42 Basic Japanese Phrases to Survive in Japan [With Audio]

Useful Japanese travel sentences

Japan’s beauty is unique in Asia and attracts millions of people worldwide. Who hasn’t thought to themselves at least once,

I would love to get lost here. 

If you plan to travel to Japan someday, learning some basic Japanese phrases will not only help you to survive in Japan, but also increase your chance of communicating with native Japanese that adds amazing flavor to your journey.

In this post, we’ll present you with 42 basic Japanese phrases that can navigate you through your stay in Japan. From introducing yourself, navigating public transportation and asking for directions, shopping, eating out, and coping with an emergency, this article will cover almost all the basic Japanese phrases for tourists.

Read on to prepare for your next trip to Japan!

Japanese Phrases for Meeting and Greeting

We all know that Japanese people speak and act politely. Here are some greeting phrases that will make your life in Japan a lot smoother. 

First, if you want to talk to someone, you’d better start with a greeting. If you meet somebody in the morning, you can start the conversation by saying:

Good morning.
Ohayou gozaimasu
Good afternoon/Hello
Good night
Nice to meet you
Hajime mashite
My name is
Watashi wa … desu
Good bye!
See you
Sorry/Excuse me

Note that Japanese people use “すみません” frequently to apologize for things like stepping someone in the bus, or stopping someone to ask for direction. So this could be one of the most useful Japanese phrases you want to memorize.


Japanese Phrases for Navigating Public Transportation and Getting Around

When Using Public Transportation, you may have heard that Japanese cities like Tokyo have one of the most complex railway systems in the world. But don’t worry, here are several phrases to help you survive in those underground labyrinth (Navitime can help to navigate you through Japan’s confusing metro system). First, you need to find the bus stop (バス停, basutei) or the railway station (駅, eki).

Where’s the bus stop?
basutei wa doko desuka?
Where’s the ticket machine?
kenbaiki wa doko desuka?
How can I buy a ticket?
douyatte kippu o kai masuka?
How much are tickets?
chiketto wa ikura desuka?
Does this (train or bus) go to Ikebukuro?
kore wa ikebukuro ni ikimasuka?
Two tickets, please.
chiketto nimai, onegaishimasu.

You may want to try the Japan Rail Pass to save some money as well as effort to buy tickets every time. Also, a useful app called HyperDia can help you decide which train to take and warn you when a journey isn’t covered by the Japan Rail Pass.

Japanese public transportation
Image from Unsplash

More Japanese phrases for asking for Directions

Can I walk from here to Asakusa?
Koko kara, asakusa made aruite ikemasu ka?
How long does it take to get to Tokyo Tower?
Tokyou tawa made donokurai kakarimasuka?
Where is the bathroom?
toire wa doko desu ka?
Please go straight ahead.
massugu ittekudasai.
Please turn right (left) at the second corner.
hutatsume no kado o migi (hidari) ni magattekudasai.
Can you draw me a map?
chizu o kaite morae masuka?
Thank you very much.
Ari gatou gozaimasu.

Now try yourself!

To find digital maps or travel brochures, you can consult JNTO-Travel Brochures. For all the help you received, you can express your gratitude with the simple phrase:

Japanese Phrases for Shopping

While traveling in Japan, you may find there are so many things you want to purchase and take home. Then what phrases are used when shopping for souvenirs?

Don’t forget to get your tax refund if you are an international tourist staying in Japan for less than 6 months.

How much is it (are they)?
Korewa ikura desu ka?
What would you recommend?
Osusume wa nan desuka?
What is this?
Kore wa nan desu ka?
Are there any T-shirts?
Tsyatsu wa arimasu ka?
Can I buy this without tax?
Menzei de kaemasu ka?
A Japanese street
Image from Unsplash

Japanese Phrases for Eating Out

After walking and shopping, you may find yourself hungry and want some authentic Japanese cuisine. With these basic Japanese phrases, you can walk into any restaurant you want with confidence.

A menu, please.
menyu, onegaishimasu.

If you want to ask for an English menu, you may say: 英語のメニュー、お願いします。(eigo no menyu, onegaishimasu.) When you find something you are interested in, you can just point to the menu and tell the waiter: 

Three of these, please.
ko re mittsu, onegaishimasu.

If you want to order the food by its name, you could use the sentence structure “ください (kudasai)”. For example, if it is the tea that you want, you can say:

I’d like tea, please.
ocha o kudasai.


Japanese food
Image from Unsplash

If you happen to be dining with a Japanese person, say this before you start:

Let’s eat!

Japanese people say “いただきます” before eating (not towards anyone, but to the food), and “ごちそうさまでした” after finishing it. You can say “ごちそうさまでした” to the owner of the restaurant, and he or she will be very much glad. When you are satisfied with the food, you can say this Japanese phrase to compliment the food:

(It’s) tasty!
o i shi i!

After finishing the delicious meal, you may want to express your gratitude by saying:

Thank you for the meal.
Gochisou sama deshita.

As one can imagine, the amount of help you might receive doesn’t only depend on the welcoming nature of your host but also on how respectful you are.

💡Tips: Japanese dining etiquette 101

  • Don’t point at someone or something with your chopsticks.
  • Use the chopsticks to grab your food, not as a fork.
  • Do not leave your chopsticks planted up in your rice.
  • Don’t pass on food to other people around you from chopsticks to chopsticks.

To better plan your trip and find local cuisine, you can consult: Japan Travel; Japan-Guide and Gurunavi.Before going to Japan, you might want to know more about Japanese Manners Do’s and Don’ts. Know their manners so that you can use these Japanese phrases wisely. 

Japanese Phrases for Emergency

I do hope you will not run into any unpleasant situations in Japan. However, as the saying goes, “Better safe than sorry”, I hope you can remember the following phrases to prepare for any emergency cases that might occur. First, the situation will be a lot better if you can find anyone who is able to speak English, so you can try to find one by asking:

Is there anyone who can speak English?
Eigo ga wakaru hito, imasuka?

If it is getting dangerous, just shout out:

Please call the police.
Keisatsu wo yondekudasai.

If you get lost, try to explain your situation to people around you. Remember you can get help from the embassy and do note down the phone number and address of the embassy of your country. If you cannot use your phone, try to ask others for help:

I’m lost.
maigo ni narimashita
I want to contact the embassy.
taishikan ni renraku shitaindesuga.

Except for the last section, I do hope all the basic Japanese phrases you learned in this post will come in handy during your stay in Japan. As a bonus, I will introduce several cute Japanese phrases that can be used to express your emotion when talking to native speakers!

Japanese Phrases to Express Emotion

You may have already known the phrase, Japanese people do use “かわいい” a lot. It seems that “かわいい” can be used to show their likeness for almost anything, from clothes, stationery, to buildings and shops.

Another phrase that you are most likely to hear in Japan is “すごい”. Try to use “ すごい” to compliment others and you may make some native friends.

Wow! / Amazing!
How splendid!
rippa desune
How wonderful.
subarashii desune.

If you are interested in learning more Japanese phrases, check out LingoDeer’s travel phrasebook and learn 1000+ common Japanese travel phrases for free. You may also encounter some anime expressions;)

If you already fall in love with Japanese, go on and read our blog articles How long does it take to learn Japanese, or this essential guide to Learn Japanese From Beginner to Advanced. Hope you can find something useful there, too! 

See, learning Japanese is not as hard as you think! If you wish to find more Japanese learning resources, check out this article about the best Japanese learning apps and hopefully you’ll find one suits you!


Wish to learn more Japanese phrases but don’t know where to start? Let me help!

I’m LingoDeer. I’m here to make your Japanese learning journey smart and fun!

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