Andrea Urbinati

Surviving Japan with 25+ Essential Phrases for Tourists

Di Andrea Urbinati

blogger, andrea urbinati, marketing, copywriting, seo
Embark on your Japanese adventure armed with essential phrases! From greetings to asking for directions and dining etiquette, learn how to connect with locals and enhance your travel experience. Embrace the challenge of speaking Japanese and unlock unforgettable connections along the way. Your journey starts here.
japanese woman writing

Konnichiwa, fellow travelers! Today, I’m thrilled to share with you a survival kit that is going to transform your Japanese adventure. No, it’s not a new gadget, nor is it a magic potion.

It’s something even more powerful – the gift of language. Specifically, I’m talking about 25+ essential Japanese phrases for travel. And trust me, they’re game-changers!

I remember stepping off the plane for the first time in Japan, wide-eyed and equally filled with excitement and apprehension.

As I stared at the blur of Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana characters on the airport signs, I couldn’t help but think, ‘Oh boy, what have I gotten myself into?’ My Japanese was as rusty as an old samurai sword, and I couldn’t tell my ‘arigatos’ from my ‘sayonaras.’

But here’s the thing about the Japanese culture that I quickly came to realize – it’s forgiving, especially to tourists like us who show a genuine desire to connect. So, even if you’re like me, whose first attempt at speaking Japanese made a sushi chef burst into laughter, don’t fret.

The aim here is not to achieve linguistic perfection, but to create heartwarming connections with the amazing people of Japan.

So buckle up, my adventurous friends, as I take you through my journey of linguistic faux pas and triumphs, and share with you the essential phrases that will not just help you survive but thrive in the Land of the Rising Sun!

Want to discover Japan beyond the typical tourist spots? Dive into my ‘Top 36+ Unique and Secret Things to Do in Japan in 2023‘ post. You’ll find plenty of hidden treasures waiting for you!


japanese post cards


My Love for Japan

Ah, Japan! Just thinking about this country makes my heart flutter like a cherry blossom in the wind. It’s a place where ancient traditions and futuristic technology harmoniously coexist. It’s where meticulous gardens invite tranquility, and bustling markets ignite your senses.

But what truly stole my heart during my first visit wasn’t just the aesthetic allure of Japan, it was the people. Their kindness, their respect for each other, and their infectious enthusiasm for their culture.

I knew then that I wanted to connect more deeply with the locals on my next trip.

So, I decided to take on the challenge of learning some basic Japanese phrases. Yes, many people in Japan speak English, especially in larger cities, but I believed that speaking their language, even just a little, would open doors to more authentic experiences.

I still chuckle at the memory of my first attempt to use my newly-learned Japanese words. Picture this: I walked into a quaint little sushi bar in Tokyo, armed with nothing but my enthusiasm and a handful of phrases I’d practiced.

I greeted the sushi chef with what I thought was a perfect ‘Konnichiwa,’ but instead of the expected response, I was met with a moment of silence followed by a burst of laughter. As it turns out, my ‘Konnichiwa’ sounded more like ‘Ko-ninja-wa.’ Yes, you read that right.

My first attempt at speaking Japanese had inadvertently invoked a stealthy feudal warrior!

Although it wasn’t the reaction I’d hoped for, it was a turning point in my journey. This hilarious mix-up broke the ice and led to an evening filled with laughter, delicious sushi, and yes, a crash course in essential Japanese words.

I’ve learned so much more since then, and in my previous post about ‘10 Insider Tips For An Epic Travel Through Japan In 2023,‘ I touched on the importance of learning a bit of the local language when visiting Japan. Now, let’s dive into the specifics of these phrases that will make your trip even more memorable.



Bustling Japanese street market offering a variety of goods and products.


Why Learning Basic Phrases is Important

Let’s pause for a moment and ponder this – why bother learning Japanese phrases when many locals can speak English? Well, I’m here to tell you that even a smattering of Japanese vocabulary can drastically transform your travel experience.

