Smart & Cheap Japan Travel

Japanese Phrases for Travelers

August 3, 2010

I’m going to try to put together a comprehensive list of useful words and phrases for when you will be traveling in Japan. I will be updating the list as I think of more phrases. Feel free to send in requests.

1. Excuse me: Sumimasen(済みません/すみません)
2. Where is: Doko Desuka?(どこですか)
3. Thank you: Arigatou-gozaimasu(有り難うございます/ありがとうございます)
4. Hello: Konnichiwa(今日は/こんにちは)
5. Goodbye: Sayounara(左様なら/さようなら)
6. When: Itsu(何時/いつ)
7. What time is it? Ima Nanji Desuka?(今何時ですか/いまなんじですか)
8. Yes: Hai(はい)
9. No: Iie(いいえ)
10. Do you understand English?: Eigo wakarimasuka?(英語分かりますか/えいごわかりますか)
11. Me: Watashi(私/わたし)
12. You: Anata(貴方/あなた)
13. I don’t understand: Wakarimasen(分かりません/わかりません)
14. Could you help me?: Chotto Tetsudatte Moraemasuka?(ちょっと手伝って貰えますか/ちょっとでつだってもらえますか)

1. Could you exchange money? (Can be used to exchange foreign currency or to exchange bills for smaller change) : Ryougae Dekimasuka(両替できますか/りょうがえできますか)
2. Change: Otsuri(お釣り/おつり)
3. One Yen: Ichi-en(一円/いちえん)
4. Five Yen: Go-en(五円/ごえん)
5. Ten Yen: Juu-en(十円/じゅうえん)
6. Fifty Yen: Gojuu-en(五十円/ごじゅうえん)
7. Hundred Yen: Hyaku-en(百円/ひゃくえん)
8. Five Hundred Yen: Gohyaku-en(五百円/ごひゃくえん)
9. Thousand Yen: Sen-en(千円/せんえん)
10. Five Thousand Yen: Gosen-en(五千円/ごせんえん)
11. Ten Thousand Yen: Ichiman-en(一万円/いちまんえん)
12. Bank: Ginkou(銀行/ぎんこう)
13. How much does this cost?: Kore wa Ikura Desuka?(これは幾らですか/これはいくらですか)

1. Order: Chuumon(注文/ちゅうもん)
2. Check please (note that the bill is often settled at the cashier and not at the table): Kaikei Onegaishimasu(会計御願いします/かいけいおねがいします)
3. Could I super-size? (usually for rice but also for dishes in general): O-mori dekimasuka(大盛りできますか/おおもりできますか)
4. Tasty: Oishii(美味しい/おいしい)
5. Seconds: Okawari(お代わり/おかわり)
6. Convenience store: Konbini(コンビニ)
7. Chopsticks: Hashi(箸/はし)
8. Set-meal: Teishoku(定食/ていしょく)
9. Glass of water (when in restaurant): Ohiya(お冷や/おひや)
10. Tea: Ocha(お茶/おちゃ)
11. No fish please: Sakana Nashi de Onegaidekimasuka?(魚無しで御願いできますか/さかななしでおねがいできますか)
12. Is this raw fish?: Kore wa Nama-zakana Desuka?(これは生魚ですか/これはなまざかなですか)
13. What meat is this?: Kore wa Nani-niku Desuka?(これは何肉ですか/これはなににくですか)
14. No meat please: Niku Nashi de Onegaidekimasuka?(肉無しで御願いできますか/にくなしでおねがいできますか)
15. Only tuna / salmon / vegetables is ok: Tsuna, Saamon, Yasai Dakenara Daijoubu Desu(ツナ、サーモン、野菜だけなら大丈夫です/つな、さーもん、やさいだけならだいじょうぶです)

In general, just add “Onegaishimasu” when asking for or ordering something. For example: “Ocha onegaishimasu” would be asking to get some tea. Technically it’s “o Onegaishimasu” but that “o” part is often omitted.

1. Train / Subway: Densha(電車/でんしゃ)/ Chikatestu(地下鉄/ちかてつ)
2. Taxi: Takushii(タクシー)
3. Bus: Basu(バス)
4. Transfer: Norikae(乗り換え/のりかえ)
5. Express: Kyuukou(急行/きゅうこう)
6. Special Express: Tok’kyu(特急/とっきゅう)
7. Local train: Kaku-eki Teisha(各駅停車/かくえきていしゃ)
8. Last stop: Shuuten(終点/しゅうてん)
9. Departure: Shup’patsu (出発/しゅっぱつ)
10. Arrival: Touchaku (到着/とうちゃく)
11. Station: Eki (駅/えき)- For a bus stop it would be “Tei” as in “Basu-tei”(バス停/ばすてい)
12. Left: Hidari (左/ひだり)
13. Right: Migi (右/みぎ)
14. Straight ahead: Mas’sugu (真っ直ぐ/まっすぐ)
15. Back/Behind: Ushiro (後ろ/うしろ)
16. From__To__: __kara__made (__から__まで)
17. Airport: Kuukou(空港/くうこう)
18. Ticket: Kip’pu(切符/きっぷ)
19. When is the next train/bus?: Tsugi no Densha/Basu wa Itsu Desuka?(次の電車|バスは何時ですか/つぎのでんしゃ|ばすはいつですか)
20. When is the last train/bus?: Saishuu-densha/basu wa Itsu Desuka?(最終電車|バスは何時ですか/さいしゅうでんしゃ|ばすはいつですか)
21. Is it too far to walk?: Aruki Dato To’osugimasuka?(歩きだと遠すぎますか/あるきだととおすぎますか)

