Century)
  • Modern Japanese (19th Century – now)

Japanese has been a recognized language for the past 1200 years, from around the 8th century AD, where the earliest Japanese writings have been found. Some earlier evidence of the Japanese language has appeared in Chinese writings from as early as the 3rd century AD, but it is not known how long the language has existed on the island.

learn basic japanese for tourist

The Language Today

Today, Japanese is spoken by over 125 million people, most of whom reside in Japan. It is not the official language of Japan, but is the de facto national language of Japan. The standard form of the language is called hyojungo “standard Japanese or kyostugo “common language”. This is the variety of the language that is taught in schools and used in TV and official communications.

There are dozens of dialects spoken throughout Japan, as with many old languages. Some differences are more minor (e.g., changes to pronunciation or words used), while other dialects are so distinct from each other that they are mutually unintelligible. This is most often the case for dialects coming from peripheral regions, mountain villages, or isolated islands in the country.

I will also note, there are other languages spoken in Okinawa, as well as the Ryukyu and Amami Islands, known as the Ryukyuan languages. These languages are part of the Japonic language family, and some are considered endangered languages by UNESCO. Their decline is use is due to a shift in greater use of Standard Japanese and other dialects.

RELATED: Kyoto Travel Guide

Japanese Script

An interesting fact about Japanese that did not know until recently, is that Japanese has no genetic relationship to Chinese. Which was surprising to me because the language does use mostly Chinese characters in its written script. There have been two methods of using Chinese script – the first by using them as characters to represent an object or idea. The second method involves using the script to pronounce Japanese words phonetically – which is not widely done today.

Over time, the Japanese script has been modified from the traditional Chinese characters with the overall simplification of some characters. Additionally, there has been the incorporation of hiragana characters, which are also simplified and have a more rounded appearance.

Japanese for Travelers

Additional Observations on Japanese

For the true language nerds out here are a few interesting facts about Japanese:

  • There are no diphthongs in Japanese, only monophthongs, demonstrating that all Japanese vowels are “pure”
  • Word order is classified as subject-object-verb, but the only strict rule there is that the verb must be at the end of the sentence
  • The culture in Japan is VERY polite, and that is also represented in the spoken language as there is an extensive grammatical structure to express politeness, formality, and even differing levels of social status

Basic Japanese Words and Pronunciation

Japanese greetings – formal.

Here are some basic formal greetings (hi / goodbye) that you’d use on a regular day.

  • Hello/Good day – Konnichiwa (こんにちは今日は)
  • Good morning – Ohayō Gozaimasu (おはよう ございます お早う御座います)
  • Good evening – Konbanwa (こんばんは)
  • Good night – Shitsurei shimasu (しつれい します 失礼します)
  • Goodbye – Sayōnara (さようなら)

Note, when greeting others in Japan be sure to accompany your words with a slight bow. This bow is often done again when saying goodbye as well.

Japanese Greetings – Informal

If you stay in Japan for a time and make friends, it may be appropriate for you to incorporate informal greetings into your vocabulary:

  • Hi – Yā (やあ)
  • Hey/Yo – Yō (よう)
  • What’s Up? – Saikin dō? (さいきんどう最近どう)
  • Bye – Jā / Jā ne (じゃあ / じゃあ ね)
  • See you soon – Mata ne (また ね)
  • See you again – Jā mata (じゃあ また)
  • See you tomorrow – Mata ashita (また あした また明日)
  • Be well – Genki De (げんき で 元気で)

Ginkaku-ji Temple in Kyoto, Japan

Top 30 Japanese Phrases

Outside of Japanese greetings, here are the top 30 phrases that you should learn before visiting Japan:

  • Hello – Kon’nichiwa (こんにちは)
  • Yes – Hai ( はい)
  • No – Iie (いいえ)
  • Thank you – Arigatō* (ありがとう)
  • Excuse me – Sumimasen* (すみません) – This phrase is important when trying to get the attention of your waiter in restaurants, and when passing people in tight quarters.
  • Please – O-negai shimasu (おねがいします)
  • You’re welcome – Dōitashimashite (どういたしまして)
  • I’m sorry – Gomennasai (ごめんなさい)
  • Do you speak English? – Eigo o hanasemasu ka (えいごをはなせますか。)
  • I only speak a little Japanese – Watashi wa nihongo ga sukoshi shika hanasemasen. (わたしは にほんごがすこししか はなせません。)
  • What is your name? – O-namae wa nan desu ka. (おなまえはなんですか。)
  • My name is __ – Watashi no namae wa ___ desu. (わたしのなまえは かおりです)
  • How are you? – O-genki desu ka. (おげんきですか。)
  • I’m fine, thanks – Genki desu. (げんきです)
  • I’m very glad to meet you – Oaidekite ureshī desu. (おあいできて うれしいです。)
  • I don’t understand – Wakarimasen (わかりません。)
  • What did you say? – Nante iimashita ka. (なんていいましたか。)
  • Can you speak more slowly? – Motto yukkuri hanashite kudasai. (もっと ゆっくりはなしてください。)
  • I understand you perfectly. – Yoku wakarimasu. (よくわかります。)
  • How much is it? – Ikura desu ka? (いくらですか?)
  • Do you have ___? – ______ wa arimasu ka? (はありますか)
  • Help! – Tasukete (助けて。)
  • I don’t need it. – Iranai (いらない)
  • Great! / I’m glad! – Yokatta (良かった)
  • Are you okay? – Daijoubu desu ka. (大丈夫ですか)
  • What happened? – Doushitanda. (どうしたんだ)
  • Welcome – Irasshaimase. ( いらっしゃいませ)
  • How much does it cost? – Ikura kakarimasu ka? (いくらかかりますか?)
  • It costs. .. – Hiyō ga kakarimasu (費用がかかります)

Note: I’ve put an asterisk by the phrases that I used the most while traveling through Japan.

Counting to 10 in Japanese

There are two methods of counting in Japanese: 1) Sino-Japanese and 2) Native Japanese. Sino-Japanese is used most often (by far), so this is what is demonstrated in the tabel below:

RELATED: The Link Between Languages and Travel

Pronouncing Japanese the Right Way

Check out this video from a native speaker that covers pronunciation for many of the phrases listed above. For best results, practice saying the words out loud so that you get used to speaking them.

Japanese Travel Phrases PDF

Keep your learning going by downloading this Japanese Phrases PDF. You will be able to practice as needed before your trip!

FAQs about Learning Japanese for Travel

Before your trip to Japan, some common phrases you should learn are “Arigatou gozaimasu” (Thank you very much), “Sumimasen” (Excuse me/I’m sorry), “Konnichiwa” (Hello), “O-genki desu ka?” (How are you?), and “Eigo o hanashimasu ka?” (Do you speak English?).

Japanese people often say “Ittekimasu” (I’ll go and come back) before leaving their home, which is a polite way of saying they are heading out. Similarly, upon returning, they say “Tadaima” (I’m back) to announce their arrival.

The Japanese word for travel is “tabi” (旅).

Some must-know phrases for Japanese travel include “Doko desu ka?” (Where is it?), “Ikura desu ka?” (How much does it cost?), “Eki wa doko desu ka?” (Where is the train station?), “Kudasai” (Please/give me), and “Osusume no o-sake wa arimasu ka?” (Do you have any recommended sake?).

Some cool Japanese phrases include “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” (Please take care of it/Thank you in advance), “Kawaii” (Cute), “Oishii” (Delicious), “Ganbatte” (Good luck/Do your best), and “Natsukashii” (Nostalgic).

Learning Japanese for Travel | Final Recommendations

That wraps my list of essential Japanese phrases for travelers. Now that you know WHAT you need to learn, the next step is to take it into practice. I suggest that you do that by downloading the attached PDF of key Japanese phrases, and practice the phrases daily for at least a month before your trip.

To complement learning these phrases, there are a few additional resources that you may find helpful:

  • iTalki – On this site you can practice with a tutor, formal teacher, or others just seeking to do a language exchange (for free!). The paid lessons have very cheap options, with some as low as $5 an hour. Check it out!
  • LigoPie – Practice listening and reading Japanese with videos. You can make changes to the speed you are listening to as well. This is the best way to rapidly increase your comprehension skills!
  • Japanese Pod – There are so many free resources on the website and through the podcast they offer. There are paid options as well.
  • Duolingo – I don’t find this app useful for practicing spoken language, but it will help you remember key phrases through repetition.

Have you studied Japanese before? Let me know if you have any additional tips in the comments below!

Related Posts on Japan:

  • 2 Days in Kyoto
  • 4 Days in Tokyo
  • Hakone Travel Guide
  • The Best Samurai Experience in Kyoto
  • Ninja Akasaka Review

Additional Travel Language Guides:

  • Portuguese for Travel
  • Spanish for Travel
  • Italian for Travel
  • Thai for Travel
  • Greek for Travel
  • Language and Travel

Don’t forget to pin this for later!

learn basic japanese for tourist

Christen Thomas is the founder of TravelWanderGrow, established in 2018. She has lived abroad and traveled extensively to over 30 countries. In addition, she is a certified Travel Advisor and is an expert in planning trips focused on city history and culture. As a frequent traveler, she also shares tips on how to prepare to travel well and how to save money while doing so.

Pinning this for later as we’re hoping to visit Japan in the next few years. Great breakdown of the common phrases. I had a Japanese roommate in high school so I’ve heard a lot of these phrases, but never knew how to spell them – so interesting!

Glad you have found the guide helpful, Emily! Hope you get to practice the phrases soon :).

I am Korean-American & can speak conversational Korean. I feel I would be able to easily pickup Japanese but they seem to talk so fast! Thanks for sharing this post! My husband & I hope to visit Japan later this fall…it will come handy!

Doesn’t it always seem that others speak so fast when you are learning a language? Hopefully you can put these to good use on your trip to Japan!

Very useful and interesting. Thank you! Keep it coming

Glad you found it helpful, Oliver!

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Learn A Language Through Stories

learn basic japanese for tourist

83 Must-Know Japanese Travel Phrases For Your Next Trip To Japan

Olly Richards Headshot

If you're learning Japanese and considering a trip to Japan, you'll probably want to learn some Japanese travel phrases so you can make the most of your trip.

Getting a feel for which expressions will be most important to you can vary depending upon your specific interests and goals while traveling. But some vocab is particularly useful no matter what.

If you spend time learning any basic Japanese phrases and words, start with these 83 Japanese travel phrases so that you can head into Japan on the right foot!

Regardless of where you are or what you’re doing, two of the most important words you’ll need to know are arigatou gozaimasu and sumimasen .

Arigatou (gozaimasu ) means “thank you,” and it’s very polite; you can use it with anyone. Sumimasen means “excuse me” (when trying to get someone’s attention) or “I’m sorry” (if you’ve inconvenienced someone, such as by misunderstanding or taking up time).

Let's discover the other Japanese travel phrases that will be a must on your next trip to Japan.

By the way, if you want to learn Japanese fast and have fun while doing it, my top recommendation is  Japanese Uncovered  which teaches you through StoryLearning®. 

With  Japanese Uncovered  you’ll use my unique StoryLearning® method to learn Japanese naturally through story… not rules. It’s as fun as it is effective.

If you’re ready to get started,  click here for a 7-day FREE trial.

At The Airport

learn basic japanese for tourist

So you have arrived in Japan, and you’re in the airport. Depending on how your travels went and what you’re planning on doing next, you might have multiple places you need to visit.

To start, review your vocab and see if any of these locations apply to you for your next stop:

#1 currency exchange ( ryougaejo 両替所) #2 toilet ( toire トイレ) #3 customs ( zeikan 税関) #4 immigration ( nyuukoku shinsa 入国審査) #5 information ( desksougou annaijo 総合案内所) #6 souvenir shop ( omiyageya お土産屋) #7 Seat ( seki 席) #8 Train ( densha 電車) #9 Taxi ( takushi タクシー)

These are the most likely places you’ll need to stop next once you arrive. If you need to locate a certain establishment or find where to go, you can always ask someone:

#10 Where is the ______? (____ ha doko desu ka? __はどこですか。)

After you conclude your business wandering around the airport, you’ll probably be heading out into the city. In order to do that, you’ll most likely need to take a train out of the airport. If you feel confident using the airport’s self-service ticket machines, you can buy your own ticket.

However, if you have a JR Pass or need to use special train services, or if you don’t know how to use the machines, you can approach the manned ticket counter and ask:

#11 Can I have a ticket to _______ please? (____ made no chiketto wo kudasai. __までのチケットをください。)

If you are concerned that you may have to change trains during the process, you can ask about this too by saying:

#12 Is there a transfer? ( Norikae ha arimasu ka? 乗り換えはありますか。)

Taking A Taxi

learn basic japanese for tourist

Taxis in Japan are much more economical options than people give them credit for, so if you’re overwhelmed about navigating by yourself, a taxi can be a great option. The vocabulary for taking a taxi is simple, and drivers typically go above and beyond to help you.

#13 Taxi ( takushi タクシー)

When you have located the taxis, you will see that they typically drive up in a line. Wait your turn, and when one drives up, approach. Remember: do not open or close the taxi doors yourself; the driver has an automated button to do this for you.

#14 I’d like to go to _____, please. (____ made onegaishimasu __までお願いします) #15 How much does it cost? ( Ikura desu ka? いくらですか。)

One important thing to remember is that Japan is a very cash-centric society . The use of credit cards is much rarer than you may be used to, so you should plan to carry larger than normal amounts of cash with you in general. This also means that you should be prepared to ask your taxi driver if he or she accepts credit cards at all.

#16 Is paying by credit card okay? ( Kurejitto kaado de ii desu ka? クレジットカードでいいですか。)

Checking Into Your Hotel

learn basic japanese for tourist

So you have taken a taxi or train, and you’ve arrived at your hotel. Hotels have a wide array of commodities that you can take advantage of, which means that you’ll also get to use a lot of unique vocabulary.

Check out some of the words you’re most likely to use:

#17 Key ( kagi 鍵) #18 Front desk ( chouba (but furonto desuku is more common) 帳場 (フロントデスク)) #19 Lobby ( robii ロビー) #20 Dining room ( shokudou 食堂) #21 Hall ( rouka 廊下) #22 Towel ( taoru タオル) #23 Soap ( sekken 石鹸) #24 Toothbrush ( ha-burashi 歯ブラシ) #25 Toothpaste ( ha-migaki 歯磨き) #26 Razor ( kamisori かみそり) #27 Television ( terebi テレビ) #28 Housekeeping ( kaji-gakari かじがかり) #29 Laundry ( sentaku 選択)

If you are looking to do laundry at a hotel, be aware that Japanese dryers are not as powerful as most countries’, so you may need to run the dryer multiple times or simply hang your clothes to dry.

When you are ready to check in, you can approach the front desk. Depending on what you need to do next, you can use phrases such as:

#30 I’d like to check in. ( Chekku in wo onegaishimasu .チェックインをお願いします。) #31 My name is _______. ( Namae wa _____desu .名前あ___です。) #32 I’d like to make a reservation. ( Yoyaku wo shitai desu .予約をしたいです。) #33 Is there wifi? ( Wi-Fi ga arimasu ka? WIFIがありますか。) #34 What time is checkout? ( Chekku auto wa nanji desu ka? チェックアウトは何時ですか。`) #35 Can you hold my luggage for me? ( Nimotsu wo koko ni oite itte mo ii desu ka? 荷物はここに置いていってもいいですか。)

Japanese Greetings

learn basic japanese for tourist

Now that you have settled into Japan a little bit, you’ll probably enjoy going for a walk to see the sights. As you interact with other people, the phrases you’re most likely to hear them say are:

#36 Ohayou/konnichiwa/konbanwa

These are the “daily” greetings that mean “hello.” Ohayou (good morning) is typically used until about 11:30 or noon, then people switch to konnichiwa (good afternoon). At about 5pm, most people will switch to konbanwa (good evening).

#37 Itterasshai/Okaeri

When you leave and return for the day, you may be greeted with unique phrases. Itterasshai means “have a safe trip” or simply “goodbye for the day,” said as you leave. Your hotel staff may say this to you. They may also greet you with okaeri (welcome back) when you return.

#38 Irasshaimase

Whenever you enter a business, you’ll likely be greeted with irasshaimase , a very formal welcome. You are not expected to say anything in response; it’s sort of like the staff saying hello while also thanking you for shopping or visiting.

Japanese Vocab Power Pack

Buying Coffee

smart phone next to coffee mug

If you can’t go a day without your morning brew, take heart—Japanese coffee shops are everywhere, and the vocabulary is actually almost identical to what you may be used to ordering.

#39 Coffee shop ( kissaten 喫茶店) #40 Hot coffee ( hotto kohi ホットコーヒー) #41 Iced coffee ( aisu kohi アイスコーヒー) #42 Cafe latte ( kafe rate カフェラテ) #43 Drip coffee ( dorippu kohi ドリップコーヒー) #44 Soy milk ( soi miruku ソイミルク)) #45 Espresso ( Esupuresso エスプレッソ)

When it comes time to order your drink, you can specify what you want via the following format:

#46 I’d like to order [number] of [item]. ([item] wo [number] onegaishimasu .[item] を [number]お願いします。)

The [item] can be kohi, mizu (water), or any other item you would like to order. If you don’t know how to say what you want to order, you can point to a menu and simply say “kore” (this) in the [item] place. You can fill the [number] slot with the quantity you would like; the words hitotsu, futatsu , and mitsu mean one, two, and three, respectively.

For example:

  • I’d like one hot coffee, please. ( Hotto kohi wo hitotsu onegaishimasu. )

After this, the waitress may ask what size you would like. You can typically choose from small (S), medium (M), and large (L).

Use the letter to indicate which size you would like:

#47 Size ( saizu サイズ) #48 Medium M ( saizuM サイズ)

In A Japanese Restaurant

learn basic japanese for tourist

If you’ve decided to stop by a Japanese restaurant instead of a café, you might need a wider variety of words to make sure you can get by.

The good news is that many restaurants—especially in large cities—have pictures on their menus, and no one will be upset if you point and simply say “this, please.”

To start, the vocabulary you’re most likely to need include:

#49 Fish ( sakana 魚) #50 Meat ( niku 肉) #51 Vegetables ( yasai 野菜) #52 Vegetarian ( begitarian ベジタリアン) #53 Beer ( biiru ビール) #54 Water ( mizu 水) #55 Tea ( ocha お茶)

As you enter a restaurant, you will likely be asked how many people are in your party. Using basic Japanese numbers 1-10, you can create the following sentence:

#56 There are [number] people. ([number] mei desu .___名です)

Once you have been seated, you may need to use some of the following phrases:

#57 Do you have an English menu? ( Eigo no menyu arimasu ka? 英語のメニューありますか。) #58 What is this [while pointing]? ( Kore ha nan desu ka? これは何ですか。)

When you have decided what you would like to order, you can simply state:

#59 [item] please. (____ onegaishimasu .__お願いします。)

If you do not know the name of the item and would like to order just by pointing at the menu, you can use:

#60 I’d like to order [number] of [item]. ([item] wo [number] onegaishimasu .[item] を [number]お願いします。)

When your meal is over, your next step is to pay. Important phrases that can get you through this phase of the interaction include:

#61 Could we have the bill, please? ( Okaikei kudasai. お会計ください。) #62 Can I pay with a credit card? ( Kurejitto kaado de daijoubu desu ka? クレジットカードで大丈夫ですか。)

In A Convenience Store

learn basic japanese for tourist

If you don’t feel like stopping by a restaurant, or if you’d just like a quick bite to eat or other item, the thousands of convenience stores (called konbini , short for konbiniensu sutoa , “convenience store”) that appear on nearly every street corner are ready to serve you.

The easiest meals in terms of simplicity will be bento boxes, or small boxes (in the cold section) that serve as a whole meal. If you pick one of those up and stand in line, you will almost always hear the following three phrases (to which you can answer yes or no, which keeps things simple):

#63 Next in line, please! ( Otsugi no kata douzo! お次の方どうぞ。) #64 Do you have a point card [a rewards card for the convenience store]? ( Pointo ka-do ha omochi desu ka? ポイントカードはお持ちですか。) #65 Would you like your bento warmed up? ( Obento atatamemasu ka? お弁当温めますか。)

Getting Directions And Getting Lost

Almost inevitably, you’ll find yourself turned around once you start exploring. That’s not such a bad thing! Japan is full of small, tucked away secrets, and the people are eager to help you get back to a familiar place much more often than not.

If you need to ask directions, the phrases that will serve you best are:

#66 Where is [place]?( ____ ha doko desu ka? __ はどこですか。) #67 Can I ask you for directions? ( Michi wo kiite mo ii desu ka? 道を聞いてもいいですか。) #68 Can you help me? ( Tasukete kudasaimasen ka? 助けてくださいませんか。)

In response, Japanese people are likely to use the following words:

#69 Next ( totonari となり) #70 In front of ( mae 前) #71 Behind ( ushiro 後ろ) #72 Nearby ( chikaku 近く) #73 North ( kita 北) #74 South ( minami 南) #75 East ( higashi 東) #76 West ( nishi 西) #77 Right ( migi 右) #78 Left ( hidari 左) #79 Street/road/path ( michi 道) #80 Bridge ( hashi 橋) #81 Corner ( kado 角)

Thanks to the consistent presence of trains and other forms of public transport, you should feel emboldened to explore as much as you like. There will always be a train station or bus nearby where you can ask directions or head back to a familiar place!

Japanese Travel Phrases

So there you have it – 83 Japanese travel phrases to hit the ground running on your next trip to Japan. From the airport to the convenience store and from the hotel to Japanese restaurants these knowing these Japanese travel phrases will help you feel less like a tourist.

And who knows, maybe getting started with these Japanese travel phrases will be your gateway into learning the language.

By the way, if you'd like to learn some more Japanese phrases before your trip, make sure you check out this post on basic conversational Japanese for your first chat with a native speaker. You might also like this list of Japanese conversation starters.

learn basic japanese for tourist

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30+ Basic Japanese Phrases For Tourists

This page may contain  affiliate links which earn us a commission at no extra cost to you to support the site. Thank you!

Travelling to Japan and want to learn some Japanese phrases? Learn these basic Japanese phrases to help you!

Whether you’re travelling to Japan in the future or if you simply want to start learning some basic Japanese for fun, you’ve come to the right place. Japanese may seem a bit intimidating at first. The writing system, for one, is completely different from English. And let’s not get started on the complicated grammar…

But when travelling, you don’t need to become fluent! During my visits to Japan, I’ve never had any issues and I am nowhere near fluent. Plus, it’s very doable to learn some basic phrases before your trip which can help you massively. Locals will definitely appreciate it.

Make sure to learn the following Japanese phrases for tourists before you go!

learn basic japanese for tourist

To make sure the Japanese sentences below are 100% correct, I paid a professional Japanese translator to double-check them and correct any mistakes.