You see, making the effort to speak the local language, however imperfectly, is like holding a golden key. It unlocks smiles, opens doors to authentic experiences, and most importantly, it earns you the respect and appreciation of the locals.

It’s like sending out a signal that says, ‘Hey, I respect your culture and I’m making an effort here!’ Trust me, people respond to that.

Let me take you back to a charming old tea house in Kyoto. The elderly hostess didn’t speak a lick of English and my Japanese was, well, let’s just say it was a work in progress. The only phrase I was confident about was ‘Ocha wa oishii desu ka?’ – ‘Is the tea delicious?’ I had practiced it over and over, and it was time to put it to the test.

With a shaky voice, I asked the question. The hostess’s face lit up instantly. She nodded enthusiastically, and what followed was one of the most memorable experiences of my trip.

She guided me through a traditional tea ceremony, explaining each step with gestures and the few English words she knew. We laughed, we communicated without words, and all because of that one key Japanese phrase I had dared to use.

I can’t stress enough how learning some basic Japanese phrases will enrich your journey. It’s not about perfect pronunciation or extensive vocabulary, it’s about connection. So, are you ready to learn these game-changing phrases? Let’s dive in!

And if you want to explore Japan like a pro, make sure to check my post, ‘Explore Japan: 13 Top Travel Guide Books Of 2023.‘ It’s packed with top resources you’ll love!



japanese lanterns in tokyo


The 25+ Essential Japanese Phrases for Tourists

Alright, my fellow globetrotters, it’s time for the main event! I’m about to unveil the 25+ essential Japanese phrases for tourists that will become your trusty travel companions. These aren’t just words to get you through your trip, they are your secret weapons to creating genuine connections, earning respect, and immersing yourself in the vibrant Japanese culture.

I’ve broken down these phrases into five key categories: greetings, dining, shopping, asking for directions, and expressing gratitude.

For each phrase, I’ve provided an English translation, phonetic pronunciation, and a personal anecdote or context on when I used it during my journey. Trust me, I’ve been there, I’ve stumbled over the pronunciation, and I’ve seen the results first-hand. You’re not learning Kanji or aiming to speak Japanese fluently, but mastering these key phrases will truly enhance your travel experience.

So, whether you’re trying to find a Japanese restaurant, asking ‘toire wa doko desu ka’ (‘where is the toilet’) in a moment of need, or laughing along with a Japanese TV show in a local bar, these phrases will serve you well.

And before we dive in, remember that in a previous post, I shared my ‘10 Insider Tips For An Epic Travel Through Japan In 2023‘. Be sure to check it out for more insights on how to navigate this amazing foreign country with ease.

Now, without further ado, let’s jump into the essential Japanese travel phrases that will transform your journey from ordinary to extraordinary!


japan temple



1. Hello – Konnichiwa (こんにちは)

When you enter a shop or meet someone for the first time during the day, a simple “Konnichiwa” can go a long way in fostering good relations.

2. Good morning – Ohayou Gozaimasu (おはようございます)

A respectful way to greet people in the morning, “Ohayou Gozaimasu” is commonly used when starting your day, be it in the hotel lobby or a local breakfast joint.

3. Nice to meet you – Hajimemashite (はじめまして!)

When you meet someone for the first time, say “Hajimemashite” to express your pleasure in making their acquaintance.

4. Goodbye – Sayounara (さようなら)

At the end of a meeting or when leaving a shop, “Sayounara” is the perfect word to bid farewell.

5. Please – Onegaishimasu (お願いします)

When asking for something, adding “Onegaishimasu” can make your request sound more polite and respectful.


japanese woman and a dog



6. Let’s eat / “Bon Appetit” – Itadakimasu (いただきます)

Before starting a meal, saying “Itadakimasu” is a traditional way of expressing gratitude for the food.

