Basic Japanese Phrases for Travelers and Beginners 

 May 20, 2020

By  Alexis Papa

Are you traveling to Japan soon? Perhaps you feel scared that you might get lost or buy the wrong item because of the language barrier?

In this article, we will help you make your trip hassle-free by listing some of the basic words and phrases that you can use while in Japan.

Basic Japanese Phrases for Travelers and Beginners

Basic Japanese Greetings

こんにちは (konnichiwa)
This means “good afternoon” or “hello”. This is the most common greeting and can be used anytime before the sun sets.

おはようございます (ohayou gozaimasu)
This means “good morning”. If you want to make it less formal, you can just say おはようor ohayou.

こんばんは (konbanwa)
This means “good evening”.

さよなら (sayonara)
This is the most formal way of saying “good bye” and could mean as a final goodbye. To make it more casual, you can say じゃねー (ja ne) meaning “bye”, or じゃあまたね (jaa mata ne) meaning “see you later”.

おやすみなさい (oyasumi nasai)
This means “good night”. To make it casual, you can say おやすみ or oyasumi.

ありがとうございます (arigatou gozaimasu)
This means “thank you”. To make it more polite, you may add どうも (doumo) in the beginning. To make it more casual, you can say ありがとうor arigatou.

すみません (sumimasen)
This word has different meanings and usages. You can say this when you want to excuse yourself, call the attention of a restaurant or a boutique staff, to ask a question (“pardon me”), or even say ‘thank you’.

どういたしまして (dou itashimashite)
This means “You’re welcome”.

はい (hai) / いいえ (iie)
These mean “yes” and “no”, respectively.

おげんきですか (genki desu ka)
This means “How are you?”

Introducing Oneself in Japanese

Here are some ways to introduce yourself in Japanese:

わたしのなまえは_です。 Watashi no namae wa ___desu.My name is….
わたしは_です。 Watashi wa ___ desu.I am….


わたしのなまえはジョンです。 Watashi no namae wa Jon desu.My name is John.
わたしはジョンです。 Watashi wa Jon desu.I am John.
わたしはアメリカじんです。 Watashi wa Amerika-jin desu.I am an American.

Let's take a look at other important phrases:

はじめまして。 Hajimemashite.How do you do?
よろしくおねがいします。 Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.Nice to meet you

Ordering at a Restaurant in Japanese

Let's check out some common vocabulary first.

Common Food Vocabulary in Japanese

fried noodles焼きそば(やきそば)Yakisoba
beef on rice牛丼(ぎゅうどん)Gyuudon
batter-fried seafood or vegetables天ぷら(てんぷら)Tempura
Chinese-style noodlesラーメンramen

Sentence Pattern

(OBJECT)をください 。 (object) wo kudasai.I would like….

For example:

カレーをください。 Kare wo kudasai. I’d like to order curry.
コーヒーをください。 Kohi wo kudasai.I’d like to order coffee.

Other Useful Phrases

えいごのメニューはありますか。 Eigo no menyu wa arimasu ka.Do you have a menu in English?
ベジタリアンようのりょうりが ありますか。Bejitarian youno ryouri ga arimasu ka.Do you have vegetarian selections/dishes?
おかいけいをおねがいします。 Okaikei wo onegaishimasu.The bill, please.
おすすめはなんですか。 Osusume wa nan desu ka.What do you recommend?

Basic Shopping Phrases

Common vocabulary

credit cardクレジットカードkurejitto kado
free, no charge無料(むりょう)muryou
special sale特売(とくばい)tokubai
discount storeディスカウントストアdisukaunto sutoa
department storeデパートdepato

Sentence patterns

(OBJECT) をおねがいします。(Object) wo onegaishimasu.I would like…
(OBJECT) はいくらですか。(OBJECT) wa ikura desu ka.How much is…
(OBJECT) をさがしています。(OBJECT) wo sagashite imasu.I am looking for…


すみません。くろいかばんを さがしています。Sumimasen. Kuroi kaban wo sagashite imasu.Excuse me. I am looking for a black bag.
あのかばんはいくらですか。Ano kaban wa ikura desu ka.How much is that bag?
あれがいいです。Are ga ii desu.I like that one over there. /I will take that one over there.

Other Useful Phrases

きてみてもいいですか。Kite mite mo ii desu ka?May I try it on?
これの (S/M/L) サイスがありますか。Kore no (S/M/L) saizu ga arimasu ka?Do you have this in size S/M/L?
クレジットカードではらってもいいですか。Kurejitto kado de haratte mo ii desu ka?May I pay by credit card?
げんきんではらいます。Genkin de haraimasu.I would like to pay in cash.
しちゃくしつはどこですか。Shichaku shitsu wa doko desu ka?Where are the chan

Asking for Directions in Japanese

If you are lost or would like to go to a certain place, you can use the following sentence patterns to ask for directions.

Sentence Patterns

(PLACE) はどこですか。(PLACE) wa doko desu ka?Where is the ___________?
(PLACE) から(PLACE) まであるけますか。(PLACE) kara (PLACE) made arukemasu ka.Is it possible to walk from __to __?
(PLACE) から(PLACE) までどうやっていきますか。(PLACE) kara (PLACE) made dou yatte ikimasu ka.Do you get from ___ to ___?
(PLACE) から(PLACE) までどうやっていきますか。(PLACE) kara (PLACE) made dou yatte ikimasu ka.Do you get from ___ to ___?
Note: ~からmeans ‘from’ 〜まで means ‘to’

Common vocabulary

bus stopバス停(ばすてい)basutei
taxi standタクシー乗り場 (タクシーのりば)takushi noriba
train station駅(えき)eki
department storeデパートdepato
convenience storeコンビニkonbini


トイレはどこですか。Toire wa doko desu ka.Where is the toilet?
ちかくのえきはどこですか。Chikaku no eki wa doko desu ka.Where is the nearest train station?
コンビニからえきまであるけますか。Konbini kara eki made arukemasu ka.Is it possible to walk from the convenience store to the train station?
ここからちかてつまでどうやっていきますか。Koko kara chikatetsu made dou yatte ikimasu ka.How do you get to the subway from here?

Other Phrases

えいごがはなせます(/わかります)か。Eigo ga hanasemasu/wakarimasu ka?Can you speak / understand English?
ここからちかてつまでどうやっていきますか。Koko kara chikatetsu made dou yatte ikimasu ka.I do not understand. / I don’t know.
えいごでもいいですか。Eigo de mo ii desu ka.Is English OK?
にほんごがわかりません。Nihongo ga wakarimasen.I don’t understand Japanese.
もういちどいってください。Mou ichido itte kudasai.Please say it one more time.
ゆっくりはなしてください。Yukkuri hanashite kudasai.Please speak slowly.
しゃしんをとってください。Shashin wo totte kudasai.Please help me take a photo.
ちょっとたすけてください。Chotto tasukete kudasai.Please help me.
よやくしたいです。Yoyaku shitai desu.I would like to make a reservation.


Now that you have learned these travel-related and beginner-friendly words and phrases, you are now ready to navigate and discover the breathtaking views and colorful culture of Japan!

Other than that, learning these basic words and phrases will surely earn you comments like すごい(sugoi) meaning “awesome”, or にほんごじょうず (nihongo jouzu) meaning “good at Japanese” from the locals. 

Alexis Papa

Alexis is a Japanese language and culture enthusiast from the Philippines. She is a Japanese Studies graduate, and has worked as an ESL and Japanese instructor at a local language school. She enjoys her free time reading books and watching series.

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