Japanese Phrases for Tourists: 116 Essential Phrases for Your Japanese Vacation

Before I traveled to Japan for the first time, everyone assured me that “Everybody speaks English there,” and I wouldn’t need to use Japanese at all.

But in reality, most of the people I encountered in Japan had a fairly elementary level of spoken English.

For a better travel experience, you should learn some basic travel words and phrases in Japanese.


Greetings and Basic Japanese Phrases


I’ll provide the hiragana, kanji and romaji for each word, and will explain the use of certain Japanese phrases for tourists in context.

1. Hellokonnichiwa


2. Good morning — ohayou gozaimasu


3. Nice to meet you — hajimemashite


4. Goodbye — sayounara


5. Please onegaishimasu


6. Thank you — arigatou gozaimasu


7. You’re welcomedou itashimashite


8. Excuse me/Sorry — sumimasen


This is definitely one to memorize. I say すみません at least 30 times a day in Japan. It’s a magical word.

It helps you push through a crowd, get attention from a waiter, ask for directions or be excused for basically any touristy blunder.

Simply saying すみません and gesturing is a pretty good way to express that you need help, but don’t speak Japanese.

9. Yes hai


10. No — iie


11. Let’s Eat/ “Bon Appetit” — itadakimasu 


Similar to the French “bon appetit”, this is what Japanese people say before they eat. It doesn’t have a literal translation in English, but it’s a way to give thanks for a meal.

You should also remember this phrase’s pair: ごちそうさま (gochisousama) or ごちそうさまでした (gochisousama deshita). These phrases are used at the end of a meal and translate as “What a good meal,” or “Thank you for the meal,” the latter being the more polite form.

12. I don’t understand wakarimasen 


13. I don’t speak Japanese — nihongo o hanashimasen


14. Do you speak English? — eigo o hanashimasu ka? 


15. Can you please repeat that? mou ichido itte kudasai


16. Can you please speak slowly? — yukkuri hanashite kudasai


17. What is your name? — onamae wa nan desu ka?


18. My name is… — watashi no namae wa…


19. What is this? — kore wa nan desu ka?


これ and それ literally just mean “this” and “that.”

20. How much does this cost? — kore wa ikura desu ka? 


If you’re pointing at something that you can’t reach, you say それは いくらですか?

21. Can you please help me? — tasukete moraemasuka?


Airport Phrases You’ll Hear


Japanese airports aren’t just places to land: they’re an entire cultural showcase on their own. For example, at the Narita Airport, you’ll see pet hotels, gacha machines, the (in)famous smart toilets and even a Pokémon Store!

22. Welcome, please come in — yokoso, o-hairi kudasai


23. Please show your ticket — chiketto o misete kudasai


24. Please show your passport — pasupooto o misete kudasai


25. What is your reservation name? — yoyaku-mei wa nan desu ka?


26. The flight is delayed — furaito chien shiteimasu


27. The flight has been canceled — furaito kyanseru saremashita


28. Baggage claim is this way — baggeji kureimu wa kochira desu


29. We have arrived at … Airport — … kuko ni tochaku shimashita

… 空港に到着しました

30. We will depart for … Airport — … kuko e shuppatsu shimasu

… 空港へ出発します

31. There is a delay in the flight — furaito ni okure ga arimasu


32. There are restrictions on carry-on baggage — kinai mochikomi no nimotsu niwa seigen ga arimasu


Airport Phrases You’ll Use


33. Please tell me how to get to the airport — kuko e no ikikata o oshiete kudasai


34. Is this a departure flight? — korewa shuppatsu-bin desu ka?


35. Is this an arrival flight? — korewa tochaku-bin desu ka?


36. Where is the boarding gate? — tojyo-guchi wa doko desu ka?


37. I’ll check my baggage — tenimotsu azukemasu


38. Please call a taxi — takushii o yonde kudasai


39. I’d like to rent a car — rentakaa o karitai desu


40. Where is the gate for the connecting flight? — noritsugi-bin no geeto wa doko desu ka?


Asking for Directions


Asking for directions is sort of daunting, especially when the person answers in a whole stream of fast-paced Japanese.

But you’ll find that Japan is one of the best places to be a lost and hopeless tourist. There’s always someone nearby who’s more than happy to help. I’ve even had people take time out of their days to walk me where I needed to go!

Simply say wherever it is that you want to go followed by どこですか? doko desu ka? (Where is …?).

41. I want to go… (here) — (koko) ni ikitai desu 

(ここ) に行きたいです

Say ここ if you have an address written down or a point marked on a map of where you want to go.

If you know the name or address of the place where you want to go, simply say the place name followed by に行きたいです . For example, if you want to go to Shinjuku station, you simply say 新宿駅に行きたいです   — Shinjuku eki ni ikitai desu. (I want to go to Shinjuku station.)

42. Where is the…? — …wa doko desu ka?

… はどこですか?

43. Can you please show me where we are on the map? — watashitachi ga doko ni iru no ka, chizu de oshiete kudasai


This might seem like an odd question (and a bit of a mouthful), but it can be a lot more helpful than asking for directions from someone who doesn’t know English.