7. Thank you for the meal – Gochisousama (Deshita) (ごちそうさま(でした))

After finishing a meal, “Gochisousama Deshita” is a way of showing appreciation for the food. It roughly translates to “That was a feast”.

8. How much does this cost? – Kore wa Ikura Desu Ka? (これはいくらですか?)

This is an essential phrase when you’re dining or shopping. Knowing how to ask the price can save you from unexpected expenses.


people sitting waiting for dinner in japan



9. Can you please help me? – Tasukete Moraemasuka? (助けてもらえますか?)

When you need assistance, whether you’re trying to find a specific item in a store or need help with directions, “Tasukete Moraemasuka?” is a polite way to ask for help.

10. I want to go (here) – (Koko) ni Ikitai Desu ((ここ)に行きたいです)

This phrase can be used to indicate a place on a map or to tell a taxi driver where you want to go. For instance, if you’re shopping and want to go to a specific store, you can use this phrase.


Colorful Japanese street market with various goods.


Asking for Directions

11. Where is the…? – …Wa Doko Desu Ka? (…はどこですか?)

Whether you’re looking for a bathroom, a restaurant, or a metro station, this phrase will be very useful. Just replace the “…” with the place you’re looking for.

12. Is it near? Chikai desu ka? (近いですか?)

13. Is it far? – Tooi desu ka? (遠いですか?)

13. Take me to this address, please Kono jyuusho made tsureteitte kudasai (この住所まで連れて行ってください)

14. Stop here, please – Koko de tomatte kudasai (ここで止まってください)

Let me tell you about this hilarious experience I had in a taxi in Japan. I found myself in a tricky situation where I couldn’t figure out how to tell the driver to stop. So you know what happened? He just kept driving and driving, taking me on an unintentional city tour that seemed to go on forever! Can you imagine? It was like being on a never-ending roller coaster ride. Anyway, after that crazy adventure, I realized I needed to learn how to say “stop, please” in Japanese ASAP. I didn’t want to end up in another endless taxi trip again!

So, I made it my mission to master that phrase, and let me tell you, it has come in handy ever since. You won’t believe the relief I feel when I confidently say, “Koko de tomatte kudasai” to a taxi driver. It’s like having a magic word that brings the adventure to a halt. Lesson learned: always know how to ask the driver to stop, or you might end up going on an unexpected sightseeing tour!

15. Does this bus go to (street name)? – Kono basu wa… ni ikimasu ka? (このバスは…に行きますか?)

16. Does that train stop at ___? – Sono densha wa ___ de tomarimasu ka? (その電車は___で止まりますか)

17. A map, please – Chizu o onegai shimasu (地図をお願いします)

18. This hotel – Kono hoteru (このホテル)

19. The subway – Chikatetsu (地下鉄)

20. The train station – Densha no eki (電車の駅)

21. The bus stop – Basutei (バス停)

22. The exit – Deguchi (出口)

23. The entrance – Iriguchi (入口)

24. The bathroom – Toire (トイレ)


japanese monk walking in the temple


Additional Personal Phrases

25. Wait a moment – Chottomatte – ちょっと待って

This phrase, “Chottomatte,” has saved me in many situations. It’s funny how useful it is! Whether I needed a moment to gather my thoughts or to attend to something urgent, using this phrase allowed me to communicate my need for a brief pause.

26. I am so sorry – Hontōni mōshiwakenai – 本当に申し訳ない

In Japan, it’s always better to say sorry, even if you’re not sure what you did wrong! This phrase, “Hontōni mōshiwakenai,” has been a lifesaver for me. It shows humility and a willingness to take responsibility, which is highly valued in Japanese culture.

