Japanese for Travelers: Essential Phrases and Vocabulary You Need to Know



Planning a trip to Japan? The Land of the Rising Sun is a fascinating blend of ancient traditions and cutting-edge technology. While many Japanese people in urban areas understand English, knowing some basic Japanese phrases can greatly enhance your travel experience. This guide will introduce you to essential Japanese phrases and vocabulary to help you navigate your way through Japan.

Why Learn Basic Japanese?

Learning a few key phrases in Japanese can:

  • Make your interactions with locals more pleasant and respectful.
  • Help you navigate transportation and dining options more easily.
  • Enhance your overall travel experience by allowing you to connect more deeply with the culture.

Basic Greetings and Polite Phrases

  1. Hello - こんにちは (Konnichiwa)
  • Use this to greet someone during the day.
  1. Good morning - おはようございます (Ohayou gozaimasu)
  • A polite way to say good morning.
  1. Good evening - こんばんは (Konbanwa)
  • Use this greeting in the evening.
  1. Thank you - ありがとうございます (Arigatou gozaimasu)
  • Express gratitude formally. For informal situations, you can say ありがとう (Arigatou).
  1. Excuse me / I'm sorry - すみません (Sumimasen)
  • Use this to get someone's attention or to apologize.
  1. Goodbye - さようなら (Sayounara)
  • A common way to say farewell.

Essential Travel Phrases

  1. Where is...? - 〜はどこですか? (… wa doko desu ka?)
  • Example: トイレはどこですか? (Toire wa doko desu ka?) - Where is the toilet?
  1. How much is this? - これはいくらですか? (Kore wa ikura desu ka?)
  • Useful for shopping and markets.
  1. Do you speak English? - 英語を話せますか? (Eigo o hanasemasu ka?)
  • Helpful when you need assistance.
  1. I don't understand - わかりません (Wakarimasen)
  • Use this when you don't understand something.
  1. Please - お願いします (Onegaishimasu)
  • Add this to requests to be polite.

Dining Out

  1. Menu, please - メニューをお願いします (Menyuu o onegaishimasu)
  • Use this to ask for a menu.
  1. Check, please - お会計をお願いします (O-kaikei o onegaishimasu)
  • Use this when you are ready to pay the bill.
  1. Delicious - 美味しい (Oishii)
  • Compliment the food with this word.
  1. Water, please - お水をお願いします (Omizu o onegaishimasu)
  • Ask for water at a restaurant.

Getting Around

  1. Station - 駅 (Eki)
  • Important when asking for directions.
  1. Bus - バス (Basu)
  • Use this word to refer to buses.
  1. Taxi - タクシー (Takushii)
  • Taxis are readily available in cities.
  1. Ticket - 切符 (Kippu)
  • Essential when buying transportation tickets.

Emergency Phrases

  1. Help! - 助けて! (Tasukete!)
  • Shout this in an emergency.
  1. Call the police - 警察を呼んでください (Keisatsu o yonde kudasai)
  • Use this if you need police assistance.
  1. Hospital - 病院 (Byouin)
  • Essential if you need medical help.

Cultural Tips

  • Bowing is a common greeting and sign of respect.
  • Always remove your shoes when entering someone's home or certain traditional places.
  • Use both hands when giving or receiving something.


Knowing these essential Japanese phrases and vocabulary can make your trip to Japan smoother and more enjoyable. Practice these words before your trip, and don't be afraid to use them. Japanese people appreciate the effort and will often respond warmly. Happy travels!

By incorporating these basic phrases into your interactions, you'll not only navigate Japan more effectively but also create more meaningful connections with the people you meet. Safe travels and enjoy your adventure in Japan!