Useful Basic Japanese Phrases

  • Hello: Konnichiwa (こんにちは)
  • Good morning: Ohayō (おはよう) or ohayō gozaimas (おはようございます)
  • Good evening: Konbanwa (こんばんは)
  • Goodbye (when going away for a long time or not coming back): Sayōnara (さようなら)
  • See you later (when saying bye to friends): Matane (またね)
  • Thank you: Arigatō gozaimas (ありがとうございます)

hello in Japanese

  • Excuse me: Sumimasen (すみません)
  • Sorry: Gomennasai (ごめんなさい)
  • I don’t understand: Wakarimasen (わかりません)
  • I don’t speak Japanese: Nihongo ga hanasemasen (にほんごがはなせません)
  • Please (when asking for something): Onegaishimas (おねがいします)
  • You’re welcome: Dōitashimashte (どういたしまして)

excuse me in Japanese

  • Yes/No: Hai/iie (はい/いいえ)
  • No, thank you (more polite): Kekkō des(けっこうです)
  • Do you speak English?: Eigo ga hanasemas ka? (えいごがはなせます か)
  • How are you?: O genki des ka (おげんきですか)
  • I’m fine: Genki desu (げんきです)
  • Nice to meet you: Hajimemashte (はじめまして)

yes and no in japanese

  • I am [name]: [name] des ([name]です)
  • Enjoy your meal (before eating): Itadakimas (いただきます)
  • Thank you for the meal: Gochisōsamadeshta (ごちそうさまでした)

i am in Japanese

Japanese Phrases For Travelling

  • How much does this cost?: Kore wa ikura des ka? (これはいくらですか?)
  • What is this?: Kore wa nan des ka? (これはなんですか?)
  • I would like…: … o kudasai (…をください)
  • I would like… and …: … to … o kudasai (… と …をください)
  • Do you have an English menu?: Eigo no menyuu wa arimas ka? (えいごのメニューはありますか?)
  • Can I have the bill, please?: O kaikei onegaishimas (お かいけい おねがいします)

how much does this cost in Japanese

  • Cheers!: Kanpai! (かんぱい!)
  • Can you translate this?: Yakushite kudasai? (やくしてください?)
  • Where is the toilet?: Toire wa doko des ka? (トイレはどこですか?)
  • Do you accept credit card?: Kurejittokādo wa tsukaemaska?(クレジットカードはつかえますか?)
  • Help! : Taskete! (たすけて!)
  • This is delicious: Oishi des (おいしいです)

cheers in Japanese

Japanese Writing System Explained

One thing that intimidates most people when they start learning Japanese is the different writing systems . Rather than English (where there is only one writing system), Japanese has three: Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. When you are starting to learn the language, it’s best to stick with Hiragana.

Below, you can find the difference for the Japanese writing systems and what they are used for:

  • Hiragana: The “round” one. Hiragana is a phonetic alphabet and is mainly used for function words and other native Japanese words that aren’t covered by Kanji. But because Kanji is very tough to learn, Hiragana is also used in children’s books and is perfect for those who are new to the language.
  • Katakana: The “pointy” one. Another phonetic alphabet, but this one is used for loan words from other languages (like han-ba-ga for hamburger).
  • Kanji: Kanji are Chinese characters and are used for nouns, stems of adjectives and stems of verbs. There are about 2,000 kanji characters, so it takes a long time to master them all. Often, the hiragana pronunciation is written above difficult kanji, making it a bit easier to learn/read.

Hiragana chart Japanese

Japanese Numbers Explained

It’s also useful to know some Japanese numbers when learning Japanese.

  • 1: Ichi (一)
  • 4: Yon or Shi (四)
  • 6: Roku (六)
  • 7: Nana or Shichi (七)
  • 8: Hachi (八)
  • 9: Kyuu (九)
  • 10: Juu (十)

Japanese numbers

Want To Learn More Japanese Phrases?

There are endless ways to learn Japanese, especially with the internet at our fingertips. I would personally recommend choosing a good textbook and sticking to the program. When studying Japanese at university, I used the books below:

You can also check out apps like Duolingo and Memrise, which can help you get started! Check out my articles on how to start learning Japanese for more info.

If you aren’t looking to learn an entire language, you can also get a Japanese phrasebook . This can help you when you are in Japan and need a phrase quickly to ask someone something. Taking one of these with you can be a huge help. I personally recommend the one from Lonely Planet.

Japan Travel Guide

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Basic Japanese Phrases For Tourists Printable

Want to keep a physical copy of these common Japanese phrases with you while travelling? You can print the following image:

Japanese phrases

Nele (Nay-la) graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University with an English and Creative Writing Degree and has lived in the UK for nearly 10 years. She has had an interest in Japan and its culture for as long as she can remember. Since her first trip in 2018 surpassed all expectations, she has continued to return to Japan to explore more of all it has got to offer. You can read her full story here .

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2 thoughts on “30+ Basic Japanese Phrases For Tourists”

Hello! Do you think you could make study sheets for basic/everyday Kanji characters? I know there are millions of them so I was thinking just ones that are used or seen the most. Thank you for reading my comment!

That’s such a great idea! I’ll make sure to add some in the future, learning Kanji can be tough but adding some basic ones to this guide is a great idea 😀

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100 Basic Japanese Phrases for Your Trip to Japan

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Our list of 100 Japanese phrases for traveling to Japan covers basic questions, greetings, phrases to express gratitude, as well as words you can use when shopping, at restaurants, or in case of an emergency.

Matcha Admin

Basic Japanese for Travelers

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

Read on to learn one hundred basic Japanese phrases with their meaning and pronunciation. For a smooth trip, we also encourage you to use an automatic translation device like Pocketalk ; you can use it to scan Japanese text and generate a basic translation, or to translate your own words into Japanese when you want to communicate with staff or locals at your destination.

Top 100 Japanese Phrases for Travel

1. Basic Expressions: Greetings and Thanks 2. Transportation: Trains, Taxis, Payment 3. Destinations: Shrines, Temples, etc. 4. Shopping: How to Ask for Things 5. For Restaurants, Cafes, and Izakaya Pubs 6. Accommodation: Hotels and Japanese Inns 7. For Trouble and Emergencies

1. Basic Expressions: Greetings and Thanks

100 Basic Japanese Phrases for Your Trip to Japan

Photo by Pixta

おはようございます Ohayo gozaimasu (pronounced O-ha-yo-o-go-za-i-mas) Good morning

こんにちは Konnichiwa (pronounced Kon-ni-chi-wah) Hello/Hi

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

またね Mata ne (pronounced Ma-ta-ne) Bye/See you

People may often translate "goodbye" as "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, "mata ne" is typically used.

すみません Sumimasen (pronounced Su-me-ma-sen) Excuse me/Pardon?

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

ありがとう Arigato (pronounced A-ri-gah-toe) Thank you

learn basic japanese for tourist

Beyond Arigato! How to Say Thank You in Japanese: 12 Phrases for Every Situation

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

learn basic japanese for tourist

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

はい Hai (pronounced Hi) Yes

いいえ Iie (pronounced E-ye) No

あなた Anata (pronounced A-na-ta) You

わたし Watashi (pronounced Wa-ta-she) Me, myself, I

英語 Eigo (pronounced Eh-go) English

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? Kore wa nan desu ka? (pronounced 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? Sore wa doko desu ka? (pronounced So-re-wa-do-ko-des-ka) Where is that?

◯◯に行きたい ... ni ikitai (pronounced i-ki-tai) I want to go to --.

失礼します Shitsurei shimasu (pronounced 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 is spoken when being very polite.

かわいい Kawaii (pronounced Ka-wah-e [rhymes with "Hawaii"]) Cute/Sweet/Adorable/Gorgeous

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

うれしい Ureshii (pronounced U-re-shi-i) I’m happy.

かなしい Kanashii (pronounced Ka-na-shi-i) I’m sad.

たのしい Tanoshii (pronounced Ta-no-shi-i) I’m having fun.

すき Suki (pronounced Su-ki) I like it/I like you.

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

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15 Japanese Phrases For When You're In Love - Express Your Feelings!

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2. Transportation

100 Basic Japanese Phrases for Your Trip to Japan

両替 Ryogae (pronounced Ryo-ga-eh) Cash exchange

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

The "hatsunori" fee is usually clearly displayed inside taxis near the car navigation system on the front. Generally, it is written “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 hesitate to ask what the rate is.

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Riding Taxis in Japan: The 6 Best Apps to Grab a Cab

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

These are the IC cards you can use to pay for your ticket when getting on trains, metros, buses, and monorails. In recent years, the digital versions of these cards have become more popular than the physical ones.

learn basic japanese for tourist

Suica and Pasmo IC Cards: Prepaid Transportation Passes in Japan

みどりの窓口 Midori no Madoguchi (pronounced Mi-do-ri-no-ma-doh-gu-chi) *This is the general term for "JR ticket counters" at JR stations. Look for these counters when you want to reserve seat tickets for trains and Shinkansen.

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Shinkansen: How to Buy Bullet Train Tickets

各駅停車 Kakueki teisha (pronounced Ka-ku-eh-ki-tei-sha) Local train

Local trains stop at every station on the line until their final stop; the train type is usually displayed in light green lights on the digital displays.

快速 Kaisoku (pronounced Ka-i-so-ku) Rapid train

A rapid train may skip a few or many stations, depending on the line. If you're heading to a major station, take a rapid train.

通勤快速 Tsukin kaisoku (pronounced 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 (pronounced To-kkyu) Limited express train

You need to buy an additional ticket along with the usual one to get on limited express trains. There are two ticket 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 on the train when the conductor comes by.

learn basic japanese for tourist

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

You need to buy a “green car ticket” in addition to the basic fare tickets to ride in these cars. There is usually a ticket dispenser on the train platform. You also can also buy a ticket 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 Moyori eki (pronounced 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 Jikokuhyo (pronounced Ji-ko-ku-hyoh) Time-table for trains or buses

運賃 Unchin (pronounced Un-chin) Fare

The fare depends on which company’s bus you take. 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 (pronounced Sa-ki-ba-rai) Pay when getting on the bus

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

後払い Atobarai (pronounced A-to-ba-rai) Pay when getting off the bus

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.

3. Destinations: Shrines, Temples, and Museums

100 Basic Japanese Phrases for Your Trip to Japan

拝観料 Haikanryo (pronounced Hai-kan-ryoh) The entrance fee at shrines and temples

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Japanese Religion: Differences Between Temples And Shrines

おみくじ Omikuji (pronounced O-me-ku-g) Fortune slip

Below are the seven ranks of fortune commonly found on omikuji (fortune slips for luck divination found at shrines and temples), from the best to the worst. The type of luck will be written on an omikuji at a shrine or temple.

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Omikuji - Japanese Fortune Slips

大吉 Daikichi (pronounced Die-ki-chi) Excellent luck

中吉 Chukichi (pronounced Chu-ki-chi) Higher-than-average luck

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

吉 Kichi (pronounced Ki-chi) Average luck

末吉 Suekichi (pronounced Sue-e-ki-chi) Slightly bad luck

凶 Kyo (pronounced Kyo) Bad luck

大凶 Daikyo (pronounced Da-i-kyo) Very very bad luck

お守り Omamori (pronounced O-ma-mo-ri) Good-luck charm, amulet

learn basic japanese for tourist

お賽銭 Osaisen (pronounced 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 Kanko annaisho (pronounced 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 guidebooks.

4. Shopping

100 Basic Japanese Phrases for Your Trip to Japan

Picture from Shopping in Kyoto: Top 16 Department Stores, Malls, and Shopping Streets

これください Kore kudasai (pronounced Ko-re ku-da-sigh) I want this.

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

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

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

If you want to decline that offer, then use the phrase above.

いくら? Ikura? (pronounced E-ku-ra) How much is this?

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13 Japanese Phrases For Shopping In Japan

おすすめ Osusume (pronounced O-sue-sue-may) Recommendation

試食 / 試飲 Shishoku / Shiin (pronounced She-sho-ku / She-in) Food tasting, Drink tasting

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12 Simple Japanese Phrases For Supermarkets And Convenience Stores

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9 Japanese Phrases You Can Use At The Drugstore

↑ Return to the top of the article.

5. Restaurants, Cafes, and Izakaya Pubs

100 Basic Japanese Phrases for Your Trip to Japan

Picture from Osaka's Vibrant Izakaya Culture: 13 Pubs and Bar Districts 牛丼 Gyudon (pronounced Gyu-don) A bowl of rice with a topping of sliced beef

たこ焼き Takoyaki (pronounced Tah-ko-yah-ki) Fried octopus dumplings

お好み焼き Okonomiyaki (pronounced O-ko-no-mi-yah-ki) Pancake-like dish with meat (or seafood) and vegetables

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Ready For Japan! Vol. 4 - Make Authentic Okonomiyaki At Home

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和風 Wafu (pronounced Wa-fu-u) Japanese-style

無料 Muryo (pronounced Mu-ryoh) Free

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How To Order Sushi - 6 Simple Japanese Phrases To Use At Restaurants!

大盛り Oomori (pronounced 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 Tabehodai / Nomihodai (pronounced Tah-beh-hoh-die / Noh-mi-hoh-die) All-you-can-eat / All-you-can-drink

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

ベジタリアン / 菜食 Vegetarian / Saishoku (pronounced Beh-ji-tah-ri-an/Sigh-sho-ku) Vegetarian

ヴィーガン / 完全菜食 Vegan / Kanzen Saishoku (pronounced Bi-gan/Kan-zen-sigh-sho-ku) Vegan

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 (pronounced I-tah-da-ki-mas)

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

おいしい Oishii (pronounced O-i-shi-i) Delicious

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

ごちそうさまでした Gochisosama deshita (pronounced Go-chi-so-u-sah-mah-de-she-tah) Thank you for the delicious meal.

"Gochisosamadeshita" is similar to "itadakimasu," but you say this after your food is done. Don't forget to say it, or it will be considered rude to the cook.

居酒屋 Izakaya (pronounced I-za-ka-ya) Japanese bar

日本酒 Nihonshu (pronounced Ni-ho-n-shoe) Japanese sake

地酒 Jizake (pronounced Ji-za-ke) Local sake

焼酎 Shochu (pronounced Show-chu-u)

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

泡盛 Awamori (pronounced A-wa-mo-ri) Strong Okinawa liquor

枝豆 Edamame (pronounced E-da-ma-me)

Edamame is the word for green-boiled and salted soybeans eaten along with alcoholic beverages like beer or sake.

乾杯 Kanpai (pronounced Kan-pai) Cheers!

トイレ/お手洗い/化粧室 Toire / Otearai / Keshoshitsu (pronounced Toy-re / O-teh-ah-rai / Keh-show-she-tsu) Toilet

Otearai and Keshoshitsu are formal terms for "bathroom" used in restaurants or hotels.

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10 Things You Need to Know About Japanese Toilets

6. Accommodation

ホステル Hostel (pronounced Ho-sue-te-lu) Hostel

カプセルホテル Capselu hotel (pronounced 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.

learn basic japanese for tourist

旅館 Ryokan (pronounced Ryo-kan) A Japanese inn, or Japanese-style hotel

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

素泊まり Sudomari (pronounced Su-do-ma-ri) A stay without meals included

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10 Japanese Phrases You Can Use At A Hotel

learn basic japanese for tourist

7. For Trouble and Emergencies

盗まれた Nusumareta (pronounced Nu-su-ma-re-tah) My belongings have been stolen.

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

たすけて Tasukete (pronounced Ta-sue-ke-te) Help!

交番 Koban (pronounced Koh-ban) Police station

警察 Keisatsu (pronounced Kei-sa-tsu) Police

110 Hyakutoban (pronounced Hya-ku-to-ban)

If you want to ask people to call 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 Kimochi warui (pronounced Ki-mo-chi-wa-ru-i) I’m feeling sick.

怪我した Kega shita (pronounced Ke-ga-she-ta) I’m injured.

救急車 Kyukyusha (pronounced Kyu-kyu-sha) Ambulance

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Japanese Phrases To Use When You're Sick Or In The Hospital

119 Hyakujukyuban (pronounced Hya-ku-ju-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 to use such emergency calls. Ask for help around you.

大使館 Taishikan (pronounced Tai-she-kan) Foreign embassy

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

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14 Japanese Phrases To Use To Make Requests And Ask For Help

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Home » Articles » 25 Essential Japanese Phrases for Travellers and Tourists

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Full disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. ?

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written by Caitlin Sacasas

Language: Japanese

Reading time: 12 minutes

Published: Dec 30, 2019

Updated: Sep 17, 2021

25 Essential Japanese Phrases for Travellers and Tourists

Getting ready to travel to Japan? You’ll need to know a few Japanese phrases before you go!

Learning even a few travel phrases in Japanese will break down a lot of barriers during your stay.

Japan is becoming more foreigner-friendly — you’ll notice updated signage includes English in main cities. And many Japanese people have spent some time learning English in school. But most people aren’t comfortable talking in English.

Japanese people know how hard it is to learn their language. They highly respect anyone who tries to learn and they appreciate your effort. Your willingness to try speaking Japanese will encourage them to try speaking the English they know. It’ll help you get by, and make your stay much more enjoyable.

Besides, it’s incredibly rewarding to visit a foreign country and connect with locals in their native language . And it shows a lot of respect for their culture, which the Japanese highly value.

So here are 25 essential Japanese phrases for all you travelers out there. All these phrases will be in formal, standard Japanese speech so they’re appropriate in any situation.

If you blast through these and you’re ready to learn more, check out JapanesePod101 . It’s the best podcast for learning Japanese, with courses dedicated to learning Survival Japanese — everything you need to know in Japanese to get by. Plus, there are culture classes, beginner to advanced lessons, and more. It’s definitely my favorite for getting started.

Okay, let’s start speaking Japanese!

1. “Hello” in Japanese – こんにちは ( Konnichiwa )

In Japanese, you can greet someone with こんにちは. It means “hello,” but there are many ways to greet someone in Japanese .

Konnichiwa also translates as “good afternoon,” so it’s best used during the day. In the morning, you can use おはようございます ( Ohayou gozaimasu ), and in the evening, こんばんは ( konbanwa ).

Konnichiwa actually means “This day is…” but it’s used now to say hello.

2. “Please” in Japanese – ください ( Kudasai )

There are a couple of ways to say “please” in Japanese. The most universal one is ください. It means “please,” and you’d use it to ask a favor of almost anyone.

For instance, if you’re at a restaurant, you can say メニューをください ( Menyu- o kudasai ) to say “Please give me a menu.”

If you want to be more polite, you could use お願いします ( Onegai shimasu ). Either version of “please” is okay, but this one is better if you’re asking something of someone with higher status, or if you’re asking for a service. At a restaurant, both ください and お願いします are acceptable. Another example: if you’re ready for the check, you say お会計お願いします ( o-kaikei onegai shimasu ).

Unlike English, where “please” can be at the beginning or end of the sentence, it always comes at the end of the sentence in Japanese.

3. “Thank You” in Japanese – ありがとうございます ( Arigatou gozaimasu )

To thank someone in Japanese, you say ありがとうございます. That’s the most common way.

But maybe you learned “thank you” was “ Domo arigatou , Mr. Roboto.” from the song. どもありがとう does mean “thank you” as well, but more like “Thank you very much.” And it’s a little less formal without the ending ございます ( gozaimasu ).

4. “Excuse Me” in Japanese – すみません ( Sumimasen )

When you want to get someone’s attention, you can say すみません, followed by your question or request.

You can also use this to ask someone (politely) to move, or even to apologize in place of “sorry.”

5. “Let’s Eat” in Japanese – いただきます ( Itadakimasu )

いただきます is a unique Japanese phrase. It’s used like “let’s eat” in English or “bon appetit” in French. But it’s original meaning is “I humbly receive” and it’s always said before every meal, even when you eat alone. It’s a way to give thanks for the food, almost like saying grace.

When eating with others, it’s the signal to begin eating. You clap your hands together in a prayer position and say “いただきます!”

But, if you wanted to suggest grabbing a bite to eat, the polite way to ask would be 食べませんか ( Tabemasen ka , “Would you like to eat?”).

6. “Thank You for the Food” in Japanese – ごちそうさまでした ( Gochisousama deshita )

After a meal, you always say ごちそうさまでした. It means “thank you for the food,” and you’d say it to whoever treated you to your meal or cooked your food. Even if you paid for or made your own meal, you say this as an expression of gratitude to have food to eat.

7. “One” in Japanese – 一つ ( Hitotsu )

There are two different ways to count in Japanese , but for most basic phrases you’ll need to know “one” as 一つ. Hitotsu is the universal counter for the number 1, meaning you can use it to specify how many of anything you want or have.

The phrase 一つをください ( Hitotsu o kudasai ) means “one, please.” You can use it to ask for one ticket, one pastry, one of anything while you’re out. Simply point and say Hitotsu o kudasai .

8. “Yes” and “No” in Japanese – はい ( Hai ) and いいえ ( Iie )

To say “yes” in Japanese, you say はい and “no” is いいえ. Both of these are the polite, formal way to say them. However, you’ll more often hear うん ( un ) and ううん ( uun ) even though these are informal. Since you’re learning the basics, stick to hai and iie for now, but just know you may hear un and uun from others.

There’s another way to say “no” that’s more common because it’s less direct than iie . I’ll get to that in a moment.

9. “What’s Your Name?” in Japanese – お名前は何ですか ( O-namae wa nan desu ka )

In Japanese, you can ask for someone’s name by saying お名前は何ですか. “Ka” is a question particle, so it takes the place of “?” at the end of a sentence in Japanese.

When replying, Japanese people say either only their last name or their last name and then first name. If you want to answer this question, you can simply say your name followed by です ( desu ). So here's how that exchange might look:

“お名前は何ですか。” ( O-namae wa nan desu ka ) “たけうちなおこです。お名前は何ですか。” ( Takeuchi Naoko desu. O-namae wa nan desu ka. ) “サカサスケイトリンです。” ( Sakasasu Keitorin desu. )

In that example, the other person is Naoko Takeuchi (if only I was so lucky as to introduce myself to the creator of Sailor Moon!). But in Japanese, she’s known by her family name first: Takeuchi Naoko.

As a 外国人 ( gaikokujin , “foreigner”), I could say my name as either Keitorin Sakasasu or Sakasasu Keitorin . Either way is fine.

After meeting someone, it’s respectful to say よろしくお願いします。( Yoroshiku onegai shimasu , “Nice to meet you.”)

10. “How are you?” in Japanese – お元気ですか ( O-genki desu ka )

In Japanese, you can ask someone how they are with お元気ですか. But it’s more common to say お元気でした ( O-genki deshita ), which is past tense for asking someone “How have you been?” You don’t often ask how someone is doing in Japanese, but rather how they have been since you’ve seen them last (when it’s been a while).

11. “I’m Sorry” in Japanese – ごめんなさい ( Gomen nasai )

To apologize in Japanese, you can say ごめんなさい ( gomen nasai ) or ごめんね ( gomen ne ). Gomen ne is more casual, but still quite common even in semi-formal situations. すみません ( Sumimasen ) works, too, or you could ask someone “Excuse me” and then follow with “Sorry” – ごめんね!

