Ten Survival Phrases for Travel to Japan

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If you find yourself looking forward to a trip to Japan but feel anxious about speaking the language, here are ten absolutely essential phrases to help you have a great time!

  1. Hai. (Yes.)
  2. Iie. (No.)
  3. Konnichi wa. (Hello.)
  4. Konban wa. (Good evening.)
  5. Sayoonara. (Good-bye.)
  6. Arigatoo gozaimasu. (Thank you.)
  7. Sumimasen. (Excuse me./ I’m sorry.)
  8. X onegai shimasu. (I’d like to ask for X.)
  9. X arimasu ka? (Is there X? / Is X available? / Do you have X?)
  10. Eego wakarimasu ka? (Do you speak English?)

These should allow you to engage many different people under a variety of different circumstances.

Phrase #8 is especially versatile:

Use this to make a variety of requests. If you want to order food or make a purchase, simply point to something and say “onegaishimasu”. If this is not working, try injecting English; “ticket, onegaishimasu”. “sandwich, onegaishimasu”, “single room, onegaishimasu”, “no smoking, onegaishimasu”. Another acceptable use case? You can also bring your purchase to a store cashier and say “onegaishimasu” when you place the item on the counter. You will make an extra pleasant impression if you toss out a #6 before you leave the store. Nicely done!

Normally, in #8 – #10, this grammatical thing called a particle follows a noun (i.e. X or Eego), but don’t worry about it! You will have no problem making yourself understood.

If you can ace these ten phrases, you will be able to engage people without having to fumble through a phrase book. Ultimately, you will see and learn more about Japan and Japanese culture if you feel comfortable communicating with people. Even a little bit is good. Have fun on your trip!