44. Is it near? — chikai desu ka?


45. Is it far? — tooi desu ka?


Receiving Directions


46. Go straight ahead — massugu itte kudasai 


47. Turn left — hidari ni magatte kudasai


48. Turn right — migi ni magatte kudasai


Transportation Phrases


In Japan, public transportation is how most people get around. If you’re not used to taking the bus, train or anything similar, better keep the following phrases handy!

49. Take me to this address, please — kono jyusho made tsureteitte kudasai


50. What is the fare? — ryoukin wa ikura desu ka?


51. Stop here, please — koko de tomatte kudasai


52. Does this bus go to (street name)? — kono basu wa … ni ikimasu ka?

このバスは … に行きますか?

53. Does that train stop at …? — sono denshya wa … de tomarimasu ka?


54. A map, please — chizu o onegai shimasu


55. This hotel — kono hoteru


56. The subway — chikatetsu 


57. The train station — denshya no eki


58. The bus stop  — basutei


59. The taxi stand — takushii noriba


60. The exit — deguchi


61. The entrance — iriguchi


62. The bathroom — toire


Hotel Phrases


Like other service-oriented businesses in the country, Japanese hotels subscribe to the concept of omotenashi, which roughly translates to pouring your whole heart into service. That means you can expect employees at Japanese hotels to go above and beyond when it comes to making you feel welcome.

63. I have a reservation under the name of … — … no yoyaku o shiteimasu


64. I would like to check-in — chekkuin shitai desu


65. What time is check-in? — chekkuin wa nanji desu ka?


66. Is breakfast included? — choshoku wa fukumareteimasu ka?


67. Where is my room? — watashi no heya wa doko desu ka?


68. Please give me a wake-up call at …  — … ni weikuappu kooru onegaishimasu.

… にウェイクアップコールお願いします

69. Where is the nearest convenience store? — ichiban chikai konbini wa doko desu ka?


70. Can you recommend a good restaurant nearby? — chikaku no oishii resutoran o shokaishite moraemasu ka?


71. What time is check-out? — chekkuauto no jikan wa nanji desu ka?


72. Where can I store my luggage? — nimotsu wa dokoni azukeraremasu ka?


73. Is there Wi-Fi in the hotel? — hoteru ni wa wai-fai ga arimasu ka?


74. Where is the nearest ATM? — ichi-ban chikai ATM wa doko desu ka?


75. I’d like to have some extra towels, please — yobun no taoru o kudasai.


76. What time is breakfast served? — choshoku wa nanji kara desu ka?


77. Excuse me, I need an iron and ironing board — sumimasen, airon to iron-dai ga hitsuyo desu.


Eating and Drinking in Japan: What You’ll Hear


Like Japanese hotels, Japanese restaurants also practice omotenashi. Here are some of the more common phrases you’ll hear from Japanese restaurant staff.

78. Welcome — Irasshaimase


79. How many people in your party? — Nan mei sama desu ka?


80. This way, please — Kochira e douzo


81. Certainly (in response to your order) — Kashikomarimashita


82. Thank you for waiting — Omatase itashimashita


Eating and Drinking in Japan: What You’ll Say


The best restaurants in Japan are the authentic ones that don’t cater to tourists. But these are also the places that have no English menus, and sometimes no English-speaking waitstaff.

Luckily, it’s very common for Japanese menus to feature photos of all the dishes. And many places have models of their dishes on display, so you likely won’t be going in completely blind.

Use these phrases, and you should be in and out of a restaurant without too many hiccups.

83. A table for two, please —  futari you no teeburu o onegai shimasu

二人 用のテーブルをお願いします

You can also replace futari with the number of people who you need to have seated:

If you’re confused about Japanese numbers and counters, don’t despair. You can just do as the locals do and indicate the number of diners by holding up your fingers.

84. The menu, please — menyu o onegai shimasu


85. What are today’s recommendations? — kyo no osusume wa?


If everything on the menu looks appetizing and you’re not quite sure what to order, use this phrase.

86. Water, please — mizu o onegai shimasu


87. Two beers, please — biiru o nihai onegai shimasu


88. Can I please have (one, two) of this? — kore o (hitotsu, futatsu) onegai でdekimasu?

これを (一つ、二つ) お願いできますか?

89. Do you have a vegetarian dish? — bejitarian youno ryouri ga arimasu ka?


I’ve traveled in Japan with vegetarians twice, and this question usually draws quite strange looks. Vegetarianism basically doesn’t exist in Japan, although Japanese cuisine is generally quite vegetarian-friendly.

It might work better to say これは肉ですか? kore wa niku desu ka?, to say “is this meat?” Follow up with 私は肉を食べません watashi wa niku o tabemasen, which means “I don’t eat meat,” if you want to make yourself understood.

90. Is … in it? — … wa haitte imasu ka?


Alternatively, you can also ask if specific ingredients are included in your food, so you’ll know whether you should order it or not.

