42 Basic Japanese Phrases to Survive in Japan [Audio]

Hi, I am Cindy Fan. I majored in Japanese for four years in undergraduate school and spent 7 months in Tokyo as an exchange student. There, I fell in love with Japanese culture. Currently, I am studying for an LLM degree at BFSU.

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. 

Getting familiar with some basic Japanese phrases will not only help you to survive in Japan, but also increase your chances of communicating with native Japanese and add amazing flavor to your journey.

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


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

Now practice!

  • おはようございます
  • こんにちは
  • こんばんは
  • はじめまして
  • 私は…です
  • さようなら
  • じゃあね
  • すみません

Note that Japanese people use “すみません” frequently to apologize for things like stepping someone in the bus, or stop 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 TransportationYou 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.

Now practice!

  • バス停はどこですか?
  • 券売機はどこですか?
  • どうやって切符を買いますか?
  • チケットはいくらですか?
  •  これは池袋(いけぶくろ)にいきますか?
  • チケット二枚、お願いします。

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.

phrases that navigate you through 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!

  • ここから、浅草まで歩いて行けますか。
  •  東京タワーまでどのくらいかかりますか?
  • トイレはどこですか?
  • まっすぐ行ってください。
  • 二つ目の角を右(左)に曲がってください。
  • 地図を書いてもらえますか?
  • ありがとうございます。

To find some 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?
42 Japanese phrases
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 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.

See, learning another language is not that hard and more importantly, it is fun!

If you already fall in love with Japanese, you can go on reading the blog:” How long does it take to learn Japanese?”  or this essential guide to “Learn Japanese From Beginner to Advanced“. There are more than 1000 common phrases in the Japanese Travel Phrasebook at our Lingodeer app and it is free! The Deer is very happy to learn more Japanese with you!Learn Japanese phrases in lingodeer‘s travel phrasebook

5 2 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
World Flags as Japanese Anime Characters: Yay or Nay?
2 years ago

[…] Related post: Essential list of Japanese travel phrases. […]

Visiting Tokyo 2020? Tickets, Corona Virus + 7 Important Travel Tips
1 year ago

[…] time now to be finalizing your plans, making a list of things to see and do, booking tickets, and learning the phrases you need to get you […]

San or Chan? Guide to Japanese Honorifics Suffixes
1 year ago

[…] will find you are one step closer to understanding Japanese culture. You may also want to know some basic Japanese phrases to show your […]

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x