Accommodation & Hospitality
1. Thank you [very much] for the hospitality: [Taihen] Osewa ni Narimashita([大変]お世話になりました/[たいへん]おせわになりました)
2. Lodging: Shukuhaku(宿泊/しゅくはく)
3. How much is the rate?: Ryoukin wa Ikura Desuka?(料金はいくらですか/りょうきんはいくらですか)
4. Are there rooms available?: Heya Aitemasuka?(部屋空いてますか/へやあいてますか)
5. Key: Kagi(鍵/かぎ)
6. Could I store my luggage?: Nimotsu o Azukete Moraemasuka?(荷物を預けてもらえますか/にもつをあずけてもらえますか)
7. Reservation: Yoyaku(予約/よやく)
8. Does this room include breakfast?: Kono Shukuhaku Puran wa Choushoku-tsuki Desuka?(この宿泊プランは朝食付きですか/このしゅくはくぷらんはちょうしょくつきですか)


If It’s Not Kawaii, It’s Not Japanese

May 11, 2010

The Japanese are, to put it mildly, madly obsessed with aesthetics. Personally, I love it. They have an exquisite sense of fashion that I have been trying to imitate for years, their streets are spotlessly clean, their gardens are world-class, and every piece of their food is a work of art in appearance and in taste. It is this compulsion that has helped fuel the infamous “Kawaii” culture.

Kawaii nowadays is a word used to describe anything cute or adorable. Walking down the crowded streets of Japan, you would probably hear the phrase 4-5 times in any given minute. However, the word and concept is entirely different from the Western sense of cuteness. Kawaii is actually rooted in the Japanese values of humility and innocence. It is the humbleness and helplessness of things or persons that the Japanese are intrinsically attracted too. The Japanese word for pitiful, for example, is “kawai-so.” If you take a hard look at Japanese animated characters that are considered adorable, or at the way young Japanese ladies dress, you will see those elements of vulnerability, submissiveness, and meekness.

Let’s play a little game of: Kawaii or Not. I show you pictures and you decide if they are Kawaii:

Japanese Phrase Kawaii Cute 1

Kawaii or not?

Japanese Phrase Kawaii Cute 2

Kawaii or not? Tough one, this rabbit is a bit creepy.

Japanese Phrase Kawaii Cute 3

Kawaii or not?

Japanese Phrase Kawaii Cute 5

Kawaii or not?

Japanese Phrase Kawaii Cute 7

Kawaii or not?

Japanese Phrase Kawaii Cute 8

Kawaii or not?

Japanese Phrase Kawaii Cute 6

Kawaii or not?

Japanese to English – Lost in Translation

April 2, 2010
Leave a Comment

I thought about what would be the best topic to kick off the blog with, and I decided that I would start with the first barrier that stands in the way of tourists during their Japan travel:

The Japanese language.

Despite numerous accusations regarding unfriendly locals, the Japanese are eager to welcome tourists and foreigners who are willing to learn and get involved in the Japanese culture and way of life. One of the steps taken by the Japanese federal/local governments and businesses is translating many of the signs to English. These include signs at train stations, parks, street signs, restaurants, various tourist attractions, and more.

Albeit their sincere efforts, important messages (everything is important; the Japanese take pride in creating a harmonious living environment through etiquette laws) get lost in translation, or at least end up being hysterically funny. Sometimes it seems (unjustifiably) they are too cheap to invest in someone who does it right, though in most cases even Google Translate would do a better job. Although this doesn’t have to do much with smart or budget travel, it’s certainly amusing. I think I will let the photos do the talking:

The first one is self-explanatory:

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation 1

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation #1

This one is at the exit of the Imperial Palace in Tokyo. It’s simply to make sure the lines don’t get overcrowded by people who forget to move along, but in English it comes across somewhat rude:

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation 2

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation #2

You will probably come across numerous nature paths and rope-ways during your travels in Japan, unless you’re sticking to the karaoke parlors in Tokyo. This following sign is to encourage exhausted hikers by stating that they have very little walking left (“one last breath”) until they reach the rope-way and see beautiful scenery:

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation 3

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation #3

Last but not least, a Japanese restaurant trying to be hip…in vain:

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation 4

Japanese to English - Lost in Translation #4


    Blog Moved!

    With the launch of the book, "All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang for Your Yen," the blog has moved to the book website: Make sure you resubscribe to the feed there!

    About the Author

    Born in Tokyo. Lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for over a decade combined. Author of the book, "All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang for Your Yen" -

    Click to subscribe to Smart & Cheap Japan Travel and receive notifications of new blog posts by email.

    Join 26 other followers