91. That’s okay — daijyoubu desu


You can also use this expression to ask someone if they’re okay. Just add the question particle ka to the end: 大丈夫ですか ? daijyoubu desu ka? 

92. The check, please — okanjyou o onegai shimasu 


Say the above, or you can do as the locals do and catch the waiter’s eye (with a smile!) and draw a clockwise circle in the air with your index finger pointing towards the roof.

In some restaurants, you need to bring the check to the cash register which is usually located by the restaurant’s doorway.

93. Cheers! — kanpai!


94. It was delicious — oishikatta desu


95. Water — mizu

96. Wine — wain


97. Beer — biiru 


98. Tea — ochya


99. Coffee — coohii


100. Juice — juusu


101. Meat — niku

102. Chicken — toriniku 


103. Pork — butaniku


104. Beef  — gyuniku 


105. Fish — sakana 

106. Rice — gohan


107. Bread — pan 


108. Vegetables — yasai  


109. Fruit — kudamono


Shopping in Japan: Phrases You’ll Hear


When you’re met with cries of いらっしゃいませ!, you’re not really expected to respond to this greeting. As for me, I just smile and say こんにちは which means, of course, “hello.”

Walking into a department store is particularly surreal, with each assistant taking cues from the others, so that every time a customer walks in, いらっしゃいませ bounces around the entire floor.

110. Are you looking for something? — nani ka osagashi desu ka?


111. Is that all? — ijyou de yoroshii desu ka?


112. Here it is / Here you go — hai, douzo


Shopping Phrases You’ll Use


113. I would like this — kore o onegai shimasu


114. I would like one of those — sore o hitotsu onegai shimasu


115. I would like to pay in cash  — genkin de onegai shimasu


116. I would like to pay by credit card — kurejitto kaado de onegai shimasu


Number of Items in Japanese

The only real challenge with ordering meals in Japanese is the use of counters.

We have counters in English, too (for example “sheets” of paper, “glasses” of water, “blades” of grass), but not as many or as complicated as in Japanese.

Luckily Japanese has a “universal” counter, (tsu), which you can use for anything, including food.

The numbers one to four as つ counters are pronounced 一つ (hitotsu)、 二つ (futatsu)、 三つ (mittsu) and 四つ (yottsu). You can use this counter for drinks too, and the waiter will understand you.

However, if you want to be a little more impressive, you can use the drinks counter: (hai/bai/pai depending on the number used with it). The numbers one to four using this counter are 一杯 (ippai)、 二杯 (nihai) 三杯 (sanbai) and 四杯 (yonhai).

If you want to learn more about counters, this post explains them in more detail.

Tips to Use Your New Phrases: Politeness and Pronunciation

All the examples I’ve given are in the polite, neutral form of speech. You basically can’t go wrong speaking this way in Japan, so you don’t need to worry about making any social faux pas!

Some notes on pronunciation:

  • Avoid turning vowels into dipthongs (vowel sounds that run into each other, like the oi in “coin”). Pronounce each vowel on its own even when there are two vowels next to each other. Onegai is read as “o-ne-ga-i,” not “o-ne-gai”
  • The sound ou and repeated vowels like ii and ee are exceptions: they show an elongation of the sound. Ohayou is read as “o-ha-yoh,” not “o-ha-yo-u.”
  • Treat (n) as its own syllable. Konnichiwa is read “ko-n-ni-chi-wa,” not “ko-ni-chi-wa.” It’s subtle, but it makes a difference!
  • Repeated consonants are pronounced. For an example of how to do this, just read the word “bookkeeper” out loud.
  • The small kana っ like in いって signify a break between the sounds—”it-te,” not “i-te.”
  • Small y- kana like in おちゃ add the y sound to the preceding syllable—”o-chya,” not “o-chi-a.”
  • (ha) as a particle is pronounced wa, and (wo) as a particle is pronounced o.

How to Study These Japanese Travel Phrases

The beauty of Japanese is that it’s an extremely phonetic language, so if you say the words exactly as you read them, you can’t really get them wrong.

Having said that, people will probably struggle to understand you if you speak in a strong non-Japanese accent, so it might pay to listen to some spoken Japanese before you start practicing pronunciation.

The most important thing to remember is that, unlike English speakers, Japanese speakers don’t put emphasis on the second or third syllable of a word—there’s some emphasis on the first syllable, but it’s subtle.

Some ways that you can listen to Japanese being spoken is by watching Japanese films, television programs, anime or YouTube clips.

The Japanese language program FluentU has a little bit of everything in the media, with interactive subtitles and customizable flashcards for a well-rounded learning experience.


Maybe this seems like a lot, but learning Japanese travel phrases for tourists will make your trip run more smoothly, and the people you meet will appreciate your effort.

Speaking the local language tends to get people on your side. They’re less likely to try to rip you off, and often will want to become your best friend.

I like to make little phrasebooks for myself when I travel, so I can have these Japanese travel phrases and vocabulary always on hand.

I’ve been treated to tea and dinner in people’s homes, and once was driven around a city with a personal guide/impromptu friend all day, just because I struck up conversations in the local language.

Don’t be scared! Give it a try!

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