12. “What’s This?” in Japanese – これは何ですか ( Kore wa nan desu ka )

Chances are, in Japan, you’ll stumble across some wild and totally different things. There are a lot of things unique to Japanese culture , from the toilets to the vending machines. So this is a good phrase to have ready!

If you don’t know what something is, ask これは何ですか and someone will explain it to you or help you out.

13. “I Don’t Understand” in Japanese – わかりません ( Wakarimasen )

Still don’t know what that thing is? Or is someone trying to talk to you in Japanese, and you don’t follow along? Then reply with ごめんなさい。わかりません。( Gomen nasai. Wakarimasen ).

Don’t be embarrassed to explain that you don’t understand. It won’t hurt the other person’s feelings — and you’re just starting out! It’s better to be honest than to run into trouble because you pretended to understand .

14. “What Does _ Mean?” in Japanese – は何意味ですか (*__ wa nan imi desu ka*)

Didn’t understand a certain word in particular? You can then ask “ _ は何意味ですか. “ Insert the word you didn’t understand into the blank.

For instance, if someone told you that thing in the vending machine is a 傘 ( kasa ), and you don’t know what kasa means, then you can ask 傘は何意味ですか ( Kasa wa nan imi desu ka ). The other person can either explain it’s for rain — “雨のためですよ” ( Ame no tame desu yo ) — or they’ll tell you “umbrella” if they know it in English.

15. “Say it Again More Slowly, Please” in Japanese – もう一度ゆっくり言ってお願いします ( Mou ichido yukkuri itte onegai shimasu )

If you still don’t understand or can’t keep up, use this phrase. Japanese people talk very fast, and the words can run together easily. So if you didn’t understand because you need to hear it slower, say すみません、わかりません。もう一度ゆっくり言ってお願いします ( Sumimasen, wakarimasen. Mou ichido yukkuri itte onegai shimasu ).

Or, you could shorten it to ゆっくりお願いします ( Yukkuri onegai shimasu ). This is just “more slowly, please.”

16. “How do you say ?” in Japanese – _ は日本語で何と言いますか (*__ wa nihongo de nan to iimasu ka*)

If you don’t know the word for something in Japanese, you don’t have to completely revert back to English! You can say _ は日本語で何と言いますか and fill in the blank with the English word.

Using our umbrella example again, you could say “Umbrella は日本語で何と言いますか” and the other person can tell you it’s kasa .

17. “Do you speak English?” in Japanese – 英語を話せますか ( Eigo wo hanasemasu ka )

You can ask someone if they speak English with 英語を話せますか. You could use this phrase with any language, and swap out eigo (“English”) for any other language. 日本語を話せますか ( Nihongo wo hanasemasu ka ) means “Do you speak Japanese?”

If you’re really trying to learn the language, not just get by briefly on a trip to Japan, then I would encourage you to keep trying to speak only in Japanese . This is your chance to learn and really speak! Don’t waste it by reverting back to English. You can always use phrases like the last one – “ _ は日本語で何と言いますか” – over and over again to learn how to say what you need!

18. “Where is ?” in Japanese – _ はどこですか (*__ wa doko desu ka*)

If you’re lost or looking for something, and all the signs are in kanji that you can’t read yet, then ask someone for help with “ _ はどこですか.” Some words you might want to fill in the blank with:

  • トイレ ( toire ) – Bathroom
  • 駅 ( Eki ) – Train station
  • 地下鉄 ( Chikatetsu ) – Subway
  • バス停 ( Basu tei ) – Bus stop
  • ホテル ( Hoteru ) – Hotel
  • 地図 ( Chizu ) – A map
  • 入口 ( Iriguchi ) – Entrance
  • 出口 ( Deguchi ) – Exit
  • レストラン ( Resutoran ) – Restaurant

19. “How Much is This?” in Japanese – これはいくらですか ( Kore wa ikura desu ka )

When you’re out shopping, you can find out the price of something by asking これはいくらですか. Keep in mind yen — represented by 円 ( en ) in Japan — is like counting pennies. If someone said 1000 yen ( sen en in Japanese), that’s actually about $10.

20. “It’s a bit…” in Japanese – ちょっと… ( Chotto… )

Ah, yes. The universal phrase, ちょっと. Chotto means “a little” or “a bit.” As a phrase by itself, it shows hesitation, and means “It’s a bit… (inconvenient, not good for me).”

You’ll hear this phrase used in place of no ( iie ) more than you hear a direct “no.” One thing you’ll learn is that Japanese is not a very direct language, and relies heavily on context and body language.

So, if you asked how much something was with “これはいくらですか” and it was too expensive, you can say “Aaa… chotto…” to say “Ah, that’s a bit pricey.” To be more direct, you could say ちょっと高い ( Chotto takai ), “It’s a bit expensive.” You may be able to score a cheaper price by being direct, but directness like that isn’t considered polite.

21. “What do you recommend?” in Japanese – おすすめは何ですか ( Osusume wa nan desu ka )

If you don’t know what’s good at a restaurant or shop, you can ask someone おすすめは何ですか to get their opinion.

This is a nice phrase to know because then you can ask locals what’s good around here, where you should eat, or what the house specialty is. It’s a good way to truly experience the country!

22. “Does this go to __?” in Japanese – これは__に行きますか ( Kore wa _ ni ikimasu ka)

This is another helpful phrase to know if you plan on using any of the public transportation. The train system can be especially confusing, so if you’re not sure you’re hopping on the right line, ask! “これは__に行きますか” will get a yes or no answer from someone. Fill in the blank with the destination of where you want to go.

23. “Do you have ?” in Japanese – __はありますか (* wa arimasu ka*)

If you’re looking for something, you can use the phrase “__はありますか” to ask. But this is also helpful if you’re at a restaurant and you’re wondering if they can meet your dietary needs. For instance, if you’re vegetarian, you could ask ベジタリアンメニューはありますか ( Bejitarian menyu- wa arimasu ka ).

If you can’t eat something specific, use the phrase “ は食べられません。” ( wa taberaremasen) For example, I can’t eat gluten. So I could say グルテンは食べられません。( Guruten wa taberaremasen. ) If it’s an allergy, you can say にアレルギーがあります。 (* ni arerugi- ga arimasu.*)

Here’s a few things you may not be able to eat:

  • 肉 ( niku ) – Meat
  • 牛肉 ( gyuuniku ) – Beef
  • 豚肉 ( butaniku ) – Pork
  • 鶏肉 ( toriniku ) – Chicken
  • ピーナッツ ( pi-nattsu ) – Peanuts
  • 小麦 ( komugi ) – Wheat
  • 卵 ( tomago ) – Eggs
  • 大豆 ( daizu ) – Soy
  • 魚 ( sakana ) – Fish
  • 貝類 ( kairui ) – Shellfish
  • 乳製品 ( nyuuseihin ) – Dairy

24. “Can you take my picture, please?” in Japanese – 写真を撮ってもらえますか ( Shashin wo totte moraemasu ka )

Of course, you’ll want to capture your journey to Japan! So if you’re walking about and need someone to take your picture, you can politely ask them for the favor with 写真を撮ってもらえますか. Or you could simplify it with 写真ください? ( Shashin kudasai? )

25. “I’ll have a beer to start, please” in Japanese – とりあえずビールをください ( Toriaezu bi-ru wo kudasai )

This classic phrase is a must-know. Anytime you go out in Japan, you’ll hear people say とりあえずビールをください, or just とりあえずビール ( Toriaezu bi-ru )! It’s such a set phrase, everyone picks it up quickly. Drinking culture is a big part of Japan, and it’s rude to turn down a drink. Usually, everyone starts off the first round with beer, which is why this phrase is so common. When it’s time to toast, say かんぱい!( Kanpai , “Cheers!”)

Enjoy Your Trip to the Land of the Rising Sun with these Japanese Phrases!

These Japanese phrases will help you put the right foot forward during your stay in Japan, and help you have a deeper cultural experience.

Can you think of any other helpful Japanese phrases for travelers to know? Share them in the comments! 気を付けて ( Ki wo tsukete ) — or “Be safe!”

Caitlin Sacasas

Content Writer, Fluent in 3 Months

Caitlin is a copywriter, content strategist, and language learner. Besides languages, her passions are fitness, books, and Star Wars. Connect with her: Twitter | LinkedIn

Speaks: English, Japanese, Korean, Spanish

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50 Essential Japanese Phrases for Travel

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By OptiLingo • 5 minute read

Common Japanese phrases can help you travel

You Need to Know a Few Japanese Phrases

Japan is a tourist hot spot . And a lot of Japanese people speak English. But, not all. So, if you want to make sure you can communicate with all Japanese people you meet, you need to know at least a few phrases. Or have them in your pocket in case you need them. These 50 basic Japanese phrases are the perfect sentences for any traveler.

Speaking a little Japanese can get you further than you think. Even with these sentences, you can ask for directions, get better opportunities, and show that you appreciate Japanese culture. Japanese people will definitely appreciate your effort, and they’ll probably give you better customer service. Discover Japan better than normal tourists, and see this beautiful country through the eyes of its locals .

50 Common Japanese Phrases

The trick to reaching japanese fluency fast.

These 50 phrases are the perfect start to speaking Japanese. That’s because they’re very common. Japanese people use them every day. And Japanese locals don’t actually use a lot of their vocabulary.

In fact, they only use 20% of the words they know for 80% of their conversations.

It’s called the Pareto Principle , and it’s the trick you need to use to become fluent in Japanese fast. By focusing on only the most common Japanese words and phrases, you can cut your study time significantly, and still partake in most conversations with locals. Less study time, more benefits.

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How to Learn Useful Japanese Phrases

You could always have these 50 survival Japanes phrases on a piece of paper. But, if you want to really impress people, you should definitely learn them. Luckily, it’s not difficult at all to master these. Here are a few tricks that can help you commit Japanese words and phrases to memory.

  • Space them out : don’t try to learn all 50 phrases at once. Learn 5-10 every day instead. You won’t overwhelm yourself, and you’ll remember more the next day .
  • Review them often : of course, by the time you wake up the next day, you’ll have forgotten most of your lesson. No worries, just repeat them. Then again the next day. The more you review, the more you’ll remember.
  • Say them out loud : You need to speak to reach fluency . So, with these Japanese phrases, the more you say them when you practice, the more comfortable you’ll be. By the time you’ll have to say them to a Japanese local, you’ll be confident.

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You’re only one click away!

Learn More Japanese Easily

These 50 phrases will definitely help you as you’re traveling Japan. And, who knows? Maybe you’ll fall in love with the people and the culture, and you’ll continue learning Japanese. If so, you need the most useful Japanese phrases to get you to fluency fast. Much like these ones. You can find them all on OptiLingo.

OptiLingo helps you get to Japanese fluency the fastest. This app won’t waste your time with unnecessary vocabulary. With guided pronunciation practice, OptiLingo can surely help you communicate with locals effortlessly. Achieve your dream of speaking Japanese by downloading OptiLingo !

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Japanese Travel Phrases for an Enjoyable Trip to Japan


Are you traveling to Japan and want to learn practical Japanese travel phrases? This article is designed to help you learn the most useful Japanese words for travel.

It’s always good to learn basic words when you travel to a foreign country. Not only does it make getting around easier, but it also allows you to enjoy communicating with the locals.

In general, Japanese people are not so good at speaking English , free wifi services aren’t very prevalent (especially outside of the central cities), and Japan is still more of a cash-based society than you may think. However, Japanese people are very kind; they’ll listen to you patiently and do their best to help. So just use these basic Japanese travel phrases to talk to Japanese people when you want to ask something.

When you speak even a little bit of Japanese, locals will appreciate your effort and will be more friendly. Here’s JapanesePod101’s list of practical Japanese travel phrases for your travels to Japan!

Table of Contents

  • Greeting/Communication
  • Asking for Directions
  • Restaurants
  • When You Need Help
  • Conclusion: How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese


1. Greeting/Communication

Airplane Phrases

To begin our list of essential Japanese travel phrases, we’ll go over greetings and basic travel phrases in Japanese for solid communication. These simple Japanese travel phrases can make a world of difference in your conversations and overall experience in Japan.

  • Romanization: Kon’nichiwa
  • English Translation: Hello

In terms of must-know Japanese travel phrases, you probably already know that this is the most common Japanese greeting word . You can say this to anybody for any occasion during the daytime.

  • Romanization: Hai / Iie
  • English Translation: Yes / No

Hai is “Yes” and it’s pronounced like the English word “Hi.” In Japan, saying yes also means that you understand. Iie is “No” and it’s pronounced ‘EE-eh.’

3- ありがとうございます

  • Romanization: Arigatō gozaimasu
  • English Translation: Thank you

Arigatō gozaimasu is the polite way to say “Thank you” in Japanese, and you can use this for any occasion. In case of a casual situation, you can just say Arigatō , or even more casually, Dōmo (どうも) which means “Thanks.”

4- いいえ、いりません

  • Romanization: Iie, irimasen
  • English Translation: No, thank you.

It literally means “No, I don’t need it,” in Japanese. At a restaurant, say this phrase when a waiter offers to fill your glass of water and you don’t want more.

  • Romanization: Sumimasen
  • English Translation: I’m sorry / Excuse me

This word is usually used to say “sorry” or “excuse me” . Say this when you bump into someone in a crowd or when you ask someone for directions. Japanese people also use this to mean “thank you,” in some cases, such as when someone picks up something you dropped.

  • Romanization: Onegai shimasu
  • English Translation: Please

When you request something, it’s polite to say Onegai shimasu . When someone offers you something and says please, she/he would say Dōzo (どうぞ) in Japanese.

  • Romanization: Watashi wa XX desu.
  • English Translation: I am XX.

Watashi is “I,” wa is “am/is/are,” and desu is a present-tense word that links subjects and predicates; it’s placed at the end of a sentence. You can put your name, or your nationality, such as: Watashi wa Amerika-jin desu (私はアメリカ人です) which means “I am American.”  

Many Different Flags

8- 私は日本語がわかりません

  • Romanization: Watashi wa nihongo ga wakarimasen.
  • English Translation: I don’t understand Japanese.

Nihongo is stands for the Japanese language, and Wakarimasen means “I don’t understand.” If you don’t know something, you can just say Wakarimasen meaning “I don’t know.”

9- 英語を話せますか

  • Romanization: Eigo o hanasemasu ka
  • English Translation: Can you speak English?

This is one of the most useful Japanese phrases for travelers. Eigo means “English,” Hanasemasu is a polite way to say “I speak,” and ka is a word that you add to the end of a complete sentence to make a question.

10- 英語でお願いします

  • Romanization: Eigo de onegai shimasu
  • English Translation: English, please.

This is another important Japanese travel phrase. De is the particle, and in this case it means “by” or “by means of.” The phrase literally translates as “English by please.” You can also say M saizu de onegai shimasu (Mサイズでお願いします) which means “Medium size, please.”

2. Asking for Directions

Preparing to Travel

One of the most important Japanese travel phrases you should know are directions . Here are some useful vocabulary words and two Japanese language travel phrases you need to know!

1- Vocabulary

  • 駅 ( Eki ) : Station
  • 地下鉄 ( Chikatetsu ) : Subway/Metro
  • トイレ ( Toire ) : Toilet
  • 銀行 ( Ginkō ) : Bank
  • 切符売り場 ( Kippu uriba ) : Ticket machine/Office
  • 観光案内所 ( Kankō annaijo ) : Tourist information office
  • 入口 ( Iriguchi ) : Entrance
  • 出口 ( Deguchi ) : Exit
  • 右 ( Migi ) : Right
  • 左 ( Hidari ) : Left
  • まっすぐ ( Massugu ) : Straight
  • 曲がる ( Magaru ) : Turn
  • 交差点 ( Kōsaten ) : Intersection
  • 角 ( Kado ) : Corner

2- XXはどこですか

  • Romanization: XX wa doko desu ka
  • English Translation: Where is XX?

Doko means “where” and you replace XX with the name of where you want to go.

For example

  • Toire wa doko desu ka (Where is the toilet?)
  • Deguchi wa doko desu ka (Where is an exit?)

3- XX e wa dō ikeba ii desu ka (XXへはどう行けばいいですか) : How can I go to XX?

  • Romanization: XX e wa dō ikeba ii desu ka
  • English Translation: How can I go to XX?

Dō is “how,” e is “to,” and ikeba ii can be translated as “good to go.” When you want to know how you can get somewhere, replace XX with where you want to go.

For example:

  • Eki e wa dō ikeba ii desu ka (How can I go to the station?)
  • Ginkō e wa dō ikeba ii desu ka (How can I go to the bank?)

4- Other Examples

1. この道をまっすぐ行きます ( Kono michi o massugu ikimasu. ):Go straight on this street.

Kono michi is “this street” and ikimasu is the polite way to say “Go.” O is a Japanese postpositional particle which indicates an object (in this case, kono michi ).

2. 次の角を右へ曲がります ( Tsugi no kado o migi e magarimasu. ):Turn right at the next corner.

Tsugi no kado means “next corner” and magarimasu is the polite way to say “Turn.” E is another postpositional particle that indicates direction; this can be translated as the English word “to.”

3. 交差点を渡って左へ行きます ( Kōsaten o watatte hidari e ikimasu. ):Cross an intersection and go to the left (direction).

Watatte is a conjugated form of wataru which means “cross.”

3. Shopping

Basic Questions

You’ll definitely love shopping when traveling in Japan, and some of the best Japanese phrases for travel are those related to this fun past-time. Knowing some useful Japanese words will make your shopping even more enjoyable.

1- XXはありますか

  • Romanization: XX wa arimasu ka
  • English Translation: Do you have XX?

When you’re at a store and looking for something, you can use this phrase by replacing XX with what you want.

  • Romanization: Ikura desu ka
  • English Translation: How much is it?

This is probably one of the most useful Japanese words for traveling and shopping. You can say Ikura desu ka in many situations, such as when you’re shopping, buying tickets, paying for a taxi, etc.

  • Romanization: Menzei dekimasu ka
  • English Translation: Can you do a tax exemption?

Did you know that, as a traveler, you can get a sales tax exemption when you purchase things greater than 5,000 yen? Menzei is “tax exempted” and dekimasu means “can do.” Don’t forget to say this when you buy something big!

  • Romanization: Kore wa nan desu ka
  • English Translation: What is this?

Kore is “this” and nan is another form of nani which means “what.” There are many unique foods, gadgets, and things which are unique to Japan, so when you wonder what it is, point to it and say this phrase.

  • Romanization: Kore o kaimasu
  • English Translation: I’ll buy this.

Kaimasu is the conjugation of the verb kau , which means “buy.”

6- カードは使えますか

  • Romanization: Kādo wa tsukaemasu ka
  • English Translation: Can I use a credit card?

Kādo is “card” and you pronounce it just like the English word “card.” Tsukaemasu is a conjugation of the potential form of the verb tsukau which means “use.” This phrase is useful when you want to use your card at small shops and restaurants.

Man and Woman Shopping

4. Restaurants

Japan has an array of delicious foods, of which sushi and ramen are just the tip of the iceberg. Amazingly, Tokyo is the city with the most Michelin-starred restaurants in the world, for several consecutive years. Enjoy yummy food at restaurants with useful Japanese words for restaurants and easy Japanese travel phrases related to food.

  • 英語のメニュー ( Eigo no menyū ) : English menu
  • ベジタリアンのメニュー ( Bejitarian no menyū ) : Vegetarian menu
  • 豚肉を含まないメニュー ( Butaniku o fukumanai menyū ) : Menu without pork
  • 水 ( Mizu ) : Water
  • 白/赤ワイン ( Shiro / Aka wain ) : White / Red wine

2- XXはありますか

When you want to ask if the restaurant has something you want, say this phrase (replacing XX with what you want).

  • Eigo no menyū wa arimasu ka (Do you have an English menu?)
  • Aka wain wa arimasu ka (Do you have red wine?)
  • Romanization: XX o kudasai
  • English Translation: Can I have XX?

This is another very useful phrase. Simply replace XX with what you want. You can also use this versatile phrase in various occasions, such as when shopping, choosing something, etc.

  • Kore o kudasai (Can I have this?)
  • Mizu o kudasai (Can I have water?)

4- お会計お願いします

  • Romanization: O-kaikei onegai shimasu
  • English Translation: Check, please.

O-kaikei means “check.” In Japan, people often cross their index fingers in front of their face as a gesture to indicate “check, please” at casual restaurants. However, when you’re at a nice restaurant, simply tell a waiter: O-kaikei onegai shimasu .

5. When You Need Help

Survival Phrases

Sometimes you get faced with unexpected emergencies while you’re traveling. Japan is famous for being one of the safest countries in the world, but you might fall very ill or be caught in a great earthquake.

1- Vocabularies

  • 警察 ( Keisatsu ) : Police
  • 病院 ( Byōin ) : Hospital
  • 救急車 ( Kyūkyūsha ) : Ambulance
  • ドラッグストア/薬局 ( Doraggu sutoa / Yakkyoku ) : Drug Store/Pharmacy
  • タクシー ( Takushī ) : Taxi

2- XXを呼んでください

  • Romanization: XX o yonde kudasai
  • English Translation: Can you call XX?

When you’re severely ill or in case of emergency, let people know by using this phrase. Japanese people will kindly help you.

  • Yūkyūsha o yonde kudasai (Can you call an ambulance?)
  • Keisatsu o yonde kudasai (Can you call the police?)

3- どこでインターネットを使えますか

  • Romanization: Doko de intānetto o tsukaemasu ka
  • English Translation: Where can I use the internet?

Although large cities in Japan provide free public wifi at major stations, metros, and cafes, you may need to find internet access in smaller cities. Remember that there will be kind Japanese people who will share their personal hotspots, or look things up for you with their own phones, as well.

4- 電話を貸してください

  • Romanization: Denwa o kashite kudasai
  • English Translation: Can I use your phone?

Denwa is “phone” and kashite is a conjugation word of kasu , which means “lend.” This phrase is literally translated as “Please lend (me) a phone.”

  • Romanization: Tasukete kudasai
  • English Translation: Please help me.

I believe this phrase is the last thing you would ever use in Japan, but in case something does happen, this is useful survival Japanese for tourists.

Japanese Landmark

6. Conclusion: How JapanesePod101 Can Help You Learn More Japanese

I hope this article of Japanese travel phrases is helpful and that you’ll enjoy your trip to Japan!

If you would like to learn more about the Japanese language, you’ll find more useful content on . We provide a variety of free lessons for you to improve your Japanese language skills.

We also have YouTube channel: JapanesePod101 . It’s fun to learn Japanese through watching videos and listening to actual Japanese pronunciation, so we recommend you check it out!

Don’t forget to study with our free Japanese vocabulary lists , read more insightful blog posts like this one, and download our mobile apps to learn anywhere, anytime! Whatever your reason for learning Japanese , know that we’re here to help and you can do it ! Keep in mind that the best way to learn Japanese phrases for travel is repetition and practice.

Before you go, let us know in the comments how you feel about using these useful travel phrases in Japanese after reading this article. More confident, or still a little confused about something? Feel free to ask questions in the comments!

