Japan Study Abroad Network - Support & guidance for studying in Japan > Guide to Living in Japan: Survival Japanese Phrases
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Even if you don’t really know much Japanese, simply knowing the phrases and sentences contained in this article will get you a long way when you study, work and live in Japan.

Indeed, despite the fact that many Japanese people truly want to learn English – even ranking as the #1 of 5 top motivations of Japanese people for 2018 according to NHK – a large number of Japanese people, including those in customer service positions in the most densely populated and tourist-heavy areas of Shibuya and Shinjuku Tokyo, speak little to no English, or have very little confidence in communicating in English.

Of course if you speak with Japanese people in English, they will do their best to understand and help you, however showing that you are trying to learn and speak Japanese even just a little will be immediately appreciated, and will put the Japanese people you meet at ease and make them open up to you all the more.

Indeed, learning & speaking everyday Japanese phrases will ultimately help you feel that much more connected with the culture, society, and people, and is perhaps the determining factor in your overall satisfaction with your time and experience abroad in Japan.



Survival Japanese Phrases

Legend / Key

( ) = omittable/optional contents
Lit: = literally / literal translation
/ = choice between words
Italics = spoken phrases
Regular type = information / content

Foundation

  • Tasukete itadakemas(u) ka?
    Would you be able to help me?
  • Shitsumon shite mo ii desu ka?
    Can I ask you a question?
  • Sumimasen
    Excuse me. / Sorry.
  • Kore/sore wa dou iu imi des(u) ka?
    What does this/that mean?
  • Dou iu imi des(u) ka?
    What do you mean by that?
  • (Sumimasen,) Mou ichido onegaishimas(u)
    (Sorry,) Could you please say that again?
  • Kaite itadakemas(u) ka?
    Could you please write that down?
  • Utte itadakemas(u) ka?
    Could you please type that out?
  • Kore de atteimas(u) ka?
    Is this correct?
  • ____ wa nihongo de nan des(u) ka?
    How do you say ____ in Japanese?
  • Naruhodo
    I see. / That makes sense.
  • Wakarimashita
    I understand. (Lit: understood)
  • Wakarimasen deshita
    I don’t understand. (Lit: I didn’t understand)
  • Arigatou gozaimas(u)
    Thank you very much!

Greetings & Small Talk

  • Konnichi wa
    Hello! (Lit: Good day)
  • Konban wa
    Good evening!
  • Hajimemashite
    Nice to meet you!
  • O-namae wa nan des(u) ka?
    What’s your name?
  • ____ to moushimas(u)
    My name is ____.
  • Yoroshiku onegai-shimas(u)
    – Lit: Please treat me well.
  • Go-shusshin wa doko des(u) ka?
    Where are you from?
  • ____ shusshin des(u)
    I am from ____.
  • Sochira wa?
    How about you?
  • Ikimashou ka?
    Shall we go?
  • Gambatte kudasai
    Good luck!
  • Gambarimasu!
    I’ll do my best / I’ll work hard.
  • Ganbarimashou!
    Let’s do out best!
  • Otsukare-sama des(u)
    – Expresses recognition of someone’s hard day’s work. You can use this with friends as well.
  • Mata kondo aimashou!
    Let’s meet again next time!
  • Tanoshimi ni shiteimas(u)!
    I’m looking forward to it!

Directions & Navigation

  • ____ wa doko des(u) ka?
    Where would I find ____?
  • Kono densha wa ____ ni ikimas(u) ka?
    Does this train go to ____?
  • Dou yatte ikeba ii des(u) ka?
    How do I get there?

Entering & leaving the house

  • Itte kimas(u)
    I’m heading out! (and will see you later)
  • Itte rasshai
    See you when you get back! (even if you won’t be there).
  • O-jama shimas(u)
    – Lit: I’m intruding or “in the way”. It is a polite way to announce your entry into someone else’s house with awareness that they are accommodating you.

Shopping

  • Kore hitotsu onegai shimas(u)
    I’ll get one of these, please.
  • Ikura des(u) ka?
    How much is it?
  • Ten-nai de / Mochi-kaeri de
    For here. / To go.
  • Kore wa ikura des(u) ka?
    How much is this?
  • Hitotsu onegai shimas(u)
    I’ll get one, please.
  • Reshiito/fukuro wa irimasen
    I don’t need the receipt / a bag.

Reference: Numbers for counting

1 – hitotsu | 2 – futatsu | 3 – mittsu | 4 – yotsu | 5 – itsutsu | 6 – muttsu | 7 – nanatsu | 8 – yattsu | 9 – kokonotsu | 10 – Juu-ko | 11 – Juu-ichi-ko | … etc.


At the restaurant

  • Ichi / ni / san / yon mei desu
    For 1 / 2 / 3 / 4, please.
  • O-mizu kudasai
    I’d like some water, please. Alternatively, you can say o-hiya kudasai for when you would like ‘a glass of cold water’ specifically. Don’t use o-hiya with friends or someone hosting you as it is used as a customer and will therefore come across as impolite in personal situations.
  • O-susume wa nan des(u) ka?
    What do you recommend?
  • Jaa, sore hitots(u) onegaishimas(u)
    In that case, I’ll get one of those, please. (used with above recommendation sentence)
  • Kore (o) hitotsu kudasai
    I’ll get one of these, please. (When you choose on you own)
  • O-kaikei onegaishimas(u)
    I’d like the bill, please.
  • Kaado tsukaemas(u) ka?
    Can I pay by card? / Do you accept credit card?

Eating & Drinking

  • O-naka (ga) suita
    I’m hungry.
  • Itadakimas(u)
    Let’s dig in!
  • Kampai!
    Cheers! (traditionally only with alcohol)
  • Dou des(u) ka?
    How is it?
  • Oishii des(u)
    It’s delicious.
  • Gochisou-sama deshita
    Thank you for the lovely meal (You can say this to the restaurant staff when leaving, and/or to your friend who made the food or paid for your meal. You can also use this to simply signify that the food was good even if you are paying your own way.)
  • O-naka ippai
    I’m stuffed.
  • Dou deshita ka?
    How was it?
  • Oishikatta des(u)
    That was delicious!

The Guide to Living in Japan Series

Whether you are thinking about moving to Japan, are already living in Japan, or are just curious about what is life like in Japan for Non-Japanese people, the Guide to Living in Japan aims to be as thorough as possible about what to expect and what to prepare for when living in Japanese society from a mostly western perspective.

Should you have any questions or comments while reading through, please contact us. We aim to continually update and improve this resource for everyone.

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Japan Study Abroad Network - Support & guidance for studying in Japan > Guide to Living in Japan: Survival Japanese Phrases