27. You are pretty – Kawaī ne – かわいいね

Yes, I know, it may seem a bit unexpected, but this phrase, “Kawaī ne,” has actually helped me make friends! Complimenting someone’s appearance, in a respectful and appropriate manner, can break the ice and create a positive connection. It’s a small gesture that goes a long way in building relationships.


japanese house and a pot



Let’s recap why it’s so important and beneficial to learn some basic Japanese phrases for your travel adventure. Trust me, it’s worth the effort! By familiarizing yourself with these essential Japanese phrases, you’ll open up a whole new world of possibilities and connections during your trip.

Whether it’s mastering common Japanese phrases like greetings and expressions of gratitude, or learning useful phrases such as “desu ka” to ask questions, each phrase you acquire brings you closer to understanding the Japanese language and culture.

Embracing the challenge of learning and using these Japanese phrases during your trip will not only enhance your travel experience but also create unforgettable connections.

I personally love how effective it is to know some essential phrases—I’ve made so many friends by simply breaking the language barrier with a heartfelt “Konnichiwa” or “Koko de tomatte kudasai.”

So, fellow travelers, let’s embark on this linguistic adventure and embrace the power of Japanese phrases to enrich our journeys and create memories that last a lifetime.

Also, enjoying my Japan content? There’s more! Click through to my ‘Top 36+ Unique and Secret Things to Do in Japan in 2023‘ post. Your next Japan adventure starts there!




  • Q: What are the essential greetings in Japanese I should know?

    • A: “Konnichiwa” (Hello), “Ohayou gozaimasu” (Good morning), and “Konbanwa” (Good evening) are fundamental greetings to start any interaction on a positive note.


  • Q: How do I say ‘thank you’ in Japanese?

    • A: “Arigatou gozaimasu” is a polite way to say thank you, and for a more casual expression, just “Arigatou” works well.


  • Q: What phrase should I use for asking directions in Japan?

    • A: “___ wa doko desu ka?” means “Where is ___?” Insert the place you’re looking for at the beginning.


  • Q: Is there a polite way to ask for help in Japanese?

    • A: Yes, you can say “Sumimasen, tasukete kudasai” which means “Excuse me, can you help me?”


  • Q: How can I order food politely in a Japanese restaurant?

    • A: “___ onegaishimasu” means “Please give me ___.” Fill in the blank with the name of the dish you want to order.


  • Q: What’s a respectful way to say goodbye in Japanese?

    • A: “Sayounara” for formal goodbyes and “Ja mata” for casual farewells are commonly used.


  • Q: How do I apologize in Japanese?

    • A: “Sumimasen” (I’m sorry/Excuse me) is versatile and can be used in most situations where you need to apologize.


  • Q: Are there any phrases to use in Japanese convenience stores or shops?

    • A: “Kore wa ikura desu ka?” means “How much is this?” – useful when purchasing items.


  • Q: How do I ask if someone speaks English?

    • A: “Eigo o hanasemasu ka?” translates to “Do you speak English?”


  • Q: What phrase can I use to express food is delicious in Japanese?

    • A: Saying “Oishii desu” means “It’s delicious,” a great way to compliment a meal.


  • Q: Is there a Japanese phrase for restroom inquiries?

    • A: “Toire wa doko desu ka?” means “Where is the restroom?”


  • Q: What are some emergency phrases I should know?

    • A: “Kinkyuu desu!” (It’s an emergency!) and “Keisatsu o yonde kudasai” (Please call the police) are crucial in urgent situations.


  • Q: How can I express my dietary restrictions in Japanese?

    • A: “___ ga arerugii desu” (I am allergic to ) or “ wa taberaremasen” (I can’t eat ___) are helpful for dietary needs.


  • Q: How do I say ‘I don’t understand’ in Japanese?

    • A: “Wakarimasen” means “I don’t understand,” useful when you need clarification.


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About the author
blogger, andrea urbinati, marketing, copywriting, seo

Hi! I’m Andrea, a passionate freelance writer with a knack for captivating storytelling.

With a decade of marketing expertise and a genuine love for crafting compelling content, I bring your ideas to life!

Let me know if you need a writer for your blog!

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