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30+ Easy Japanese Phrases for Tourists to Use ASAP

I’m assuming you want to visit Japan….

And you want to learn Japanese phrases for tourists.

Which means that you want phrases you can quickly use… and don’t want figure out grammar.

And there’s nothing wrong with that. People start learning Japanese through various ways.

So, this guide will teach you 30+ Japanese tourist phrases you can understand and use A.S.A.P, even if you don’t know the language at all.

And as a result… your trip will be more enjoyable, you’ll impress Japanese locals, and perhaps this could kickstart your journey to actually learning Japanese.

Let’s jump in.

Note: The suggested pronunciations are not written for accuracy but for English speakers to be able to understand it via English letters.

1. Arigatou gozaimasu.

  • Meaning: Thank you (formal/polite)
  • Pronunciation: Aree-ga-tow goh-zai-mas (zai rhymes with sky)
  • Japanese: ありがとうございます。

This is how you say thank you in Japanese .

And the most important word to know in a foreign language is… “Thank you.” Japanese people tend to use polite language unless they are close friends. So, this version of “Thank you” is formal enough that you can use it in every situation!

japanese phrases for tourists: Arigatou gozaimasu

2. Konnichiwa

  • Meaning: Hello (Noon or Afternoon)
  • Pronunciation: Kon-nee-chee-wa
  • Japanese: こんにちは

This is the most common way to say hello in Japanese .

But… although many people know the word “Konnichiwa” as “Hello,” it is only used around noon to afternoon. You wouldn’t use it in the morning, evening, or night, even if you wanted to say “hello” to someone at that time.

For those, you’d need these next few phrases.

japanese phrases for tourists: konnichiwa

3. Ohayou gozaimasu

  • Meaning: Good morning.
  • Pronunciation: Oh-hah-yo go-zai-mas
  • Japanese: おはようございます

If you need to greet someone in the morning you should say “Ohayou gozaimasu”.

4. Konbanwa

  • Meaning: Good evening
  • Pronunciation: Kon-bahn-wa
  • Japanese: こんばんは

In the evening, the greeting would be “Konbanwa”. Make sure to use the correct greeting during each time of day!

5. Hajimemashite

  • Meaning: Nice to meet you
  • Pronunciation: Ha-jee-meh-mash-teh
  • Japanese: はじめまして

Of course, if you’re going to meet people and say hello…

You may as well also say “nice to meet you.”

6. Watashi no namae wa ____ desu.

  • Meaning: My name is (name) .
  • Pronunciation: Wata-shee no na-mah-eh wa (name) desu.
  • Japanese: 私の名前は (name) です。

You might run into a situation where you need to introduce yourself in Japanese . In Japanese, you will need to say your last name before your first.

But if you’re just communicating with random people, you can just keep it casual and say your first name.

If you want to go more casual…

  • Meaning: I’m (name) .
  • Pronunciation: (name) desu.
  • Japanese: (name) です。

7. Tasukete kudasai

  • Meaning: Please help me.
  • Pronunciation: Tass-ke-te kooda-sai
  • Japanese: 助けてください

If you need assistance you can ask this in Japanese for help! Japanese people are usually willing to help strangers.

8. Nihongo ga wakarimasen.

  • Meaning: I don’t understand Japanese.
  • Pronunciation: Nee-hon-go gah waka-ree-mah-sen
  • Japanese: 日本語が分かりません。

If someone starts talking to you in Japanese, you can use this phrase to let them know you don’t understand. Chances are, they can either use a translator app or find someone who can speak English.

9. Toire wa doko desuka?

  • Meaning: Where is the bathroom?
  • Pronunciation: To-ee-re wa do-ko des ka?
  • Japanese: トイレはどこですか?

Ah, one of the most important Japanese phrases for tourists.

While traveling, it can be important to find a bathroom. This phrase can help you when you need to figure out where the bathroom is.

10. Okaikei onegaishimasu.

  • Meaning: Check, please.
  • Pronunciation: Oh-kai-kay (Kai rhymes with sky)
  • Japanese: お会計お願いします。

After finishing up a meal at a restaurant, you can ask for the bill by saying “Okaikei onegaishimasu”!

11. Osusume wa nandesuka?

  • Meaning: What is your recommendation?
  • Pronunciation: Oh-soo-soo-meh wa nan des ka?
  • Japanese: おすすめはなんですか?

If you’re trying a new type of restaurant or cuisine, you can always ask for a recommendation so that you know what to order.

12. Onegaishimasu.

  • Meaning: Yes, please/Please.
  • Pronunciation: Oh-neh-gai (gai like “guy”) she-mas
  • Japanese: お願いします。

This can be useful if you’re answering someone who is helping you out. For example, if you’re buying a ticket and the ticket attendant is confirming your trip details, you can use this phrase.

Or, think about it this way. If someone says, “would you like more water?” In English, you can say “Please” as a request. Onegaishimasu works in that same way.

You wouldn’t use this word with a noun (like water + please), but more so as a request coupled with a please (please do it.)

13. Kore kudasai.

  • Meaning: Please give me this.
  • Pronunciation: Koh-re kooda-sai (sai like sigh)
  • Japanese: これください。

Japan has many markets and vendors in alleys and shopping streets. If you’re visiting a market while in Japan, this is a necessary phrase to try.

By the way, “Kudasai” means please and is what you would use with a noun like “this” or “water,” as per the next Japanese tourist phrase.

14. Omizu o kudasai.

  • Meaning: Water please.
  • Pronunciation: Oh-mee-zoo oh kooda-sai
  • Japanese: お水をください。

Water is usually free in Japanese restaurants so you can easily ask for it using this phrase.

15. Ikura desuka?

  • Meaning: How much is this?
  • Pronunciation: Ee-koo-rah des ka?
  • Japanese: いくらですか?

If you need to clarify the price of a product, you can ask the price using the phrase.

16. Eki wa doko desuka?

  • Meaning: Where is the train station?
  • Pronunciation: Eh-kee wa doh-ko des ka?

Trains are an important part of Japanese culture, and any trip to Japan will usually involve trains! If you’re confused about where the nearest station is, you can ask with this phrase.

17. Wakarimasen.

  • Meaning: I don’t understand.
  • Pronunciation: Waka-ree-mah-sen
  • Japanese: 分かりません。

If you’re having difficulty communicating, you can use this phrase to let the other person know you don’t understand.

18. Sayounara

  • Meaning: Goodbye.
  • Pronunciation: Sai-yo-na-rah
  • Japanese: さようなら。

This is how you say bye in Japanese . But, there’s a big “but.” This is a forever/long-time kind of “goodbye” where you won’t see them for a long time. So, best not to use it with friends.

Maybe you can say it as you’re leaving Japan.

19. Mata ne.

  • Meaning: See you soon (casual).
  • Pronunciation: Mah-tah neh.
  • Japanese: またね

If you made a friend in Japan, you can say this to casually signify that you’ll see them soon!

This is the casual way of saying bye.

20. Michi ga wakarimasen.

  • Meaning: I don’t know the way.
  • Pronunciation: Mee-chi ga waka-ree-masen
  • Japanese: 道が分かりません。

When you’re traveling it is common to get lost. If you use this phrase someone could help you find the directions!

21. Kurejitto kaado wa tsukaemasuka?

  • Meaning: Can I use a credit card?
  • Pronunciation: Koo-re-jitto kah-do wa tsoo-kah-eh-mas ka?
  • Japanese: クレジットカードは使えますか?

Many restaurants in smaller cities in Japan are cash-only. But big cities should be no problem. Either way, use this phrase just to see if they accept cards.

22. Kippu no kai kata ga wakarimasen.

  • Meaning: I don’t know how to buy the ticket.
  • Pronunciation: Keeppu no kai-kata ga wakaree-masen
  • Japanese: きっぷの買い方がわかりません。

Whether you’re trying to buy tickets to an attraction or transportation, it can be helpful to use this phrase to get assistance.

Confused tourists huddled around a train ticket machine is a common sight, so if you want to skip the frustration… use this phrase with train staff.

And if you want to get someone’s attention, use this next phrase.

23. Sumimasen.

  • Meaning: Excuse me or sorry
  • Pronunciation: Soo-mee-ma-sen
  • Japanese: すみません。

This is a versatile word that can either get someone’s attention or apologize for something.

24. ____ ga taberaremasen.

  • Meaning: I can’t eat _____
  • Pronunciation: ____ ga tabe-rah-re-masen
  • Japanese: ____が食べられません。

If you have some food allergies, intolerances, or preferences you can look up the food name in Japanese and insert it into this phrase.

You may be interested in this guide on vegan/vegetarian/allergy requests:

25. Chuumon shite mo iidesuka?

  • Meaning: Can I order?
  • Pronunciation: Chuu-mon shte moh ee des ka?
  • Japanese: 注文してもいいですか?

Once you’re ready to order at a restaurant, you can say this to let the waiter know you’re ready to order.

You may also be interested in :

  • Japanese restaurant phrases

26. Ima nanji desuka?

  • Meaning: What time is it?
  • Pronunciation: Eema nan-jee des ka?
  • Japanese: 今何時ですか?

If you’re outside and happened to forget your phone or watch, you can ask someone this phrase to figure out the time.

27. ______ wa doko desuka?

  • Meaning: Where is _____?
  • Pronunciation: _____ wa doh-ko des ka?
  • Japanese: ___はどこですか?

This is a useful phrase that you can use to figure out where something is. For example, you can insert the name of the attraction you’re heading towards.

28. Eigo o hanasemasuka?

  • Meaning: Can you speak English?
  • Pronunciation: Ey-go oh hana-se-mas ka?
  • Japanese: 英語を話せますか?

Before trying to communicate in Japanese, you can try and ask if they can speak in English.

29. Itadakimasu.

  • Meaning: Thank you for the food.
  • Pronunciation: Ee-tada-kee-mas
  • Japanese: いただきます。

If you’re eating with Japanese people, you’ll want to say this phrase before starting your meal. In Japanese culture, it is customary to show appreciation for the meal before eating with this phrase.

30. Totemo oishii desu.

  • Meaning: It’s very delicious.
  • Pronunciation: Toh-te-mo oh-ee-she des
  • Japanese: とてもおいしいです。

In Japan, there are often small restaurants with few seats and one chef. If you’re eating at a small place like that, it could be useful to mention this phrase after trying the food to show your appreciation!

Now You Know…

Now you know some must know Japanese phrases for tourists.

But maybe I am missing something.

So, leave a comment and tell me what else belongs on here.

You may also be interested in the following lessons as well..

  • Japanese survival phrases
  • Japanese travel phrases
  • Japanese survival phrases course for beginners (Free 3 month access by JapanesePod101) – click here .

– The Main Linguajunkie

P.S. Interested in learning Japanese? This Japanese course for Absolute Beginners from JapanesePod101 is FREE for a limited time only. They plan to close it down in the future, but while it’s still open, give it a try. Click the image below.

learn basic japanese for tourist

Anja On Adventure

73+ Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Tourists Visiting Japan & Free cheat sheet

List of essential Japanese travel phrases for tourists traveling to Japan, with Japanese language basics and free Japanese travel phrases pdf. Easy Japanese travel words for anyone interested in learning Japanese language. From how to say thank you in Japanese, to Japanese phrases for ordering food and words for going around for easy navigation on your holiday in Japan. Japan | Visit Japan | Japanese Phrases for Travel | East Asia | Nippon #traveljournal #language #download #travelphrases

Disclosure: This essential Japanese travel phrases for tourists article may contain affiliate links. If you click it and buy something you like, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you! Read more in  Disclaimer .

Going to Japan? Searching for essential Japanese travel phrases for tourists ? Look no further! When in Japan, being familiar with common Japanese phrases for tourists will be beyond helpful! Trust me! I have been to Japan and knowing basic Japanese phrases helped me to enjoy exploring the vibrant streets of Tokyo , serene temples of Kyoto , or the natural beauty of Mount Fuji during sakura.

Before you travel to the land of the rising Sun, learn Japanese travel phrases which will help to order ramen, and to deepen your understanding of Japanese culture and their way of life. Curious, what are some common phrases I need to learn before my trip to Japan ?

🥘 If you have been wondering “What is Anja’s favorite Japanese food?”, you will find the answer hidden in the blog.

anja on Adventure

Japan is one of the most sought-after and visited countries in Asia, known for its fascinating blend of tradition and modernity, breathtaking landscapes, and renowned cuisine. Especially popular in Spring at sakura or in Autumn for fall foliage.   There are people in Japan, who speak English. But it is not as common as you would think. Thus, japanese phrases to know when traveling will come in handy. By knowing basic Japanese words you will also be able to show respect to the locals. In this common travel phrases Japanese language guide , you are going to find useful phrases in Japanese for tourists. From typical Japanese phrases for greetings, Japanese hotel phrases and Japanese words for simple conversation. Inside the post you will also find a FREE Japanese travel phrases pdf , that you can download and bring with you to Japan.   Let’s begin your Japanese adventure by learning essential Japanese phrases for travel .

for ESSENTIAL TRAVEL PHRASES: • 73+ Essential ENGLISH Travel Phrases and Words You Should Know • 73+ Essential ARABIC Travel Phrases for Tourists in Arab Countries & Free PDF • 73+ Essential GREEK Travel Phrases for Tourists on a Greek Holiday & Download • 73+ Essential JAPANESE Travel Phrases for Tourists Visiting Japan & Free cheat sheet • 73+ Essential SLOVENIAN Travel Phrases for your trip to Slovenia & Free Download • 73+ Essential SWAHILI Travel Phrases for Travelers to East Africa + Free Download for WORDS & PHRASES in 101 different languages: • How to say You have beautiful eyes in 101 different languages • How to say What is the WiFi password in 101 different languages • How to say Hello in 101 different languages spoken around the World • How to say Love in 101 different languages spoken around the World • How to say I love you in 101 different languages spoken around the World • How to say Thank you in 101 different languages spoken around the World • How to say Happy Birthday in 101 different languages spoken In the World • How to say Happy New Year in 101 different languages spoken around the World • How to say Friend in 101 different languages spoken around the World with Pronunciation

for general JAPAN TRAVEL TIPS: • GET OVER JET LAG WITH THESE 19 EASY-TO-FOLLOW TIPS • ULTIMATE TRAVELER SAFETY GUIDE: WHAT TO DO DURING AN EARTHQUAKE for JAPAN TIPS: • Ultimate List of 23 Best Apps for Travel to Japan • JAPAN COST OF TRAVEL AND DETAILED BUDGET BREAKDOWN • HOW TO SPEND SEVENTEEN DAYS IN JAPAN: FIRST TIME ITINERARY • 73+ Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Tourists Visiting Japan & Free cheat sheet for best TOURS IN JAPAN: • TOP 5 RAMEN TOURS IN TOKYO TO UNLOCK YOUR TASTEBUDS • 10 STUNNING JAPAN CHERRY BLOSSOM TOURS THAT YOU WILL ABSOLUTELY LOVE for INSTAGRAM CAPTIONS about JAPAN: • 55 BEST KYOTO CAPTIONS FOR INSTAGRAM – GOLDEN AND KAWAII • 55 BEST TOKYO CAPTIONS FOR INSTAGRAM – KAWAII AND CUTE • 73 Best Ramen Captions for Instagram – Delicious Like Broth • 87 Simplistic Cherry Blossom Captions for Sakura – Sweet and Dreamy • 135 Best Japan Captions for Instagram – Puns, Quotes, Riddles & Jokes

Table of Contents

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List of essential Japanese travel phrases for tourists traveling to Japan, with Japanese language basics and free Japanese travel phrases pdf. Easy Japanese travel words for anyone interested in learning Japanese language. From how to say thank you in Japanese, to Japanese phrases for ordering food and words for going around for easy navigation on your holiday in Japan. Japan | Visit Japan | Japanese Phrases for Travel | East Asia | Nippon #traveljournal #language #download #travelphrases

1. Where is Japanese spoken?

Did you know that more than 125 million people speak Japanese? Japanese is primarily spoken in Japan. It is the official language of Japan and is spoken by the majority of the population there. Due to globalization and the popularity of Japanese culture, Japanese is studied and spoken by learners in many countries worldwide. There are Japanese-speaking communities in countries around the world, particularly in the United States, Brazil, Canada, Australia, and the Philippines. The best way to learn Japanese for travel is by using apps like Duolingo or Memrise. If your Japan itinerary is longer than 2 weeks, maybe sign up for a language course. To master the basic Japanese phrases for conversation the best way would be going on a language exchange but if you don’t have time, just download Japanese cheat sheet in this blog post.

List of essential Japanese travel phrases for tourists traveling to Japan, with Japanese language basics and free Japanese travel phrases pdf. Easy Japanese travel words for anyone interested in learning Japanese language. From how to say thank you in Japanese, to Japanese phrases for ordering food and words for going around for easy navigation on your holiday in Japan. Japan | Visit Japan | Japanese Phrases for Travel | East Asia | Nippon #traveljournal #language #download #travelphrases

2. Japanese language basics: alphabet and pronunciation

Before you start learning common Japanese phrases for tourists, you have to familiarize yourself with the basics of the Japanese language . The Japanese writing system consists of three alphabets: Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji . Hiragana and Katakana are native to Japan. They both use 46 characters , each representing one syllable and a specific phonetic sound . Hiragana is used for native Japanese words and Katakana for words borrowed from foreign languages. Kanji is a writing system borrowed from China, where each ideogram stands for a certain meaning and can have multiple pronunciations.  Don’t get scared, let me tell you that Japanese alphabet has fewer letters than English alphabet, 21 in total. It uses the same sounds that you use in the English language. Each character represents a specific sound , and once you grasp the sounds, you will be able to read and pronounce Japanese with ease.   Below you will find a guide for Hiragana and Katakana symbols and a similar sound in English language.

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learn basic japanese for tourist

3. Essential Japanese travel phrases

3.1. basic japanese phrases for travelers.

Basic Japanese phrases for conversation that showcase politeness and cultural respect, encouraging positive interactions with locals and are a base for every communication. Those are basic phrases to know when visiting Japan.


3.2. Essential Japanese phrases for greetings and introductions

Japanese words and phrases for greetings lay the foundation for any interaction, allowing you to initiate conversations and make a positive first impression. They are easy Japanese words to learn.

ALSO READ: • How to say You have beautiful eyes in 101 different languages around the World

3.3. Essential Japanese travel phrases for directions and getting around

Japanese travel phrases when asking for directions will enable you to navigate unfamiliar streets and find your way around.

ALSO READ: • Japan Cost of Travel and Detailed Budget Breakdown

3.4. Useful Japanese phrases for tourists when ordering food and drinks

Japanese language phrases for ordering meals, asking for recommendations, and specifying dietary preferences ensure enjoyable dining experiences and help you explore local cuisines.

learn basic japanese for tourist

3.5. Essential phrases in Japanese for shopping

Japanese basics terms for inquiring about prices, negotiating, and Japan tourist phrases for asking for sizes or colors are handy when exploring markets and boutiques.

ALSO READ: • Ultimate List of 23 Best Apps for Travel to Japan

🥘 “What is Anja’s favorite Japanese food?” It is ramen. I love ramen and could eat it every day.

3.6. Useful Japanese hotel phrases

Japanese language words and hotel phrases you will need when checking in a hotel, asking for towels, fixing air conditioning, enquiring what time is breakfast, and what is included in your room rate.

ALSO READ: • How to say Thank you in 101 different languages in the World

3.7. Survival Japanese phrases and Japanese travel terms in case of emergencies

Here you will find helpful Japanese travel terms in case of emergencies, natural disasters, or if you will be needing assistance in difficult or dangerous situations.

ALSO READ: • Best Japan Captions for Instagram – Puns, Quotes, Riddles & Jokes

3.8. Beyond tourist Japanese phrases

If you’re like me and really love learning a few phrases in new languages, expand your study beyond the essential travel phrases . I always learn how to say please and thank you, never visit a country without knowing the local word for “coffee” and never leave without knowing how to say;

learn basic japanese for tourist

4. Best language App for traveling abroad

Learning a language is a long process. If you think you won’t have time to learn basic Japanese phrases , or if the situations come your way when above mentioned Japanese travel phrases won’t be enough, use Google Translate. This is my favorite language app, that I use on (almost) every trip.

4.1. Google Translate

Google Translate is the most popular language travel app that can be used everywhere. I personally use it on all my travels, when going to Tanzania to learn what some Swahili words mean, when in Mexico to help with my not-the-best Spanish, when in Italy, in Japan and other places. I’m sure you are familiar with the language app already. The most obvious feature is it will help you translate the destination language into your own one. But the absolute best feature is that it can translate the text using ‘ camera translation ’. All you have to do is open the app, point your camera toward the text in a foreign language and Google Translate will do the rest. Perfect for menus! It also translates text from the photos on your camera roll. And it also works offline, when you download the language pair on your phone. Language: 133 languages Download: iOS | Android | Website Price: Free

learn basic japanese for tourist

5. Final Thoughts on Essential Japanese Travel Phrases for Tourists

Whether it’s a warm greeting, ordering a meal, or expressing gratitude, this travel japanese guide and Japanese for tourists not only open doors to easier communication, but also show respect and will help you to understand Japanese culture in a different way. Before traveling to Nippon, learn Japanese words for tourists that will help you to navigate through this modern but culturally entwined land, full of history, sushis, shrines, and geishas. How to say Hello in Japanese and how to say thank you in Japanese language. Basic Japanese phrases for directions, ordering food, and checking in a hotel. And don’t forget to download Japanese travel cheat sheet . Which of these must know Japanese phrases for travel have you managed to memorize so far? Let me know in the comments! Safe travels = 安全な旅行 [anzen’na ryokō], Anja

➤ What you should read next …

• How to spend 17 days in Japan • Japan Cost of Travel and Detailed Budget Breakdown • Ultimate List of 23 Best Apps for Travel to Japan • 135 Best Japan Captions for Instagram – Puns, Quotes, Riddles & Jokes • How to say Hello in 101 different languages

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Essential Japanese Phrases for Tourists visiting Japan  + FREE cheat sheet

✈ Travel like a PRO

Are you ready to travel like a PRO? Save time and money with these travel tips and resources . I personally use these companies to save time and money. They do the work by providing a list of options, prices, and reviews from actual guests, for anywhere I am traveling worldwide. ✈️ FLIGHTS: I use Skyscanner in combination with Google Flights to find amazing flight fares (try the Explore feature). I book directly with an airline or pair it with Iwantthatflight for the best deals. 🏨 ACCOMMODATION: is my favorite site for finding great hotel deals. They return the best rates and reviews are from actual guests! 🚘 RENTAL CARS: Discover Cars are my go-to, when planning an epic road trip. 🗽 TOURS & ACTIVITIES: I like to wander around on my own, but when I want to explore with a group, skip the line with an entrance ticket, I book it with GetYourGuide or Viator . ❤️‍🩹 TRAVEL INSURANCE: I never, under any circumstances travel without insurance. In most cases, I use yearly global travel medical insurance. But, if you don’t have that and some impromptu travel plans occur, use SafetyWing . With them, you can buy travel insurance even when you are already abroad. Better be safe, than sorry! 📲 ONLINE SAFETY: NordVPN keeps your devices’ browsing safe and malware-free. Stream shows from around the world, access social media in countries where they are blocked and buy cheap flights by changing your virtual location. 🛜 STAY CONNECTED WITH eSIM: Ditch the plastic SIM cards and waiting in lines at the airport! Airalo eSIMs allow you to connect as soon as you land at your destination. They have eSIMs for over 190+ countries worldwide.

