Last updated: useful Japanese phrases whne traveling in Japan

Useful Japanese phrases

One thing many foreign tourists is concerned about is not knowing any Japanese. Can you travel in Japan with only English? The answer is yes, at most popular tourist spots and larger cities signs are usually both available in both English and Japanese, and hotels usually have English speaking staff. But any effort at speaking, if only a simple thanks, is often greatly appreciated.

A lot of daily used words in Japanese are actually lone-words from English. For example hotel is pronounced "ho te ru" in Japanese. So even if it sounds silly, it's surprising how far you can come with just trying to "Japanese-ify" English words.

While spoken English can prove difficult, most Japanese people have a better English reading and writing ability. So if all else fails, try writing down your question on a piece of paper or your smartphone might be a good idea. And don't underestimate a dose of friendly gesturing.

Pronunciation

As Japanese only has 5 vowels (a, i, u, e, o), it really isn't all that hard to at least make yourself understood.

Japanese vowelEnglish sound
A   あlike "u" in English "but"
I   いlike "i" in English "it"
U   うlike "u" in English "put"
E   えlike "e" in English "get"
O   おlike "o" in English "old"

Greeting

EnglishJapanese RomajiJapanese 日本語
Good morningO-hayou gozaimasuおはようございます
Hi / Good afternoonKonnichiwaこんにちは
Good eveningKonbanwaこんばんは
Good byeSayonaraさようなら
Nice to meet youHajimemashiteはじめました
How are you doing?O-genki desu ka?お元気ですか?
My name is ____Watashi no namae wa ____ desuわたしの名前は ____ です
What is your name?O-namae wa nan desu ka?お名前は何ですか?
Thank youArigatou gozaimasuありがとうございます
I am from ____*____ -jin desu____ 人です

*here just insert the name of your country, America-jin France-jin etc

Directions / Travel

EnglishJapanese RomajiJapanese 日本語
YesHaiはい
NoIeeいいえ
Excuse meSumimasenすみません
Where is the toilet?Toire wa doko desu ka?トイレはどこですか?
Excuse me, what is the time?Sumimasen, ima wa nanji desu ka?すみません、今は何時ですか?
I want to go to ________ he ikitai desu____ へ行きたいです
Where is ____ ?____ wa doko desu ka?____ はどこですか?
Does this train stop at ____ ?Kono densya wa ____ ni tomari masu ka?この電車は ____ にとまりますか?
Where is the nearest subway station?Ichiban chikai chikatetsu no eki wa doko desu ka?一番近い地下鉄の駅はどこですか?

Shopping

EnglishJapanese RomajiJapanese 日本語
Where can I buy ____ ?____ wa doko de kaemasu ka?____ はどこで買えますか?
Do you have ____ ?____ wa arimasu ka?____ はありますか?
How much is this?O-ikura desu ka?おいくらですか?
CheapYasuiやすい
ExpensiveTakaiたかい
This one pleaseKore kudasaiこれください
Can I buy this duty-free?Korewa menzei de kae masuka?これは免税で買えますか?
Where is the service counter?Saabisu kauntaa wa doko ni arimasuka?サービスカウンターはどこにありますか?

Eating / Restaurant

EnglishJapanese RomajiJapanese 日本語
Can I see the menu pleaseMenuu kudasaiメニューください
What is this?Kore ha nan desu ka?これは何ですか?
Let's eat (said before eating)Ittadakimasuいただきます
Can I have a beer?Biiru kudasaiビールください
Check / bill, pleaseO-kaikei onegai shimasuお会計おねがいします
Thank you for the meal
(often said when leaving restaurants)
gochisousama deshitaごちそうさまでした