Where is Japanese spoken?

Japanese is an official language in Japan. There are some Japanese-speaking communities in various other countries around the world, like the United States, Brazil, Canada and Australia.

How to say Good Morning in Japanese?

おはようございます pronounced as “ohayou gozaimasu” Learn basic Japanese words and quick Japanese phrases easy on Anja On Adventure blog. Here you can also FREE DOWNLOAD Japanese phrases for travelers pdf and key Japanese phrases for tourists.

How to say Thank you in Japanese?

Thank you in Japanese is ありがとうございます, which is pronounced as “ arigatou gozaimasu”. Learn more Japanese language basics and easy Japanese phrases for tourists on Anja On Adventure blog. Here you can also FREE DOWNLOAD basic Japanese travel phrases pdf and coloring pages with Japanese words.

How to say Hello in Japanese?

こんにちは pronounced as “konnichiwa” Learn basic Japanese for tourists and important Japanese phrases for travel on Anja On Adventure blog. Here you can also FREE DOWNLOAD Japanese for travelers pdf and Japan basic words.

How to say My name is in Japanese?

わたしのなまえは …, pronounced as “ Watashi no namae wa …”. Learn Japan travel phrases and top Japanese phrases for tourists on Anja On Adventure blog. Here you can also FREE DOWNLOAD basic Japanese words pdf and Japanese phrases while travelling Japan.

How to say How are you in Japanese?

おげんきですか? , pronounced as “ Ogenki desu ka?” Learn more Japanese phrases to know and basic Japanese phrases for tourists on Anja On Adventure blog. Here you can also FREE DOWNLOAD Japanese phrase cheat sheet pdf and useful kanji for tourists.

How do you say Hi in Japanese?

Hi in Japanese language is やあ , pronounced as “ya”. Learn learn basic Japanese for travel and Japanese phrases for travelling on Anja On Adventure blog. Here you can also FREE DOWNLOAD japanese cheat sheet tourist pdf and Japan phrases for travelers.

❥ About Anja On Adventure

anja on Adventure

Anja On Adventure is a travel blog, a collection of insider tips and information on destinations, that I visited as a solo female traveler, tour guide, teacher, yacht stewardess, and Survivor challenge tester. Anja, is a thirty-something adventure-seeking, sun chasing, beach hopping, gin-loving, tropics enthusiast with a creative mind and sarcastic spirit, who loves coconut and mango but doesn’t like chocolate and sweets. I am passionate about all things travel, maps, and puzzles. Click here to learn more About me .

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50 Important Japanese Travel Phrases for Traveling to Japan

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Welcome to your essential guide to Japanese phrases for traveling to Japan!

If you are planning a trip to Japan, learning some basic Japanese phrases will not only enhance your experience but will also help you connect with the local culture and people.

In this post, we will introduce you to simple but useful phrases that will make it easier for you to communicate in everyday situations, from asking for directions to shopping. Let’s get started!

Basic Phrases in Japanese

Greetings and basic phrases in japanese.

learn basic japanese for tourist

  • Hello : Konnichiwa (こんにちは)
  • Goodbye : Sayonara
  • Good morning : Ohayou gozaimasu
  • Good afternoon/evening: Konbanwa
  • See you later : Mata
  • See you tomorrow : mata shita
  • Thank you politely : Arigatou gozaimasu (ありがとうございます). .
  • Excuse me/Sorry : すみません (Sumimasen). It is used both to apologize; for example, if you bump into someone while walking, you say sumimasen; it is also used to call the waiter (as excuse me.
  • Sorry : Gomenasai (ごめんなさい)
  • Please : onegai shimasu (お願いします)
  • You are welcome : Doo itashimashite.
  • Nice to meet you : Hajimemashite (初めまして)
  • I am Veronica : Veronica desu

How to say yes or no

Yes : hai! .

No : iie (you must extend the i and pronounce both).

Common Questions

Basic questions in japanese

  • Do you understand? : Wakarimasu ka (わかりますか)
  • I understand : Wakarimasu (わかります)
  • I don’t understand : Wakarimasen (わかりません)
  • How much does this cost? : Kore wa ikura desu ka (これはいくらですか)
  • Where is the bathroom? : Toire wa doko desu ka (トイレはどこですか)
  • Do you speak English? : Eigo o hanasemasu ka (英語を話せますか)
  • Yes, I speak English : Hanashimasu (話します)
  • No, I don’t speak : Hanashimasen (話しません).
  • I don’t understand Japanese : Nihongo ga wakarimasen.

More vocabulary

  • How cute : Kawaii
  • Yummy : Oishii!
  • Cheers : Kanpai!
  • Wait a minute : Chotto matte kudasai!

Address and Location Questions

When visiting Japan, needing help with directions and finding locations is natural. Here are some key phrases to ask for directions and locations:

basic directions in japanese for travelers

  • Where is this? : doko desu ka (どこですか)
  • Where is the bathroom? otearai wa doko desu ka, or toire wa doko desu ka (トイレはどこですか)
  • Please go straight : massugu itte kudasai (まっすぐ行ってください )
  • Please turn left : hidari ni magatte kudasai (左に曲がってください )
  • Please turn right : migi ni magatte kudasai (右に曲がっってください )
  • Please say it again : mou ichido itte kudasai (もう一度言っってください )

山手 (yamanote) – A major train line in Tokyo, often used as a landmark for directions.

While using these phrases, keep a map handy to understand better the directions the locals give. By learning these essential Japanese phrases, you will be better equipped to ask questions and communicate effectively during your trip to Japan.

Basic Japanese numbers

learn basic japanese for tourist

  • One : Ichi: 一
  • Two : NI: 二
  • Three : San: 三
  • Four : Shi/Yon: 四
  • Five : Go: 五
  • Six : Roku: 六
  • Seven : Shichi/Nana: 七
  • Eight : Hachi: 八
  • Nine : Kyu/Ku: 九
  • Ten : Juu: 十
  • Twenty : Nijuu: 二十
  • Thirty : Sanjū: 三十
  • Forty : Yonjū/Shijū: 四十
  • Fifty : Gojū: 五十
  • Sixty : Rokujū: 六十
  • Seventy : Shichijū/Nanajū: 七十
  • Ochenta : Hachijū: 八十
  • Ninety : Kyūjū/Kujū: 九十
  • Hundred : Hyaku: 百

These numbers are fundamental in Japanese and are used to construct other larger numbers. For example, 21 would be “二十一” (nijū ichi), literally “twenty-one”.

In the case of the number of persons, there are exceptions for one person and two persons.

  • One person : Hitori
  • Two people : Futari

If someone asks you how many people are, for example in a restaurant (何人ですか? (Nan-nin desu ka?))

  • You can answer hitori desu, and it means 1 person.
  • If you are two: futari desu
  • If three: san nin desu (3 people)
  • If there are four: yon nin desu (4 people)

At the restaurant

Restaurant reservations:.

I would like to make a reservation at a restaurant : Resutoran o yoyaku shitai desu (レストランを予約したいです). You can ask the hotel reception to make the reservation for you.

Ask if there is availability: do you have a table for two for tonight: Konya, futari-yō no seki wa arimasu ka (今夜、二人用の席はありますか)

Specify time: I would like to book for 7: Shichi-ji ni yoyaku shitai desu (7時に予約したいです).

Arriving at the Restaurant: Confirm a reservation . I am Yamada, I have a reservation: Yoyaku or shita Yamada desu. (予約をした山田です)

If you don’t have a reservation: Do you have tables available: Seki wa aite imasu ka (席は空いていいますか)

Ordering and Eating

Look at the menu : Please show me the menu: menyū o misete kudasai. (メニューを見せてください)

Ordering food: Once you have decided what to order, you can say “Chuumon wo onegaishimasu” (注文をお願いします) followed by Kore or onegaishimasu.

This, please: Kore o onegaishimasu. (これをお願いします)

Asking for recommendations: What is the recommendation: Osusume wa nan desu ka (おすすめめは何ですか).

Before starting to eat

Itadakimasu : いただきます。 It is said before eating, similar to saying “bon appetit” in French. However, its meaning goes beyond these phrases.

Meaning and Use

Gratitude for Food : “Itadakimasu” expresses gratitude for the food to be consumed. This includes appreciation not only for the food itself but also for the effort and resources needed to prepare it.

Respect for Nature : In Japanese culture, there is a strong sense of respect for nature and all it has to offer. Saying “itadakimasu” acknowledges and thanks all life forms and natural elements that contribute to the creation of food.

Cultural Awareness : It is an expression of the harmonious relationship between humans and nature, a concept deeply rooted in many Japanese practices and traditions.

Everyday Use : Commonly said at home before meals, in restaurants, and at gatherings where food is shared.

During Lunch

  • Water, please: Mizu o kudasai. (水をください)
  • Tea, please: Ocha o kudasai.(お茶をください)
  • Beer, please: Bīru o kudasai.(ビールをください)

Food Preferences and Requests

When ordering food, you may need to express your preferences or make specific requests. Here are some phrases to help you do just that:

To ask if a particular type of alcohol is available, e.g. sake, say, “Osake wa arimasu ka?” (お酒はありますか?).

If you want your dish to be prepared in a specific way, such as making it a little spicier, say, “Mou sukoshi karakushite kudasai” (もう少し辛くしてください).

After Eating

Thank for food : Gochisōsama deshita (ごちそうささまでした). Thank you for the food, it is said after eating.

Ask for the account

Account, please : Okanjō onegaishimasu (お会計お願いします)

To ask if they accept credit cards , you can use: “Kurejitto kaado de haraemasu ka” (クレジットカードで払えますか).

Useful Vocabulary

  • Restaurant : Resutoran (レストラン)
  • Reserve : Yoyaku (予約)
  • Seat/Table : Seki (席)
  • Menu : Menyū (メニュー)
  • Please (when you ask for something): Onegaishimasu (お願いします).
  • Account (in a restaurant): Okanjō (お会計).
  • Mizu : water
  • Green tea : Ocha
  • Coffee : coohii
  • Coffee with milk : kafe ore
  • Black coffee : burakku koohii
  • Juice : juusu

Common questions in the restaurant

  • How much does this cost? : Kore wa ikura desu ka? ( これはいくらですか)
  • Where is the bathroom? : Toire wa doko desu ka? (トイレはどこですか)

The Lodging

Check-in : I would like to check-in: Chekku-in or onegaishimasu. (チェックインをお願いします).

Say How Many People Are:

  • We are two people: Futari desu (二人です)
  • I made a reservation for one person: yoyaku shimashita’s Hitori (一人で予約しました).

Asking for Room: What is my room number: Heya bangō wa nan-ban desu ka (部屋番号は何番ですか).

Request Wifi Information: What is the Wi-Fi password: Wi-Fi no pasuwādo wa nan desu ka (Wi-Fiのパスワードは何ですか).

Ask for Help or Information: Excuse me, [tu pregunta]: Sumimasen, [tu pregunta] (すみません、[tu pregunta])

Check-Out: I would like to check-out: Chekku-auto or onegaishimasu. (チェックアウトをお願いします)

Ask Check-Out Time: What time is check-out: Chekku-auto no jikan wa nan-ji desu ka? (チェックアウトの時間は何時ですか)

Thank you when leaving: Thank you for everything (said as a token of appreciation for the attention received): Osewa ni narimashita. (お世話になりました)

Getting around the city

Ordering General information

  • (Place) wa doko desu ka: general phrase to ask where something is; it can be a destination, a station, or even the toilet.
  • (Place) e ikitai no desu ga : I would like to go to …
  • Where is the subway station? Chikatetsu no eki wa doko desu ka. (地下鉄の駅はどこですか)
  • Where is the train station? : Densha no eki wa doko desu ka (電車の駅はどこですか)
  • Ask Hotel Directions: Where is the hotel [Nombre del Hotel]?: Hoteru [Nombre del Hotel] wa doko desu ka: ホテル [Nombre del Hotel] はどこですか
  • Ask How to Get to a Tourist Site: ([Nombre del Sitio Turístico] wa doko desu ka. [Nombre del Sitio Turístico] はどここですか)
  • Ask for the Bus Stop: Where is the bus stop? Basu tei wa doko desu ka. (バス停はどここですか)
  • Ask if a Train/Bus goes to a Specific Destination: Does this train/bus go to [Destino]? Kono densha/basu wa [Destino] ni ikimasu ka (この電車/バスは[Destino]に行きますか)
  • Ask to be advised where to get off: I would like to get off at [Destino], could you please let me know. [Destino] de oritai no desu ga, oshiete itadakemasu ka. ([Destino]で降りたいのですすが、教えていただけますか)
  • Confirm Address: Is this going to [Destino]?: Kore wa [Destino] e mukatte imasu ka. (これは[Destino]へ向かっていますか)

Other interesting phrases to learn or print

  • Where is this place? : Koko wa doko desu desu ka? (ここはどこですか)
  • Please look at this map: Kono chizu wo mite kudasai (この地図を見てください)
  • How can I get to this place? : Koko ni iku ni wa dou sureba ii desu ka? (ここに行くにはどうすればいいですか)
  • How can I get to this location? : Kono basho ni wa douyatte ikemasu ka? (この場所にはどうやって行けますか)
  • How far away is it? : Dono kurai tooi desu ka? (どのくらい遠いですか)
  • Where can I look for information about transportation in this area? : Kono chiiki no koutsuujouhou wa doko de shiraberaremasu ka? (この地域の交通情報はどこで調べられますか)

In case you need any clarification or additional information:

  • Sorry, can you tell me one more time: Moushiwake arimasen ga, mou ichido oshiete itadakemasu ka? (申し訳ありませんが、もう一度教えていただけますか?)
  • Does this bus go to ….? Kono basu wa (destination) yuki desu ka? (このバスは○○行きですか?)
  • Where can I take the bus? Doko de basu ni noremasu ka? (どこでバスに乗れますか?)
  • Can I get to the station… with this? Kore de …-eki ni ikemasu ka? (これで….駅に行けますか?)
  • I plan to get off at the next station. Tsugi no eki de oriru yotei desu (次の駅で降りる予定です) –
  • Is the track northbound or southbound? Nanboku-me desu ka? (南北目ですか?)
  • Where is the station? Eki wa dochira desu ka? (駅はどちらですか?)
  • Which platform is this train on? Kono densha wa nanbansen desu ka? (この電車は何番線ですか?)

Directions by Taxi

Taking a cab in Japan is convenient and comfortable. To ensure clear communication with your driver, learn these phrases:

  • I want to take a cab. Takushii wo hirotai no desu ga (タクシーを拾いたいのですが) –
  • Please go to “destination”: “destination” ni itte kudasai (…に行ってください).

Useful vocabulary

  • Input : iriguchi (入口)
  • Exit : deguchi (出口)
  • Subway : chikatetsu (地下鉄)
  • Subway stop/subway station : chikatetsu no eki (地下鉄の駅)
  • Airport : kuukoo (空港)
  • Cab : takushii (タクシー)
  • Bus : basu (バス)
  • Map : chizu (地図)
  • Itinerary : Ryotei (旅程)

Shopping in Japan

  • Japanese banknotes are 1000 (千円: sen-en), 5000 (五千円: go sen en and 10000 (一万円: ichi man en) yen.
  • Yen in Japanese is said en and this is its kanji: 円
  • Coins: 1 yen, 5 yen, 10 yen, 50 yen, 100 yen and 500 yen. They are very useful, especially in villages, temples, markets, etc.
  • Ask where there is an ATM: ATM wa doko ni arimasu ka, o
  • There is an ATM nearby: Chikaku ni ATM wa arimasuka.
  • ATM is pronounced almost like in English but with the u at the end.

Order a Specific Size: Do you have this clothing in size [M Talla]?: Kono fuku no [M Talla] saizu wa arimasu ka? (この服の[M Talla]サイズはありますか)

Ask for a Specific Color: Do you have this in this color: Kono iro no mono wa arimasu ka? (この色のものはありますか)

How much does it cost: Kore wa ikura desu ka (これはいくらですか).

Asking to Try Something on: Can I try this on: Kore o shichaku shite mo ii desu ka? (これを試着してもいいですか)

Ask for Local Souvenirs: Do you have local souvenirs: Jimoto no omiyage wa arimasu ka? (地元のお土産はありますか)

Asking for a Bag: Do I need a bag: Fukuro wa irimasu ka? (袋はいりますか)

Methods of Payment: Can I use a credit card: Kurejittokādo wa tsukaemasu ka? (クレジットカードは使えますか)

If You Need Help: Excuse me, could you help me: Sumimasen, tetsudatte itadakemasu ka? (すみません、手伝っていただけますか)

Vocabulary: Colors in Japanese

learn basic japanese for tourist

  • Red : 赤 (Aka)
  • Blue : 青 (Ao)
  • Yellow : 黄色 (Kiiro)
  • Green : 緑 (Midori)
  • Black : 黒 (Kuro)
  • White : 白 (Shiro)
  • Orange : オレンジ (Orenji)
  • Pink : ピンク (Pinku)
  • Purple : 紫 (Murasaki)
  • Brown : 茶色 (Chairo)

Ask for help

  • Can you help me, please? Tasukete itadakemasu ka. (助けていただけますか)
  • I’m lost : Michi ni mayoimashita (道に迷いました)
  • Can you take me or accompany me to … (Place) made onegaishimasu.
  • Do you speak English? Eigo o hanasemasu ka (英語を話せますか)
  • I need a doctor : Isha ga hitsuyō desu (医者が必要です)
  • Could you show me on the map? Chizu de oshiete itadakemasu ka (地図で教えていただけますか)
  • How did I get to [destino] ? [Destino] e wa dō ikeba ii desu ka ([Destino]へはどう行けばいいですか)
  • I need to call the police : Keisatsu o yobu hitsuyō ga arimasu. (警察を呼ぶ必要があります)
  • Can you call me a cab? Takushī o yonde itadakemasu ka. (タクシーを呼んでいただけますか)

Here is a summary of etiquette and customs in Japan, which are fundamental to understanding and respecting Japanese culture:

Greetings : Japanese people usually bow their heads (bowing). Handshakes are less common and are reserved more for international situations.

Removing Shoes : It is customary to remove shoes when entering houses and certain places such as temples and ryokans (traditional inns). Slippers are often available for indoor use.

Punctuality : Punctuality is very important in Japan. Being late is considered disrespectful.

Behavior in Public Places : People are expected to be calm and respectful in public places. Talking loudly, especially on public transportation, is considered impolite.

Do not eat or drink while walking , as you may stain another person. Keep in mind that there are a lot of people.

Do not stand suddenly in the middle of the sidewalk , since there are so many people, it is better to stand on a side where you do not disturb the people walking.

Handling Chopsticks : Never stick chopsticks in your food, especially rice, as it is associated with funeral rituals. Also, do not pass food from chopsticks to chopsticks.

Gifts : Gift-giving is an important part of Japanese culture, especially when visiting someone in their home. Gifts are usually carefully wrapped and given and received with both hands.

Money : When paying in stores and restaurants, use the small tray provided to place money. Handing the money directly into the hand is not usual.

Meals : It is customary to say “itadakimasu” before eating and “gochisousama deshita” after eating. This shows respect and appreciation for the food.

Business Cards : In professional environments, the exchange of business cards is a ritual. Receive and hand out business cards with both hands, and take a moment to read the card before putting it away.

Photographs : Ask permission before photographing people, especially geisha or maiko in places like Kyoto.

This etiquette reflects the importance of respect, harmony and consideration for others in Japanese society. Knowing and following these rules can help make your experience in Japan smoother and more respectful.

Language Learning Tips

To begin learning Japanese for travel, start with some basic greetings such as “konnichiwa” (こんにちは; hello) and “ohayou gozaimasu” (おはようございます; good morning).

In addition to greetings, be sure to learn important phrases such as “sayounara” (さようなら; goodbye), “arigatou gozaimasu” (ありがとう; thank you), and “sumimasen” (すみません; excuse me).

Keep these tips in mind as you learn:

Practice regularly : Spend a few minutes every day reviewing and practicing your Japanese phrases to retain them in your memory.

Learn phonetically : Write down phrases in a way that helps you remember the pronunciation. Fortunately, for those of us who speak Spanish or Italian, pronunciation is not a problem, you just need to know some basic rules.

Carry a phrasebook or have a language app handy: Use them as a reference during your trip to look up phrases or practice while on the go.

Make flashcards : Write the Japanese phrase on one side and the English translation on the other.

Cultural Immersion : Try to immerse yourself in Japanese culture through movies, music, television programs and books in Japanese. This not only improves your understanding of the language, but also familiarizes you with Japanese culture and customs.

Interactive Learning Applications : Use applications that offer interactive and playful learning, such as Duolingo, Rosetta Stone or Babbel. These applications can make learning more engaging and fun.

Use Translation Tools and Dictionaries: Tools such as Google Translate or electronic dictionaries can be useful for quick translations and for helping users better understand new words and phrases.

Plan Your Trip to Japan

  • How to plan a trip to Japan
  • Itinerary of 11 full days in Japan
  • How to use JRPass
  • The best airport to get to Tokyo
  • What to see in Tokyo
  • What to see in Hakone
  • What to see in Osaka

Last Updated on 29 January, 2024 by Veronica

Disclosure: Some of the links on this post are affiliate links, meaning at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Author: Veronica

Vero, a seasoned traveler, has explored 25 countries and lived in five, gaining a rich perspective and fostering an infectious passion for travel. With a heart full of wanderlust, Vero uncovers the world’s hidden gems and shares insights, tips, and planning advice to inspire and assist fellow adventurers. Join Vero and let the shared passion for travel create unforgettable memories.


Soy Verónica, una apasionada de los viajes, me gusta compartir mis experiencias viajeras en mi blog. He estudiado Empresas y actividades turísticas y ando metida en el mundo del Marketing Digital. Me gusta aprender algo nuevo cada día, conocer nuevos lugares y culturas diferentes.

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learn basic japanese for tourist


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learn basic japanese for tourist

Survival Japanese for Travelers

October 31, 2022 by Robert Schrader Leave a Comment

So, you’re on the hunt for Japanese travel phrases besides “ konnichiwa ” and “ arigatou “? Great—you’re in the right place.

Learning basic Japanese is relatively easy, whether you practice phrases before your flight to Tokyo, or print them out on a cheat sheet. The hard part? Putting them into action when you get to Japan. Japanese people don’t speak much English , but it’s easy enough to get by if you don’t speak Japanese.

It’s my hope that reading through this post will inspire you not only to learn some Japanese, but to use it as often as possible as you’re traveling. Doing so will greatly enhance your trip, even if only in the form of more smiles and goodwill. 

You Can Travel in Japan Without Knowing Japanese, But…

In the lead up to the doomed Tokyo 2020 Olympics, many Japanese people (especially those in the travel and tourism industry) greatly improved their English skills. As a result, it become easier than ever to travel throughout the country without speaking a lick of Nihongo , not even the everyday Japanese phrases I’m going to be describing as we get deeper into this post.

There are a few problems with this approach, however—and I’m not just talking about the fact that Japanese people largely lost their hard-fought English aptitude during the country’s nearly three years of covid closure. Not speaking even a word of Japanese can make you seem impolite or even arrogant; being able to communicate even on a basic level will unlock a huge number of experiences and interactions. 

Essential Japanese Travel Phrases

Japanese greetings.

learn basic japanese for tourist

The bad news? Konnichiwa (こんにちは) doesn’t mean “hello” in Japanese—it means “good day.” The good news? Even if you forget to use ohayou (おはよう) in the morning or konbanwa (こんばんは) in the afternoon, you’re still likely to be understood. Sayounara (さようなら) is another confusing one; it’s usually only used when you will never, ever see someone again. Instead, say mata ne (またね), which basically means “see you later.” Youkoso (ようこそ) means “welcome,” although Irrashaimase (いっらしゃいませ) is just as commonly used.

Restaurants and bars

learn basic japanese for tourist

Not surprisingly, a lot of useful Japanese relates to eating and drinking. When sitting down, keep in mind Japan’s unique counting rules: Hitori de (rather than ichi jin ) means “one person”: futari de means “two people” and so forth. When ordering food or drink items, say the name of the item, how many you want ( hitotsu , futatsu , etc) and kudasai (ください) or onegaishimasu (お願いします) to add a “please” at the end, i.e. tekka maki futatsu, onegaishimasu (two tuna rolls, please). If you want to ask whether something is delicious or express that it does, say oishi desu (美味しいです) or ask oishi desu ka ? (美味しいですか). Most importantly, kanpai (乾杯) means “cheers!”. Another interesting fact? Sake (酒) technically just means alcohol, not Japanese rice wine (which is Nihonshu /日本酒 – literally “Japanese alcohol”).

Payment words and phrases

learn basic japanese for tourist

If you’re curious about how much something costs, simply ask ikura desu ka ? (いくらですか). Keep in mind, however, that unless you learn Japanese numbers , the information you receive in response might not be useful to use. Want to know whether a place accepts credit cards? Ask kaa-do de haraemasuka ? (カードで払えますか), or simply hold your card up and ask dai joubu desu ka? (大丈夫ですか). Meanwhile, to ask for a bill, you can say o kaikei onegaishimasu or, more informally, chek-ku onegaishimasu .

Getting around

learn basic japanese for tourist

Not surprisingly, a lot of travel Japanese relates to, well, travel. These include basic vocabulary words like eki (駅 – station), hikouki (飛行機 – airplane) and Shinkansen (新幹線 – bullet train), as well as practical phrases and questions. For instance, if you want to ask where to board the Yamanote Line at a busy train station in Tokyo, you may ask Yamanote-sen wa (山手線は) doko desu ka (どこですか – where is it?) or nanban sen desu ka (何番線ですか – which platform?).

Life and death

learn basic japanese for tourist

This one isn’t dramatic as it sounds—doctors ( isha – 医者), first responders, staff at the hospital ( byōin – 病院), police ( keisatsu – 警察) and other people tasked with your safety in Japan can usually speak some English. However, having some key words in case of the worst-case scenario probably isn’t a bad idea, whether that’s knowing the words for common disasters— taifu (台風 – typhoon) or jishin (地震 – earthquake), or being able to located the emergency exit, represented by the characters 非常口 ( hijouguchi ).

Other Survival Japanese for Travelers

Here are some other Japanese words and phrases you might find helpful as you travel:

  • Sugoi (すごい) : Awesome or cool, often used in combination with the particular Ne (ね).
  • Nihon/Nippon (日本) : Japan
  • Inu (犬) : Dog, i.e. Shiba inu  (柴犬)
  • Neko (猫) : Cat, i.e. Maneki neko (招き猫; beckoning cat)
  • Hontou ni (本当に) : Really/really?
  • Sou desu ne/Sou da ne (そうですね/そうだね) : I see.
  • Dai joubu (大丈夫) : Often used in conjunction with desu (です), this phrase means “that’s good” or “that’s fine.”
  • _____ wa doko desu ka (____はどこですか) : Where is ______? (i.e. toilet or toi-re /トイレ)
  • Sakura (桜) : Cherry blossoms; see also hanami (花見), cherry blossom viewing
  • Tenki (天気) : Weather; see also ame (雨; rain), yuki (雪; snow); hare (晴れ; sunny); kumori (曇り; cloudy)
  • Dera/Tera or Ji (寺) : Temple, i.e. Kyoto’s Kiyomizu-dera  (清水寺)
  • Shinsetsu (親切): Kind
  • Taisetsu (大切): Important
  • Tomodachi (友達): Friend

Other FAQ About Japanese Travel Phrases

What are some popular japanese phrases.

Most travelers will only learn the most basic phrases, such as greetings like konnichiwa and konbanwa (good day or good evening) and arigatou gozaimasu , which means “thank you very much.” However, learning a wide variety of Japanese phrases will better prepare you for your trip.

How do you respond to “Irasshaimase”?

You can response to Irasshaimase (which you will often hear entering shops and restaurants) with a greeting appropriate for the time of day: Ohayo ( gozaimasu ) in the morning; konnichiwa during the daytime; or konbanwa in the evening. Or you can choose not to respond at all; many people (including Japanese people) sometimes don’t.

What is “Itadakimasu”?

Itadakimasu literally means “I receive” or “we receive.” In practice, however, it serves the same roles as “bon appetit” does in Western countries; it’s said after you receive your food, but before eating it. When someone says “ itadakimasu ,” they’re literally saying “I receive this food.”

The Bottom Line

Looking for useful Japanese travel phrases? You’re in the right spot. From greetings and dining vocabulary, to phrases you can use when using planes, trains and automobiles, having a variety of practical Japanese under your belt will make your trip a lot easier. It will also make your interactions with Japanese people more meaningful—they’ll respect you more, and maybe even treat you more kindly. Need help with more than just your language skills, as you plan your trip to Japan? Commission a custom Japan itinerary , and let me sweat all the details of your travel on your behalf.

Plan Your Japan Trip

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Home > Articles

23 basic japanese phrases for your next vacation to japan.

By Lirene Cilliers   Posted 15th Aug 2023

Just as the Land of the Rising Sun beckons with mysteries waiting to be unraveled, diving into the Japanese language can feel like entering a maze blindfolded. However, amidst these linguistic twists and turns lies an opportunity to savor the magic that unfolds in every conversation, every shared smile, and every unforgettable encounter.    In this article, we’ll share 23 common Japanese phrases that will help you navigate your journey with confidence, whether you're planning a vacation or going on a cycle tour in Japan . 

“But do I need to speak Japanese to visit Japan?” 

In short, no, you don't. However, learning a few common Japanese phrases is like adding that extra layer of flavor to your adventure sundae—not essential, but oh, what a delightful difference it makes! 

Rest assured, if you book one of our guided cycling tours , our friendly local guides have your back to bridge any language gap. 

Our guests on our Stunning Shikoku Bike Tour of Japan share smiles with welcoming locals.

The Basics: Common Japanese Words and Phrases 

1. Hello - Konnichiwa (こんにちは)  Pronunciation: kohn-nee-chee-wah      People in Japan greet one another with a bow. A bow can range from a modest nod of the head to a deep waist bend. A deeper, longer bow shows respect, while a short nod of the head is casual and informal.    2. Thank you - Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます)  Pronunciation: ah-ree-gah-toh goh-zah-ee-mahs    3. Please - kudasai (ください)  Pronunciation: koo-dah-sigh    4. Excuse me/ I'm sorry - Sumimasen (すみません)  Pronunciation: soo-mee-mah-sen    This versatile phrase can mean "Excuse me," "I'm sorry," or be used to express your gratitude or start a conversation. Whether you're catching someone's attention in a busy train station or apologizing for a minor inconvenience, "Sumimasen" is your go-to phrase for maintaining the harmony of your interactions.     5. Yes - Hai (はい)  Pronunciation: hi    6. No - Īe (いいえ)  Pronunciation: ee-eh    7. Nice to meet you - Hajimemashite (はじめまして)  Pronunciation: hah-jee-meh-mah-shee-teh    8. Goodbye - Sayōnara (さようなら)  Pronunciation: sah-yoh-nah-rah    9. Beautiful - Utsukushii  (美しい ()   Pronunciation: oo-tsoo-koo-shee    This word carries some weight, is often reserved for describing nature, and is not tossed around lightly. So, save this word for those extra breathtaking moments! 

Embrace the ' utsukushii ' on our Stunning Shikoku Bike Tour of Japan! An island of unimaginable natural beauty, epic coastal rides, verdant river valleys, and remote villages. 

A quick pit stop to savor the flavors of Japan at a traditional Japanese restaurant on a cycling vacation in Japan.

Food and Drinks: How to order and appreciate food in Japanese 

10. An expression of gratitude spoken before the first bite - Itadakimasu (いただきます)  Pronunciation: ee-tah-dah-kee-mahs    Just as the dining experience in Japan extends beyond taste to encompass cultural rituals, "itadakimasu" is more than a mere phrase; it's a heartfelt expression of gratitude spoken before the first bite, symbolizing the humility of saying 'I humbly receive’.    11. Delicious - Oishii (美味しい)  Pronunciation: oh-ee-shee    12. Wine - Wain (ワイン)  Pronunciation: wah-een    13. Beer - Bīru (ビール)  Pronunciation: bee-roo    14. Japanese sake - Nihonshu (日本酒)  Pronunciation: nee-hohn-shoo    15. Water please - O-mizu o onegai shimasu (お水をお願いします)  Pronunciation: oh-mee-zoo oh oh-neh-guy shee-mahs    16. Check, please - Okaikei onegaishimasu (お会計 お願いします)  Pronunciation: oh-kai-kay oh-neh-guy shee-mahs    17. I would like ___, please - __ o Kudasai (__をください)  Pronunciation: ___ oh koo-dah-sigh  

Treat your palate, bask in tranquil onsens, and delve into Japan's rich culture while practicing these phrases on our Japan Bike, Walk, and Onsen Tour . 

Cyclists pause for a moment of laughter with the heartwarming community in rural Japan.

Useful Japanese Phrases to Use when Shopping 

18. How much is this? - Ikura desu ka? (いくらですか?)  Pronunciation: ee-koo-rah deh-soo kah?    19. I'll take it - Sore o moraimasu (それをもらいます)   Pronunciation: soh-reh oh moh-rah-ee-mahs 

Encounters with Nara's friendly deer.

Emergencies and Assistance: How to Ask for Help in Japanese 

20. Help! - Tasukete! (助けて!)  Pronunciation: tah-soo-keh-teh!     21. Hospital - Byōin (病院)  Pronunciation: byoh-een    22. It hurts! - Itai desu (痛いです)  Pronunciation: ee-tie deh-soo   

Last, But Certainly Not Least: 

23. I love Japan! - Nihon daisuki (にほんだいすき)  Pronunciation: nee-hohn dahy-soo-kee    You're guaranteed to warm the heart of your newfound connection with this phrase. Make sure to memorize it as you'll probably be using it a lot! 

Local interactions like these on a Grasshopper Adventures Bike Tour bring you the real spirit of Japan.

Overcoming Language Hurdles to Unveil Unforgettable Adventures

By diving into these simple phrases, you're connecting with the country and its people on a deeper level and unlocking doors to experiences that will etch their way into your heart.  

Every "konnichiwa" you utter is a bridge that spans the cultural divide, a key that opens the treasure trove of human interaction.  

Sure, you might not become a fluent speaker overnight, but that's not the goal. The goal is to weave threads of understanding and to remember that it's not the words alone that matter; it's the intentions they carry, the stories they unveil, and the connections they forge.  

Go forth with courage, for Japan is waiting to embrace you .    

If you enjoyed learning about the Japanese language, here are some other articles that you will love:  Top 7 Foods You Must Try in Japan  Navigating Hot Springs in Japan   9 Reasons to Explore Japan by E-Bike  

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Basic Travel Phrases in Japanese (with Etiquette)

Lorena Macedo

Irasshaimase! (いらっしゃいませ), or "welcome!" to your guide to Japanese travel phrases.

If you're planning a trip to Japan or simply interested in learning Japanese , this guide to using and understanding Japanese travel phrases is a must-read.

You don't need to learn the entire language before you make the trip of a lifetime. Still, knowing some key phrases, cultural differences and mannerisms will make Japan more accessible for English speakers.

Related: Saying Hello in Japanese: Pronouncing Japanese Greetings

First, we'll discuss the Japanese language and writing styles. Then, we'll cover some essential Japanese travel phrases, including "please", "thank you", "excuse me" and "I don't understand Japanese". Formality in Japanese will be explained, followed by restaurant vocabulary and etiquette.

Next, we'll cover certain phrases related to transport and travel, followed by pronunciation tips for common phrases used in Japan. Finally, we will answer frequently asked questions about Japanese phrases and travel to Japan.

The Japanese Language

Japanese words can be written in symbols or in Romanized characters, so beginners can still read and write before they learn the Japanese script.

However, when you learn Japanese characters you can better understand the nuances of the language.

Kanji are Chinese characters taken from the Chinese script and used in Japanese writing. This writing system was introduced to Japan in the 4th or 5th century, as Japan had a talking system but no means to write it down. Kanji are complex symbols that represent words or ideas.

However, Kanji characters are used along with the more recently created syllabic scripts of Hiragana and Katakana, which represent sounds.

Some people find these scripts easier to read as the symbols are simpler. Hiragana is generally used to represent Japanese words, while Katakana represents foreign words imported into the Japanese language.

While it is possible to write everything in Hiragana or Katakana, i t w o u l d l o o k l i k e t h i s . So, it is better to replace words with Kanji when possible. Japanese people use the three scripts interchangeably, as they are needed.

learn basic japanese for tourist

10 Essential Japanese Phrases

  • Konnichiwa (こんにちは) – Hello/ good afternoon
  • Ohayo Gozaimasu (おはよう ご ざ い ます) - Good morning
  • Konbanwa (こんばんは) - Good evening This phrase is made up of Ohayo (おはよう), meaning "early" and Gozaimasu (ご ざ い ます) meaning "is"/"am"/"are". So, its literal translation is "it is early". As you can see below, Gozaimasu can be added to Arigatou, meaning "thank you", to make it more polite.
  • Arigatou (Gozaimasu) (ありがとう (ご ざ い ます)) – Thank you (polite way)
  • Onegaishimasu (お願い し ます)/ Kudasai (くだ さい) - Please
  • Sumimasen (すみません) – Excuse me
  • Hai (はい) - Yes/ I understand
  • Iie (いいえ) - No
  • Nihongo ga wakarimasen (日本語がわかりません) - I don't understand Japanese
  • Gomen nasai (ごめんなさい) - I'm sorry

Formality In Japanese

Social hierarchy, or your rank compared to others, determines how you will talk to someone in Japanese.

The generally accepted pecking order puts parents above children, teachers above students, customers above shopkeepers, bosses above employees, and elders above younger people.

Moreover, familiarity plays a part in how formal or informal you are with someone. Families will speak more casual Japanese with one another, while strangers use formal terms. Good friends drop formalities entirely and use slang to communicate.

Japanese words are conjugated based on formality. Formal Japanese can be divided into three categories: polite language, honorific language, and humble language.

There is also an informal way of communicating in Japanese, but when you learn Japanese, you often learn the formal first as the conjugation is easier.

Gozimasu and Arigatou

You do not need to worry too much about this as an absolute beginner. Just remember that you can make simple adjustments such as adding gozimasu (ご ざ い ます) to ohayō (おはよう) when saying "good morning" to make it more formal, or to arigatou (ありがとう) to say "thank you" the formal way.

Domo arigato (共 ありがとう) "thank you so much" is also formal. This is a phrase many westerners are familiar with due to the song Mr Roboto by Styx!

Arigato or domo used in isolation are two ways to say "thanks", informally. Use the latter two with friends and family.

learn basic japanese for tourist

Onegaishimasu and Kudasai

Finally, let's revisit when we use Onegaishimasu (お願い し ます) and Kudasai (くだ さい) for "please".

  • Kudasai is the more familiar term, while onegai shimasu is more polite and honorable.
  • So, you can ask for water, for instance, by using Kudasai (ください) or onegai shimasu ( を お願い し ます), depending on who you are talking to. For example:
  • Mizu o onegai shimasu ( 水を お願い し ます) - I would like water, please (formal)
  • Mizu o kudasai (水 お ください) - Give me water, please (informal)

Kudasai is a familiar request word that you use when you know you are entitled to something.

For instance, asking a friend or peer for something, or making a request from someone of a lower rank than you. Take a look at the following phrases:

  • Mō yamete kudasai (もう やめて くだ さい ) - Please stop
  • Chotto matte kudasai (ちょっと 待って くだ さい) - Wait a minute, please
  • Kutsu o nuide kudasai (靴を脱いで くだ さい) - Please remove your shoes
  • Shio o watashite kudasai ( 塩を渡して くだ さい) - Pass the salt, please

If you are speaking to a teacher, elder, or boss in Japan and don't understand something, you can ask: Mou ichido onegai shimasu (もう一度お願いします) - Could you repeat that, please?

As well as language, gestures also play a part in formality and respect in Japanese culture. One such gesture is the bow, and it matters how deep you bend!

A short bow at 15° is appropriate for a casual greeting. A 30° bow is good for greeting strangers and bosses, while a 45° bow conveys deep respect or an apology.

10 Food & Drink Basic Phrases in Japanese

  • Menyū (メニュー) - Menu
  • O-sake (お酒) – General term for alcohol (not to be confused with the below)
  • Nihonshu (日本酒) – Japanese saké (rice wine)
  • Bīru (ビール) - Beer
  • Mizu (水) - Water
  • Gohan (ご飯) - Rice
  • Misoshiru (みそ汁) - Miso Soup
  • Sushi (すし) - Sushi
  • Mochi (餅 ) - Mochi (a traditional Japanese glutinous rice cake)
  • ___ o Kudasai ( をください) – I would like __, please ___ o onegai shimasu (を お願い し ます) - I would like ___ please

In addition to food and drink, you might want to know how to ask for other specific services in a Japanese restaurant.

  • Kin'en seki (禁煙席) - Non-smoking seat
  • Kurejittokādo wa tsukaemasu ka? (クレジットカードは使えますか) - Do you accept credit cards?

learn basic japanese for tourist

Japanese Restaurant Etiquette

It is not enough simply to know a few polite phrases in Japanese. You will also need to understand a bit about restaurant etiquette.

In many Japanese restaurants, there are low tables with cushions, rather than or in addition to western-style tables and chairs.

Cushions will be placed on tatami floors, which are a traditional kind of mat flooring in Japanese restaurants. You should never wear shoes or slippers on tatami flooring, and avoid stepping on anyone's cushion except your own.

Japanese Restaurant Vocabulary in Context

When the food comes, it is customary to wait for everyone's meals to arrive, then say:

  • Itadakimasu (いただきます) - "I gratefully receive (this meal)"

You should say this before starting to eat. This is similar to the French "bon appetit".

However, if a dish is best eaten hot and it arrives before the others, the following phrase can be used:

  • Osaki ni douzo (お先 に どうぞ) - "Please go ahead"

Other useful Japanese resturant phrases include:

  • Daijyoubu Desu (だいじょうぶです) - "I'm fine now" (this is a polite way to decline something from a waiter offering you more water or food).

You can conclude the meal by saying the phrase:

  • Gochisousama deshita (ごちそうさま でした) - "Thank you for the feast."

This expresses gratitude to the chef and for the ingredients of the meal.

At the end of your meal, you should use the following:

  • Okaikei wo onegaishimasu (お会計 を お願いします) - "The check, please."

Manners in Convenience Stores

The following piece of vocaulary will be useful:

  • Konbini (コンビニ) - Convenience store

In Japan, simple things like unfolding your bills before you hand them over to the cashier and not throwing down your coins are considered polite as they make the worker's job easier.

Customer service in Japan is famously excellent, so treat the clerk with respect and kindness, as you should in any other foreign country.

learn basic japanese for tourist

10 Transportation-Related Phrases to Get Around Japan

  • ___wa doko desu ka ( は どこ です か) – Where is __?
  • Eki (駅) - Train station eg. Eki wa doko desu ka (駅 は どこ です か) - Where is the train station?
  • Basu noriba (バスのりば) - Bus stop
  • Dono Densha (どの電車)/ Dono basu (どのバス) – Which train?/ Which bus?
  • (Tōkyō) ni ikitai ( ([東京) に行きたい) – I want to go to (Tokyo)
  • Kippu (切符) – Ticket
  • Katamichi kippu (片道切符)/ Kaeri no kippu (帰りの切符) - One-way ticket/ return ticket
  • Hoteru (ホテル) - hotel
  • Toire ( = トイレ) - Bathroom / toilet
  • Ikura desu ka (いくら です 化) - How much is it?

Japanese travel phrases in context

Now, you can start to put some of the words we have learned together to create a proper phrase.

  • Hiroshima e no kaeri no kippu o onegai shimasu, ikura desu ka (広島への帰りの切符をお願いします、いくらですか) - "I would like a return ticket to Hiroshima, how much is it?"

These essential Japanese travel phrases will come in handy when visiting Japan, as an estimated 70% of the population does not speak English.

You'll find more people with some level of English in the top destinations, such as Tokyo, Kyoto, and Osaka, while you might hit a language barrier in smaller towns.

Basic Japanese Phrases and Pronunciation in Japanese

An important phrase you will likely say a lot is desu ka ( です か).

This indicates a question when placed at the end of a sentence. So, let's make sure you can say it correctly, as it may not be pronounced as you'd expect.

You want to pronounce desu like “dess.” Remember, the “u” sound at the end is dropped.

This happens a lot with words that end with “u” sounds, including:

  • Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとう ご ざ い) - "thank you" (which is pronounced "arigatou gozaimas").

We have already seen desu ka in the phrase ikura desu ka, " how much is it?", and wa doko desu ka , "where is it?".

It is also used in the following key Japanese phrases:

  • O genki desu ka (お元気 です 化) - How are you? (Pronounced "o genki dess ka").
  • Nani desu ka (何ですか なにですか) - (polite) What?
  • Sou desu ka (そうですか) - Is that so?/ Really? The response, Sou desu (そうです), pronounced "so dess", means "that is so" or "yes, really".
  • Kore wa na ndesu ka (これ わ なん です か) - What is this?

You can create many more Japanese phrases for asking questions by using desu ka , so try to remember this pronunciation as it will get you a long way.

Basic Greetings Tourists Should Know in Japan

If you only have a short time before your trip to Japan, at the very least learn these simple greetings and make sure you know the dos and don'ts of public affection.

  • Kon'nichiwa, watashinonamaeha ___ (こんにちは、私の名前は) - "Good afternoon, my name is ___"
  • Konbanwa, hajimemashite (こんばんは、はじめまして) - "Good evening, nice to meet you."
  • Namae wa nandesu ka? (名前はなん です か) - "What is your name?"

Making Friends in Japan

Now that you know how to greet Japanese people appropriately, you can start to build a relationship with them.

Generally, when you meet people while traveling abroad, you ask:

  • Eigo o hanashimasu ka? (英語を話せますか) - "Can you speak English?"
  • Anata wa doko no kuni no shusshindesu ka (あなたはどこの国の出身 です か) - "Which country are you from?"
  • Doko no shusshindesu ka? ( どこの出身 です か) - "Where are you from?" (more simple phrase).
  • Anata wa doko ni sun deru nodesu ka? (あなたはどこに住んでるの です か) - "Where do you live?"

If you would like to become friends or make a date, you might want to gauge the person's interests:

  • Anata wa (eiga ga) sukidesuka? (あなたは (映画が) 好き です か) - "Do you like (the cinema)?"

learn basic japanese for tourist

Travel Tips for Japan

Remember Japanese manners! This includes restaurant etiquette, limiting public displays of affection, using polite language, and respecting the culture.

You cannot expect everyone in the world to speak your language, but by using a simple Japanese phrase here and there you can show that you are willing to try and meet them halfway.

Choose the season wisely. Visit Japan in Winter for the ski season, or in Spring for unforgettable views of cherry blossoms.

Or, choose an Autumn trip to avoid tourist crowds and peak travel seasons. The same applies to Summer, though this is typhoon season, which puts a lot of tourists off.

What is Ryokou?

Ryokou (旅行) is a Japanese noun meaning "travel" or "trip".

Broken down, 旅 is the kanji character meaning "travel", "trip", or "journey", and 行 is the kanji character used to express the act of going or visiting.

Use this next phrase if you want to impress your new Japanese friends by using their local language:

  • Watashi wa ryokou ga sukidesu (私は旅行が好きです) - "I love traveling".

If you're studying Japanese so you can take a trip to Japan, this is undoubtedly true!

How to Learn Japanese Naturally

If you are looking for additional resources for learning Japanese, check out Lingopie .

This is an online streaming platform that is designed to get you speaking Japanese and learning Kanji with ease through immersion in Japanese TV and movies.

Lingopie provides an authentic and natural way to learn other languages and makes learning Japanese fun.

This is a great tool for busy people who cannot sit through hours of Japanese classes every week.

Simply relax in the evening and watch half an hour of Japanese TV. Allow your brain to absorb the language naturally and pick up useful phrases and pronunciation.

And if you want to keep binge watching awesome shows check out our other Japanese articles. We listed 9 Japanese Movies on Netflix that can help your studies and we also did a guide to learning Japanese with anime ! We also recommend you to check out our free guide " Best way to learn Japanese ".

learn basic japanese for tourist

Summing up: Basic Travel phrases in Japanese

Now you can travel to Japan armed with some useful Japanese phrases and a basic understanding of the culture and mannerisms of the country.

You will be able to conduct yourself appropriately while dining, make your way around train stations, and if you speak slowly and clearly, begin to build relationships.

Remember, nobody will expect you to speak Japanese fluently, but if you can use these simple phrases, your travels will be simplified.

The average Japanese native speaker is unlikely to speak English fluently. You may hit a language barrier, but if you remember your polite gestures and restaurant etiquette, you can still do very well in Japan and impress the locals.

Hopefully, this guide has given you some travel inspiration. Have a wonderful time on your trip and good luck on your path to learning Japanese!

Lorena Macedo

Lorena Macedo

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Learn Japanese

I want to learn Japanese!

If you follow the instructions in this over the top, step-by-step guide, you will reach your goal of Japanese fluency.

However, this journey is going to take a lot of effort and hard work on your part. Anyone who tells you learning a language is going to be easy is either misinformed or trying to sell you something. And eventually, after the honeymoon phase of learning wears off, progress feels slower. You burn out. Sh*t hits the fan. If you've ever tried learning something new, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

Instead, you need to do things the hard way (i.e. the correct way) right from the start.

Just because we're doing it right doesn't mean it has to be inefficient.

This method for learning Japanese starts at the very beginning. I assume you have zero knowledge of the Japanese language and guide you through each step. I'll cover reading, writing, speaking, and listening. And we explain what you should use, when, and why.

This should be everything you need to progress, that way you don't use all of that fresh enthusiasm you're feeling on planning how to learn, and instead spend it on actual learning.

Make like those famous shoes and just do it.

Learning to read hiragana

Our goal is to reach Japanese fluency as directly as possible. Unlike a teacher or a textbook, we have the freedom to be ruthless in the path we take to get there.

There are no tests or quizzes to take. You don't have to move at the speed of the slowest learner in your group. All you need to do is follow each step, do the work, and progress.

Just keep in mind that because of this, some steps may seem counterintuitive. They may even seem slow compared to other methods, but everything has been carefully selected to get you to the finish line faster and more efficiently. We'll talk more about that later.

A bit of housekeeping first: This is a living document, meaning it will be updated from time to time. Check back, subscribe to our email list , or follow us on Twitter to know when these updates happen. And, if you already have experience with Japanese, I still recommend you give it a read. There's a good chance you'll find something important to help you on your own Japanese language journey.

Table of Contents

Learn to read hiragana, basic japanese pronunciation, learning to type hiragana in japanese, understanding the concept of "kanji", beginning kanji & stockpiling kanji knowledge, learn to read katakana, learning to type katakana, learning to type kanji, 1. collecting vocabulary, 2. processing, 3. adding the words to your srs, beginning japanese grammar, a beginner's japanese textbook / program, answering your japanese language questions, order of learning, fact checking / cross referencing, do the work, sometimes, you'll just get stuck, optional: finding a japanese language tutor, suggested books and resources, intermediate level japanese, zero knowledge of japanese.

Welcome to learning Japanese! This section is for the true beginner. You know little-to-no Japanese. Maybe a "konnichiwa" here and a "baka" there. These first steps you take are especially important because they're going to set a foundation you can build off of.

The more deliberate your steps, the easier everything that follows will be.

Carefully completing this section is going to be necessary if you want to avoid the thing that takes down most learners: the intermediate wall. Instead, take your time on these foundational steps. What feels slow now is actually speed later on.

Estimated Time: 1 day to 1 week

Learning to read hiragana

Hiragana is Japan's version of the alphabet. It is one of three Japanese writing systems you need to learn to be able to read. The other two are katakana and kanji, but hiragana is where everything starts.

The ability to read hiragana is going to be a prerequisite for most beginner Japanese textbooks and resources. It's the first thing you learn in a traditional classroom. Surprisingly, I agree with everyone else. This is a good place to start.

Most Japanese classrooms spend an entire month learning how to read and write hiragana. That's too long! Instead of writing out each hiragana character over and over to memorize them, use the guide below and you may be reading hiragana later tonight. It uses mnemonics and worksheets that are designed to help you learn and be able to recall hiragana faster than you thought possible.

Do it: Learn How to Read Hiragana

It's important to note that this guide is going to teach you how to read hiragana and not how to write it. This has a purpose! While it is important to learn how to hand write Japanese eventually, right now it will slow you down immensely with very little payoff. Typing covers 99% of modern day writing so you will learn how to type hiragana (and katakana and kanji) instead.

This, in combination with mnemonics and worksheets, will allow you to learn how to read hiragana in a day or two instead of a month.

Remember: You're not in a class. You don't have to move at the speed of the slowest 10%. There is no speed limit .

In order to complete this section and move on, you need to get to the point where you can read all of the hiragana. Even if you're slow, as long as you can recall each character, as well as the contractions, without cheating, that's enough. You're about to get plenty of practice and your reading speed will naturally increase over time as you move on.

Note: Read "Japanese Pronunciation, Part 1" (below) before you start learning hiragana.

Estimated Time: n/a

Learning to read hiragana

Good pronunciation starts with hiragana. While hiragana alone won't teach you everything, it is the key to understanding how and why Japanese words sound the way they do. It will also help you get the foundation you need for a native-sounding accent. At the very least, hiragana will get you 80% of the way there.

For the remaining 20%, we wrote a guide covering the basics of Japanese pronunciation. Before you begin learning how to read hiragana, you should read up to the "Japanese Sounds and Your Mouth" section.

Once you've finished learning how to read hiragana, go though that section again, but this time read about "Important Differences" as well. This section will cover all of the sounds that don't exist in English, giving you a head start. Make sure you can pronounce all of the hiragana characters correctly before moving on.

Read: Basic Japanese Pronunciation Guide

With pronunciation, it's best to put the time and work in now, at the beginning. Don't ignore it because it's hard. When things get more difficult, it's very important that you've spent time speaking and hearing these sounds so that you can learn about all the differences and exceptions headed your way.

Okay, now go ahead and get back to learning how to read hiragana . Get to the point where you can read and recall everything, then move on to the next section.

Estimated Time: 1-2 days (or less) Prerequisite: Able to read hiragana

Learning to read hiragana

Now that you can read and pronounce hiragana (remember, slowly is okay!) it's time to learn how to type it on your computer or smartphone.

First, you need to install a Japanese keyboard. Luckily, you don't have to buy a special piece of hardware or computer to do this thanks to a type of software called an IME (input method editor). You can add an IME onto almost any kind of computer, phone, or operating system. Just follow the instructions in this guide to add them to your devices:

Read: How to Install a Japanese Keyboard

After you’re done installing, it’s time to learn how to actually type. Use the following guide, and only focus on the hiragana portion (since that’s all you know how to read right now):

Read: How to Type in Japanese

Assuming you are able to read hiragana, typing in hiragana is surprisingly straightforward. Once you feel confident in your typing abilities, including trickier things like contractions, small tsu, and dakuten, move on to the next section. It's time to talk about the elephant in every Japanese learner's room: kanji.

Learning to read hiragana

In our Japanese learning method, you're going to learn to read kanji characters very early. As soon as you can read and type hiragana it's time to start tackling kanji.

Here is our reasoning:

The most difficult thing about learning Japanese is kanji. At least, that's what people say. But trying to save it or brush it off until later isn't going to help you learn Japanese. Almost everything uses kanji, making it one of the most important aspects of learning this language. Your learning quality of life will drop drastically if you choose to ignore it.

A lot of a beginner’s time when using a textbook is spent looking up kanji and vocabulary. This takes your focus away from the grammar you're trying to learn and makes progression slow and frustrating. Learning (some) kanji and vocabulary first makes learning grammar a lot faster and, more importantly, easier. Think of it this way: you're losing a little time now to save a ton of time later.

Kanji leads to vocabulary, vocabulary aids communication, and grammar is like the glue that holds vocabulary together. Without vocabulary there's nothing for the grammar glue to stick to and everything gets messy. It makes grammar abstract and difficult to learn, when it doesn't have to be.

Like hiragana, we have a way for you to learn kanji that's way more effective than the traditional methodology (rote memorization). Thanks to that, it won't be as difficult as everyone says. It may even *gasp* be a pleasure to learn! Maybe.

This kanji-vocabulary-first route will get you to the point where you can use Japanese quickly. It feels slow at first, but soon you will rocket past your fellow Japanese learning compatriots. You'll also be able to get over that "intermediate wall" easier and quicker than if you were to use a traditional method. This lowers your chances of burnout and giving up all together.

If you're on board with this philosophy, you need to start at the very beginning: understanding what kanji is and how it's used. For that, we have another guide for you to read:

Read: On’yomi vs. Kun’yomi: What’s the Difference?

Once you understand how Japanese kanji readings work, you’ll be ready to learn some actual kanji.

Estimated Time: 1-3 months

Learning to read hiragana

Important note about this section: You should start to learn katakana (the next section) at the same time as this step. "Beginning Kanji & Stockpiling Kanji Knowledge" will take 1-3 months. In fact, you can complete all of the steps up to "The Beginner of Japanese" while you work on this one!

Okay, so it's time to actually learn kanji. Let's define what "learn kanji" means before you get started. That way you know what is expected of you.

When I say "learn kanji" I mean learn the kanji’s most important (English) meaning(s), and their most important (Japanese) reading(s). As you know from reading about on'yomi and kun'yomi, some kanji have a lot of readings. And, unfortunately, English meanings are just translations and can't always match the Japanese meaning one-to-one. That means there can be many correct English meanings for a single kanji that you'll need to deal with. We'll narrow those down so you only learn the most important meanings and readings first—the ones used 80-90% of the time. The remaining meanings and readings will come via vocabulary and other practice.

As you learn kanji you will also learn vocabulary that use those kanji. Not only will this help solidify those kanji concepts in your mind, but it will also be where you learn the remaining kanji readings. Plus, as you know, this vocabulary will be used to give you something to glue together with grammar later.

By the end of this guide, your goal is to know around 2,000 of the most important kanji as well as 6-7000 vocabulary words that use them. With this groundwork you should be able to read almost anything—or at least have the tools to easily decipher the rest on your own.

Your goal should be to learn 20-30 kanji and ~100 vocabulary words that use those kanji (and only those kanji) each week. If that seems like a lot, don't worry: there is a method for memorization that will speed things up considerably. Please read up on the Radicals Mnemonic Method. As a bonus, you will learn some important foundational knowledge about how kanji works in here as well.

Read: Learn kanji with the radicals mnemonic method

In this guide you will learn how to narrow down kanji meanings and readings to the most important ones. You will learn how to use radicals and mnemonics and how to create an effective routine.

You should be able to use these techniques to create a weekly study plan on your own for free, as long as you put in the work. But, if you would like all of the above (and then some) in one, complete package, we recommend the kanji learning program, WaniKani .

We'll be referencing it going forward, but just know that creating your own content and schedule is totally fine and doable. You'll just need to make sure you maintain your pace to keep up. Or, for some of you, make sure you slow down so you don't burn out!

Once you begin learning vocabulary in WaniKani (or your own system) read the Basic Japanese Pronunciation Guide from the Pronouncing Vocabulary section all the way through to the end. You will learn about long and short vowel sounds, double consonants, dropping sounds (all common stumbling blocks for beginners), and more. You will also learn about pitch accent. Although it may be difficult now, just knowing pitch accent exists and how it works in Japanese will give you a leg up.

Okay! Make sure you get started now. Do the work, don't just plan to do it! Sitting down and starting is the hardest part.

Estimated Time: 2 days to 2 weeks Prerequisite: Able to read hiragana

Learning how to read katakana

Learning katakana is about the same as learning hiragana, with a few Shyamalanian twists. We have yet another mnemonic-based guide for you, and chances are you'll be able to read katakana within the next few days if you're willing to put in the work.

You should get to the point where you can read all of the katakana, however slowly, by the time you start unlocking vocabulary in WaniKani (or by the time you start vocabulary in your own kanji method). Although katakana words won't show up a lot right from the start, there are enough to make it worthwhile. It's also a good way to spend your extra time while the number of kanji you're learning is still quite low.

Do it: Learn to Read Katakana

Note: Katakana tends to give learners more trouble than hiragana. This is because it seems to be used less than hiragana and kanji, especially at the beginning stages. Later on, katakana will appear more frequently, but for now simply being able to read katakana is enough. There will be plenty of opportunities to get better at it—just know that reading katakana may not come as quickly as it did with hiragana. And that's okay. Hiragana and kanji are just more useful right now, so spend your limited time and energy there.

Once you can read each katakana character—no matter how slowly—move on to the next section about typing katakana.

Estimated Time: 1-2 hours Prerequisites: Able to type hiragana, able to read katakana

Learning how to type katakana with your keyboard

Katakana is similar to hiragana in many ways, and thanks to this, learning how to type it should be fairly easy. There are a few differences to figure out, but you will be able to apply your hiragana knowledge to it and progress quickly. Jump to the katakana section of our typing guide and get started.

Read: How to Type Katakana

Note: Make sure you keep working on your kanji! If you’re using WaniKani, just do your reviews as they become available. It's important to make this a habit. Because WaniKani is a spaced repetition system there must be spaces between reviews. Longer and longer ones, in fact (though it will depend on how well you're doing). Do your reviews on time and you’ll get through this initial "slow" phase in a week or two. That's a drop in the bucket compared to your entire Japanese-learning career, so try to be patient. The waiting time is critical to testing your ability to recall information.

Estimated Time: 1-2 hours Prerequisite: Able to read 20-30 kanji

Learning how to type kanji on your keyboard

Before starting this step, make sure you can read a handful of kanji. Twenty or thirty will do just fine. If you're using WaniKani, this is when you start unlocking vocabulary or are around level 2.

Okay, are you done?

Typing in kanji is a little more complicated than typing in hiragana or katakana, but it still follows similar rules. Learn how to type in kanji using the kanji section of our guide then read to the end. There are some additional tips and tricks in there (punctuation, symbols, etc.) that may come in handy.

Read: How to type kanji

Now you know how to type everything there is to type in Japanese (that is, unless you count kaomoji )! If you can type in English, typing in Japanese is surprisingly easy. With practice, you'll be able to type it as naturally as you type in your native language.

To continue using this typing knowledge, you'll need to know more kanji and vocabulary. Once you get there though, you'll be ready for "The Beginner of Japanese" section!

Before moving on, you should reach level 10 on WaniKani (or around 300 kanji and 1,000 vocabulary words using your own method).

This is an important time in terms of pronunciation too. Make sure you consciously mimic the vocabulary audio. Think about pitch accent as you do it. This work will prepare you for sentences later.

With this kanji knowledge (and good pronunciation, to boot!), grammar is going to come quickly to you. You won't be spending your grammar study time looking up every other word. Instead, you'll be able to focus solely on grammar, and you'll know the contents of 80% of every sentence you see for the first time. When you say these sentences out loud, you won't be tripping over your tongue because you'll already be intimately familiar with Japanese sounds and pronunciation. The time you put into kanji, vocabulary, and pronunciation will begin to pay off.

Put your head down, trust in this, and do the work each day.

Go on, get to it, and come back here when you're done.

The Beginner of Japanese

Being a beginner of anything is great. Everything is new, everything feels like real, tangible progress, and even if you're bad at something, you can't really tell because you don't know enough yet anyway.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

At this point, you have a strong base of kanji and vocabulary. If you are using WaniKani , you should be at level 10 or above. If you are doing kanji on your own, or using another resource, you should know the most common meaning and reading of around 300 kanji and 1,000 vocabulary words. If you are using a resource that only teaches you the meaning of a kanji (and not how to read it), that doesn't count . You need to be able to do the whole thing, not just the easiest 20%.

With this assumption about your knowledge in place, we're going to go through some options for how you can learn Japanese grammar. This includes using a textbook as well as creating your own grammar program from scratch. We offer some of our own material as well. Most likely, you'll end up doing a hybrid of the above. No matter what you choose, your foundation of kanji, vocabulary, and pronunciation will make everything much easier. Without it, even the best Japanese textbook will be a frustrating experience.

Using a Spaced Repetition System For Vocabulary

Estimated Time: 2-4 hours + ongoing

Increasing your kanji knowledge

You will learn a lot of vocabulary purely from your kanji studies. As long as you have a good kanji system in place, you shouldn't worry too much. However, you will definitely need to learn all of the words that do not use kanji too. In the beginning, this will largely be grammatical things, and words that don't use kanji, from your textbook. Later it will be vocabulary you pick up from signs, manga, and other real life sources.

It's time to learn how and when to introduce vocabulary words from outside your kanji studies into your study routine. The most important thing is to have a good system in place.

You need to be able to record and store these words so that you can study them later. You also need a good system to handle and process these words. It's a waste if you record them once and never look at them again.

At your currently level, most of the new words you encounter will probably be hiragana or katakana-only words. Once you start reading more and more Japanese, the number of new words you encounter will increase, so being able to keep track and add these to your routine becomes even more important. For now though, your goal is to develop a habit of collecting, processing, and studying vocabulary that is unfamiliar to you. This should become second nature.

Most likely, you will find most of the vocabulary that you want to learn in your Japanese textbook (we'll cover that really soon!). As I mentioned earlier, these might be words that don't have kanji, or maybe they're words that you didn't learn in WaniKani. There are a lot of words out there and no one resource will teach you all of them.

Once you've found some words that you want to learn you need to collect them. How you do this doesn't matter as much as actually doing it. Put them in a spreadsheet, a tool like Evernote or OneNote, or just write them down on a piece of paper. Make sure wherever you put these new words is easily accessible and make a trigger for yourself that essentially says " if I see a vocabulary word I want to learn, then I add it to my list."

There are plenty of list-apps and pieces of paper out there, so it's going to be difficult for me to say what you should use. I'm partial to Evernote and have my own processes built up there. And Airtable is a great spreadsheet app for people who don't think in math. But maybe you like physical pocket-sized notebooks, to-do lists, your smartphone camera (with a special folder for future processing), or something else.

Whatever you use, make sure it's easy for you . Figure out what makes sense and make it work. If this step doesn't happen, everything else will fall apart.

The next step is processing. I'd recommend you create a habit where every day, week, or month (it depends on how much new vocabulary you want to introduce to your routine) you go through this list and put them into your SRS of choice. What is an SRS? I'm glad you asked.

If you've been using WaniKani, you've been using a "Spaced Repetition System" (a.k.a. SRS) this whole time! But you'll want to use something else for the vocabulary you find out in the wild. For this, we wrote a guide. In it you'll learn how to collect vocabulary and add them to your SRS.

Read: Spaced Repetition and Japanese: The Definitive Guide

One additional piece of reading I'd recommend is this article on Keyword Mnemonics. For the non-kanji vocabulary you want to learn this is a surprisingly simple (and effective) mnemonic method which will allow you to learn more vocabulary in one sitting, and be able to recall it for longer.

Read: Keyword Mnemonic Method for Learning Japanese Vocabulary

As I said earlier, you won't be working with a ton of vocabulary at the start. For now, let your kanji studies give you most of your vocabulary. Then, when stray street vocabulary does start coming up, send it through the vocabulary process you've built.

Make this a habit.

Habit generally means 3-6 weeks of doing something regularly. And you should start now, because in six weeks you'll be needing to utilize this habit a lot more.

Estimated Time: It's a mystery

Learning how to pronounce Japanese vocabulary

It’s (finally!) time to start learning grammar. If you followed this guide to the letter, you’re probably 2-4+ months into your Japanese studies. If it's more than that, don't worry about it. We all go at our own speeds and the important thing is that you kept moving forward. You should know around 300 kanji and 1,000 Japanese vocabulary words, and your pronunciation should be getting better, or at least you're being conscious about improving it. Now it’s time to kick Japanese grammar's butt.

Let's start by internalizing a philosophy. Carry this with you for the rest of your life:

When learning something new, you should already know 80% of it.

This means that each new thing you learn should be a 20% (or smaller) incremental step. A +1 from where you are, rather than a +20 or +100.

Most people go into a textbook with zero knowledge and wind up spending a large chunk of their time looking up words they don't know. How much of a sentence is vocabulary? Depending on the length, it's easy to answer "more than 80%."

So when you're learning grammar with a textbook, coming into it with prior vocabulary knowledge brings you to that 80%. Leaving you just the grammar, which you can then point your laser-like focus towards. Instead of constantly flipping to the index to look up a word or kanji and deal with context switching when you finally get back to the lesson, all you have to worry about is learning the grammar and nothing else.

That's the +1 we're talking about.

Let's assume for a moment that your Japanese vocabulary knowledge doesn't get you to 80% (or more). If that's the case, there are a few possible reasons:

You don't know enough vocabulary: If you don't know a lot of the words in a sentence before studying with it, then you don't understand 80% of the sentence before you start. In this case, go back to your kanji/vocabulary studies for a while and reconsider the level of the resource you're using. Another solution would be to pull the vocabulary from the resource, study them with your SRS method, and then come back once you've learned them.

You don't know enough grammar: Imagine you're looking at a sentence that contains three separate grammar points. If you're being taught one of the three, but you don't know the other two, you're dipping way below that ideal 80%.

The sentence is very short: If a phrase only has three parts (ex. "[vocabulary] + [particle] + [vocabulary]"), and you don't know one of them, you're going to be at 66%. In cases like this, you can make an exception. Knowing 66% of a three piece phrase, or 75% of a four piece phrase is acceptable. This will be very common in the beginning.

That's the philosophy we're working off of going forward, so double-check that you have that base of kanji and vocab before continuing with this guide. Your failure rate increases dramatically if this foundation is weak!

A student wondering what Japanese textbook they should use

It's time to take our philosophy and apply it to a beginner textbook. All the things that would have normally tripped you up (the things teachers and textbooks have a tough time explaining, due to the curse of knowledge ) should now be less difficult to deal with. And with kanji and vocabulary already in your tool belt, learning grammar should be much more interesting. You won't be spending 90% of your time and energy on looking up kanji and vocabulary you don't know. Instead, you'll just be doing it.

With this base knowledge, choosing a specific textbook or program to follow becomes less important, but there are still many "good" textbooks and many "bad" textbooks out there. Most will teach you the same content one way or another, so pick one that you feel fits your learning style.

To help you with this choice, we wrote a guide:

Read: The Best Japanese Textbooks for Beginners

Whatever you end up choosing, get started right away. It's so easy for people to get trapped in a "preparation loop" where they spend all of their time planning and getting ready, only to stop before any actual work gets done.

At this point you will focus on working through your textbook of choice. Try to progress through the entire thing from beginning to end. Doing this will create a strong foundation of Japanese inside of you, something you can use to base other knowledge off of.

Once all of the basic, foundational grammar is in place you'll be able to really accelerate and work toward fluency.

It will take around 2-6 months to get through most beginner Japanese textbooks. Though, this does depend on how much time you have to spend on your studies and what grammar method you choose. You can even go through a couple different textbooks at the same time, if you want. What one textbook doesn't teach well, another probably does. That being said, if you don't feel like you understand a concept, or you want to know more, there's plenty of ways to get your questions answered. I recommend not skipping questions—instead, follow your curiosity! Learning is supposed to be fun, though school may have "taught" you otherwise.

Read the next section as you start your textbook studies. You'll eventually run into something you don't know that your textbook doesn't explain. You might as well be ready for it.

Answering questions about Japanese

As you're going through your textbook, you're going to run into things you don't understand. Or, you'll find you don't know 80% anymore. It's not necessarily a failure of your textbook, it's just that many of them were designed for teachers to use in a classroom. They expect someone to be there to answer questions for you. Or, there just isn't enough paper in the world to cover everything.

Not to worry. When you run into something you don't understand you can look it up. No matter what kind of question you're asking or answer you're searching for, we wrote up a guide that will tell you how to find anything Japanese language related:

Read: How to Answer your Japanese Language Questions

Note: You should continue to use WaniKani (or whatever kanji learning method you chose) as you continue on. You should keep going until you finish, and/or you reach the end of this guide. It is important to keep your kanji-vocabulary knowledge ahead of your grammar knowledge at all times. If you don't, that 80% ratio will tick down until your studies no longer feel sustainable or fun.

Alternative: Learning Japanese Grammar On Your Own

A student studying Japanese grammar online

By gathering all that kanji and vocabulary knowledge you’re making it possible to learn grammar on your own. Learning grammar is easy comparatively. That being said, if you decide not to use a Japanese textbook as your main resource, there are some things you'll want to consider:

This is a topic we'll be writing a big guide on. But, it's quite complicated so I haven't gotten around to it yet. We'll fill in this section with that guide in the near future, but for now don't use my slowness as an excuse. Just get started. If you do, ordering will, for the most part, naturally fall into place if you follow the "know 80% of all new things" philosophy.

Don't just trust any ol' thing you read on the internet. The same goes for textbooks and teachers, too. When you learn a new piece of Japanese grammar, make sure to read explanations from multiple sources. Some will be complicated with hard linguistic language while others will be overly simplified. And a few here and there will be just right! Making a habit out of using multiple explanations and resources for one thing will feel like it's slowing you down at first, but it's much faster overall. We'll list some really good reference books at the end of the Beginning Japanese section, so make sure to take a look.

If you're studying Japanese grammar on your own, it's even more important to do the work . It's not hard to study and use what you've learned. It's hard to sit down and start . Even more so than a class or textbook, you'll need to make sure you actually sit down and make progress. Measurable progress, preferably, though you'll have to figure out just how to measure it.

With a textbook, you can just say, "I could answer all the questions," or, "I made it through twelve pages this week." Doing grammar on your own makes it harder to see and feel yourself moving forward. You are, but it's a bit hidden.

If this is happening a lot—and no amount of research gets you through it—you might want to consider finding a professional to help. Speaking of professionals…

A Japanese teacher and her student

This may be the time to consider finding a Japanese language tutor, especially if you feel like you're not able to answer your questions about Japanese on your own. With a foundation of kanji and vocabulary already in place, you will be able to focus on the things that a tutor can help you with the most: speaking, listening, and answering questions.

Keep in mind that focusing on kanji and vocabulary with a tutor tends to be a poor use of this time. Most teachers don't have any idea how to teach kanji (it's just, "go learn these kanji and vocab by next week") and many tutors try to promote rote memorization because that's how they learned as a child.

When using a tutor it's important to focus on things only a tutor will be able to help you with. Those include their ability to speak, think, and explain nuances that haven't been written about or studied (yet).

You're not required to get a tutor or a teacher at this point, but if you were really looking forward to this part, now is the appropriate time to do it. Everything from here on out won't rely on your having access to a teacher, tutor, or native speaker, so you can still progress without needing to complete this step.

A student reading Japanese reference books

As you're moving along, there's always going to be more to learn. Don't be afraid to stop moving forward to indulge your curiosity. These "slowdowns" will speed you up as you strengthen past knowledge and make connections between them.

For times like this, reference books are quite good. If you're only going to buy one, I'd recommend the "Basic" book from the Dictionary of Japanese Grammar series . It is the best Japanese language reference book out there, in my opinion.

Other than that, look through the "Reference Books" section of our Beginner Japanese Textbooks, Reference Books, and Dictionaries article. There are quite a few good ones!

Read: The Best Japanese Reference Books & Dictionaries

Note: With any skill, it's important that you focus on the things you're worst at. "Raise the floor, not the ceiling," so to speak. If you do that, you'll find everything else gets elevated, and you'll be less frustrated overall. You'll have more data to reference in your brain as more unknown ideas and concepts pop up. For example, if you're bad at verbs, pick up The Handbook of Japanese Verbs and just read through it. It might take you an afternoon, but every verb you see from that day on won't be a detriment to your progress. Instead, it will positively affect all other aspects of your Japanese.

Raise the floor, because no matter how high your ceiling, you'll still be down on the ground.

The "intermediate" level of Japanese is by far the worst. Most of the people who ultimately give up on learning do it here (assuming they made it past the first few weeks).

Available resources begin to dry up, in both number and quality, and learners get stuck or plateau. Without guidance, it can feel like progressing is an impossible task.

This is the intermediate wall.

The thing that makes the intermediate level the hardest, though, is what got you here: your competence.

The beginner section was your unconscious incompetence stage. That is, you didn't realize you were incompetent, so you never felt discouraged, overly embarrassed, or stupid. But now you know a thing or two, and it's just enough to know you're not actually amazing at this thing called the Japanese language. It hurts and it's because you are now consciously incompetent, which is no fun at all.

Thankfully, a lot of the pain most learners feel at this stage comes from poor learning or teaching methods from the beginner stages. Things that you, hopefully, avoided. And although everyone will experience conscious incompetence to some degree, some people can get through it quickly and some get trapped here for years. Most, unfortunately, can't make it through at all and give up.

Be the type of person that gets through this stage quickly.

The other side of this wall is extremely fun and rewarding, so don't give up and don't let your conscious incompetence get you down.

Here's how you do it:

Recognize this stage exists and know that you're supposed to feel these uncomfortable feelings. This helps a surprising amount. You don't have to feel dumb because you know that everyone goes through this exact same situation. It's all a part of the process and if other people made it out, you can too.

You've already been preparing for this moment. This guide has prepped you to get through this fairly quickly. You're at an advantage! Most people wallow in the conscious incompetence stage for a long time because they lack two things: kanji and vocabulary. But by this point, you know more kanji and vocabulary than any intermediate level Japanese language student ought to. This is why you spent so much time on WaniKani (or one of its alternatives). It slows you down in the beginning so that you can blast through this wall.

With all that in mind, it’s time to start on some intermediate material. Make sure you are good on 100% of the previous sections before moving on. This is, by far, the most difficult portion of your Japanese education. You must have a good foundation to jump off of. When you're ready, you can start browsing our Japanese articles and Grammar pages . Good luck! 💪🏻

Learn Japanese for Travel

Prepare for your next trip with busuu’s japanese travel course. learn essential japanese travel vocabulary and phrases to open new doors.

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, it’s smart to learn Japanese for travel. But where to start? It can be overwhelming to tackle a whole new language!

Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at why it’s important to learn basic Japanese for travel before you jet off to Tokyo, the best way to learn Japanese, and start to tackle some important Japanese words and phrases for travel.

How to learn Japanese for travel

Learning basic Japanese for travel is actually easier than you might think.

Sure, the language as a whole is considered one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn, thanks to the three Japanese writing systems and the complexity of formal Japanese and honorifics . But if you’re simply heading to an onsen in Hokkaido for a week, you’re probably not looking to do business in Japanese or read entire novels.

Instead, you can focus on Japanese phrases for travelers and other elements of basic Japanese, which is not nearly as challenging.

Discover the best way to learn Japanese for your next trip

Learn Japanese for Travel with Busuu's Travel Course

Lessons on your schedule

Learn at your own pace with Busuu! Whether you have a free hour to study or just a few minutes, you can make progress toward your goals with bite-sized lessons designed by experts.

Learn Japanese for Travel with Busuu's Travel Course

Tackle basic Japanese for travel first

Start learning with Japanese basics in the Complete Japanese Course or focus on the Japanese travel vocabulary you’re most likely to need first with our Japanese Travel Course.

Learn Japanese for Travel with Busuu's Travel Course

Learn Japanese from anywhere

Study on the go with the Busuu app, and download lessons to learn offline! With Busuu Premium , you can keep learning even when your adventures take you out of WiFi range.

Why learn Japanese before you travel to Japan?

Before taking a closer look at how to learn basic Japanese, you might want to know why you should! After all, learning a language can be tough. You might be wondering what the benefits are of learning Japanese at all and whether it’s worth the bother.

Well, there are many excellent reasons to learn Japanese if you’re heading off to Japan! Learning a language makes your travel experiences so much better. Here are our top 5 reasons you should learn Japanese for travel.

1. Simplify your trip

When you take a Japanese Travel Course ( like this one! ), you’ll learn essential Japanese phrases for travel. The ability to ask for directions, buy train tickets, find a restroom, or order at a restaurant in the local language can make a huge difference in your experience of Japan. When you understand more, you can navigate new places and experiences more smoothly and with less stress.

2. Take roads less traveled

Another good reason to learn Japanese for travel? Many Japanese people simply don’t speak English. It’s not as common to learn English in Japan as it is in other countries that rely more heavily on tourism or that have had long relationships with English-speaking nations. If you don’t speak any Japanese, it may be hard to navigate the country unless you stick to more touristy locations. And what fun is that?

3. Connect with locals

In Japan, a little politeness can go a long way. Even if mastering advanced Japanese grammar isn’t in the cards for you, a few basic Japanese travel phrases – like learning to say yes and no in Japanese or understanding Japanese table manners – can help you better connect with the people you meet on your travels. Learning basic Japanese can help you learn to introduce yourself, ask other people basic questions about themselves, and so much more.

4. Understand more

If you’re heading off to Japan, one of the best things you can do to prepare is learn hiragana and katakana – two of the three Japanese writing systems. While the third system, kanji , can take years to master, hiragana and katakana alone can give you a huge boost when it comes to navigating around Japan. Reading these two syllabaries can help you sound out Japanese menus, signage, and product labels, which can be a huge help when it comes to getting around day-to-day.

5. Get a sense of accomplishment!

The simple truth is, learning to speak a new language and putting it to use can be fun!

Even if your Japanese isn’t perfect by the time the plane lands, it’s thrilling to buy a snack or check into a hotel in a new language and be understood.

Everyone needs a win sometimes! And the local Japanese folks you encounter will likely appreciate the effort you made in learning.

Pro tip : When you go into a store in Japan, you’re likely to hear someone call out, “Irasshaimase!” Find out what it means – along with 17 other Japanese greetings – right here .

In short? Learning to speak Japanese before traveling to Japan is sure to improve your experience!

There are tons of good reasons to learn a little Japanese before you go, and – since you can start learning with Busuu for free – it’s hard to find a reason not to.

Best of all? When you learn with Busuu, you can focus on learning the Japanese travel phrases you’ll need most, right from day one.

Why is Busuu the best app to learn Japanese for travel?

Busuu’s Complete Japanese Course is the perfect entry point to start learning Japanese. When you supplement it with Busuu’s Japanese Travel Course, you’ll learn the basics you need plus most useful Japanese phrases for travel. And if you want to keep learning, once the Travel Course is through, you can work on learning hiragana and katakana, or continue at your own pace from the basics all the way up to Upper Intermediate (B2) Japanese.

Focus on the Japanese you need

Actually speaking a new language out loud in the real world can be daunting! That’s why Busuu’s courses encourage you to practice speaking Japanese out loud from the first lessons. In Busuu’s Japanese courses, you’ll get exercises that challenge you not just to listen and repeat but to come up with your own answers to prompts based on what you’ve learned. That means you won’t just learn Japanese for travel – you’ll practice actually putting what you’ve learned to use.

Learn to speak with confidence

One of the things that makes Busuu the absolute best app to learn Japanese for travel? The Conversations feature! You’ll share some of your exercises with native Japanese speakers on the app for encouragement and feedback. Learning from native speakers can help with your pronunciation, show you how the language is actually used in practice, and lift your confidence so you’re ready to say "konnichiwa" from the moment you land.

Practice with support from Japanese speakers

Learn Japanese phrases for travelers

Why not get started right now? Let’s take a look at some of the vocabulary and phrases you’ll learn in your first few lessons with Busuu’s Travel Course!

learn-japanese-travel busuu

Pro Tip : There are many different ways to say no in Japanese – learn which one to use and when right here .

10 Essential Japanese words for travel

Learn more japanese for travel with busuu premium.

learn-japanese-travel busuu

With Busuu Premium, you can set goals with a Study Plan, connect with Japanese speakers through Conversations, and so much more. Premium makes learning to use Japanese travel vocabulary a breeze, so you’ll be saying, Konnichiwa / こんにちは– “Hello!” with confidence to the people you meet on your travels!

3 Basic Japanese phrases for travel


1. Hajimemashite

Hajimemashite (始めまして) is a Japanese greeting that means “Nice to meet you”. We say this phrase when we meet someone for the first time.


2. Itadakimasu

Taken literally, itadakimasu (いただきます) means, “I humbly receive.” It’s good manners to say this before you eat and is a way to say thank you for the whole preparation of the meal.

Onegai shimasu

3. Onegai shimasu

Onegai shimasu (お願いします) is a polite Japanese phrase that translates to "please" or "I humbly request." It is commonly used in various contexts to make a request or ask for a favor politely.

And now you’ve learned a few handy Japanese phrases to know when traveling!

Of course, you’ll need to learn a bit more Japanese before you can strike up a conversation in an izakaya or seamlessly order gyoza – but don’t worry, you’ll learn all that and more when you learn via Busuu’s Japanese Travel Course.

Start learning with Busuu

Don’t wait, start to learn Japanese for travel now and discover all the doors that learning Japanese can open for you.

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  • Basic Japanese Phrases

Basic Japanese Phrases used When Travel to Japan

This section gathers many basic Japanese phrases you might use if you plan to travel to Japan for vacation.

There are also some  Japanese travel words  which you may want to refer.

Basic Japanese Phrases used when travel to Japan - Bus Boarding Place

You are bound to talk to some native Japanese during your trip in Japan.

For examples, you probably need to ask for directions when going to some tourist attractions, or you may want to ask for prices of souvenirs that you want to buy.

While it's ok for you to ask questions using English or some sign language and get your way through, it will be nice that you ask using some basic Japanese phrases, ' surprise ' them and probably they will feel more obligated to help you.

I might be wrong as this is just my own feeling. However don't you feel more comfortable if foreigners ask you for directions using your native language in your country?

Let's see what are the basic Japanese phrases you may use in your Japan trip in the following list.

The above list contains some basic Japanese phrases that you might use when you travel to Japan. I may have missed out some other Japanese phrases.

Let me know if you think there are areas that I need to cover and I will be glad to update this list of basic Japanese phrases.

If you are thinking the above basic phrases are just too much to memorize, make sure you know these top 10 must-know survival words & phrases for your next trip to Japan .

By the way, this link above is an affiliate link, which means that I would earn a commission if you do end up purchasing the related learning course. It's at no extra cost to you, and please if you have any questions related to this learning course, please let me know and I would be happy to answer them for you.

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From old-school spots to foodie favorites, there's a 'hole' lot to try.

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Bread and bagels at The Works Cafe in downtown Portland. Photo by Aimsel Ponti

From New York-style boiled bagels to Montreal-inspired wood-fired ones, there’s lots of great bagels in southern Maine and several shops have the accolades to back that up.

In 2023, Bon Appetit named bagels from Rose Foods and Rover Bagel among the best in the country.

Two years before that,  Food & Wine Magazine put Rover, Forage and Scratch Baking Co. on its list of best bagels in the U.S.

Whether you like yours toasted with cream cheese or as the bread for your breakfast sandwich, you can find plenty of styles and flavors from Biddeford to Brunswick.


The offerings at Beach Bagels include a French toast and marble bagel, and the cream cheese menu comprises spreads like strawberry, olive and honey walnut. Along with breakfast sandwiches, Beach Bagels has hearty breakfast options like omelets and pancakes. Best of all, you’re steps away from a beach stroll. Just don’t let the seagulls steal your bagel. Advertisement

WHEN: 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily WHERE: 34 Old Orchard St., Old Orchard Beach. ______________

Dutchman’s opened in 2022 as a pop-up housed at Nomad pizza in Brunswick’s Fort Andross building. It’s since become a permanent fixture there and uses the pizzeria’s wood-fired ovens to bake its bagels. The hand-shaped, honey-boiled bagels come in plain, roasted garlic, poppy and a bagel-of-the-day flavor.

WHEN: 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday to Sunday WHERE: Fort Andross, 14 Maine St., Brunswick. ______________


Making bagels at Forage Market involves a two-day aging process. The bagels are naturally leavened with wild yeast starter and baked next to a hardwood fire. There are usually five flavors available, including sesame and garlic. Breakfast sandwiches (including vegan options) are available. Forage also has a location in Lewiston. Advertisement

WHEN: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday and Sunday WHERE: 123 Washington Ave., Portland. _____________


There are 10 or so Mister Bagel locations in Maine, including South Portland and Falmouth. It all began with the Portland location, which was the first bagel shop to open in Maine. The late Rick Hartglass started Mister Bagel in 1977, and it is still a family business. Music fans will appreciate the breakfast sandwich menu, which includes The David Bowie (bacon, egg and American cheese), the Jimmy Buffett (egg with roast beef and cheddar) and The Lady Gaga (avocado, salt and pepper, with or without egg).

WHEN: 6:30 a.m. to noon Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to noon Saturday and Sunday WHERE: 599 Forest Ave., Portland. ______________

At Rose Foods, the menu varies depending on the day, but there are usually six to eight flavors available. For example, should you pop in on a Friday, you’ll find a poppy and onion bialy (a cousin of the bagel that is not boiled). Rose Foods also makes a number of bagel sandwiches, including the Classic Nova with Nova lox and the Classic Whitefish. Advertisement

WHEN: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily WHERE: 428 Forest Ave., Portland.



At Rover Bagel, you’ll find wood-fired plain, poppy, sea salt, sesame and everything bagels available most of the time, and the spread game here is strong with cream cheese options like lemon-thyme-honey cream and chili-garlic.

WHEN: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, 8 a.m. to noon Sunday WHERE: 10 West Point Lane Suite 10-204, Biddeford (Pepperell Mill).

______________ Advertisement


You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced the line of devoted fans waiting for Scratch Baking Co. to open, especially on weekend mornings. Along with the popular Maine sea salt, plain and other everyday flavors, Scratch has a daily special bagel. There’s honeyed rosemary on Wednesday and jalapeno cheddar on Thursday. Scratch is also famous, at least to locals, for its P-Cheese spread. It’s a pimento cheese recipe made with cheddar, mayo, roasted red peppers and seasoning and was passed down to co-owner and head baker Allison Reid by her grandmother, Mern.

WHEN: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to noon Sunday WHERE: 416 Preble St., South Portland. ___________


The Maine Bagel is a drive-thru with several breakfast and other kinds of sandwiches available. With a bagel list that features egg and bialy among the standards, the family-owned spot is the perfect place to stop on your way to Pine Point Beach. The Maine Bagel really shines with a dozen kinds of cream cheese spreads, including raisin-walnut, lox, strawberry, cranberry-nut and bacon-chive.

WHEN: 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday. WHERE: 117 Route 1, Scarborough. Advertisement


The Works Cafe is an institution on the edge of the Portland’s Old Port. It opened in 1990 as Bagel Works before it changed its name in 2002. The original shop in this regional chain opened in Manchester, Vermont, in 1988, and there are 11 locations around New England, though just the one in Maine. Gone are the ’90s-era banana-walnut bagels and cold pizza cream cheese, but The Works Cafe is still a reliable place to grab a salt, multigrain or cinnamon raisin bagel, among others. The menu also has bowls, sandwiches and smoothies.

WHEN: 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily WHERE: 15 Temple St., Portland.

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  1. Japanese for Tourists

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