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)


For Those Cold Winter Nights – Oden

May 28, 2010
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In today’s world of dreary sandwiches, and canned and frozen food, conventional Japanese cuisine has come up as a blessing to people. Refined and elegant, the Japanese gastronomy is considered as one of the best all over the world. Japanese food items have evolved greatly over the past centuries owing to several political as well as social changes. Whereas much of conventional Japanese cuisine was influenced  by the Chinese and Korean cultures in ancient times, Japanese cookery transformed with time, bringing in new flavors and tastes. One of the more traditional foods, “Oden” is a perfect, healthy fusion of the simplicity and distinct tastes of Japanese cooking.

Oden is eaten mostly during winter season in Japan. It is a special type of Japanese stew which incorporates boiled eggs, yam cake, daikon radish, fish cakes, and more. The ingredients are cooked in a kelp-based stock for many hours. Oden is all about the various ingredients soaking for long hours in the soup, making each and every one of them juicer than the next, extracting hot soup that gradually warms your body with every bite you take on those cold nights.

At home, Oden is often prepared in a central big pan on a table, making it yet another ideal dish to merrily eat around the table with friends or family. Once prepared, Oden is usually served with “Karashi,” essentially Japanese hot mustard. Some even include a bit of Karashi on every bite. There are other Oden-specific sauces that the Japanese use as well.

Though it is quite easy to prepare Oden, the soup base and boiling time can make a significant impact on the outcome. There are many specialty Oden vendor shops and Oden restaurants in Japan where you can enjoy this traditional dish during your Japan travel, including 24-7 convenient stores like Family Mart. Because of different habits, various parts of Japan may have their unique styles of preparing Oden, so go ahead and experiment with different soup elements.

The Eternal Battle: Shabu-Shabu vs. Yakiniku

May 24, 2010

Popularly known as the ‘Land of Rising Sun’, Japan is a vibrant country that offers infinite options for eager holidaymakers and adventurous travelers. As I have always claimed, the most important aspect of Japanese travel is its huge culinary variety. Many scrumptious dishes of this country are popular across the world for their amazing flavor and serving style, but since most people are familiar with and/or have tried only sushi (and perhaps the dishes I’ve described in earlier posts), I would like to announce a fresh culinary battle: Shabu-Shabu vs. Yakiniku. These two Japanese food items are guaranteed to leave you mesmerized till the next time you travel in Japan (yes, there will most definitely be a next time).

Shabu-Shabu, literally translating to “swish-swish,” is an item where thinner, usually higher quality slices of meat are “swished” momentarily inside large pots containing steaming water, or seaweed (“combu”), or salt based soup. They are instantly cooked, after which they are dipped into one of many sauces, “tare,” to choose from – vinegar, sesame, salt, and more. As usual, a bowl of hot white rice cooked to perfection is always there, held in the palm of your free hand – or in my case gulped down immediately and waiting for seconds. Besides the meat, Shabu-Shabu restaurants offer seafood and vegetables as well to cook inside the pots. When done eating, if still hungry and/or drunk, it is a Japanese custom to add rice or noodles to the now rich tasting soup to finish off the meal – and fight off the following day’s hangover.

Japanese Shabu-Shabu Shabushabu 3

Japanese Shabu-Shabu

Japanese Shabu-Shabu Shabushabu 2

Japanese Shabu-Shabu

Japanese Shabu-Shabu Shabushabu Sauces Tare

Japanese Shabu-Shabu: The Sauces (Tare)

Yakiniku is another popular Japanese way of preparing bite sized meat and veggies on griddles. It is actually a Korean-style barbecue, thus more widely known. With Yakiniku, translating to “fried meat,” small pieces of meat (not as thin as Shabu-Shabu), mainly beef and pork, together with raw vegetables are cooked on a grill platter throughout the period of meal, few pieces at a time. Then, these mouth-watering chunks of meat are plunged in the sauce/tare, which is made of soy sauce mixed with fruit juice, garlic, sugar and sake. Once prepared, Yakiniku is served with….yep, rice, as well as with Korean side dishes like Yukhoe and Kimchi. This luscious Japanese dish goes oh too well with beer – be careful.

Japanese Yakiniku BBQ Barbeque 1

Japanese Yakiniku

Japanese Yakiniku BBQ Barbeque 2

Japanese Yakiniku

Japanese Yakiniku BBQ Barbeque 3

Japanese Yakiniku

Due to the increasing popularity of these two culinary items of Japan, sometimes it seems like there is a sort of competition going on between the two, but perhaps I could be making that up to dramatize things. That being said, they do compete for the same niche of party or celebration meals, as both are relatively expensive (Shabu-Shabu more than Yakiniku). Interestingly, some people prefer Shabu-Shabu for lunch, while leaving Yakiniku for dinner. I would say that Yakiniku and Japanese restaurants serving it are more tourist-friendly, and many relate more to the stronger taste of fried BBQ meat. On the other hand, you would have to look much harder than your local Korea-town for an authentic Shabu-Shabu experience.

So, what will it be?

Japan Travel Destination: Sapporo

May 9, 2010

Most of you who want to visit Japan must find it difficult choosing between all the cities, sites and tourist destinations that need to be toured. The capital city of Hokkaido known as Sapporo is one place worth visiting.

Since Hokkaido is Japan’s northern island, the best time to make a visit to this place would be during the summer season, unless you are from Canada and you don’t mind the frost. Summer is the peak touring season and you would find many fellow travelers arond you, including Japanese.

Sapporo’s city museums are a great place to visit. Ainu Museum and the Hokkaido Museum of Modern Art are worth a peek, and getting to these places is not a hassle as you can travel by train or even hire a taxi, which are much more affordable than in Tokyo. Some other important sightseeing spots that you must visit are the botanical gardens, clock tower, Ishiya chocolate factory and the entertainment district. For all you sport fans, the local baseball team that only recently relocated to Sapporo is a powerhouse worth watching at the Sappporo Dome – try to catch Yu Darvish pitching.

When it comes to Sapporo, however, there is nothing like the beer. The summer festival at Odori Park is your red carpet to world-class beer gardens and probably the best beer in the world – yes, of course better than Carlsberg! As for the food, this part of the country is known for the most relished cuisines of barbecued mutton, noodles and many more mouthwatering speciality dishes that complement Sapporo Beer so seamlessly that it makes you want to cry.

If your Japanese vacation is in the winter, worry not because Sapporo during the cold(er) seasons is just as spectacular. You could visit the same Odori Park that is then transformed to a big snow sculpture gallery. This snow festival is famous all over by the name of “Sapporo Snow Festival” and showcases excellent, professional work.

In case you are planning to travel to Japan and to Sapporo in the summer, make sure you book your accommodation in advance, because otherwise it may turn out to be an extremely expensive expedition. Getting to the northern island is quite convenient as it is connected to Honshu by rail, air, ferry, and even road. Your trip to Sapporo could be a very memorable one as long as the travel, accommodation, and other basics are preplanned.

By the way, as long as you’ve made it all the way up there, don’t shy away from venturing outside the capital city to take in some of the island’s stunning natural beauty and to soak in the country’s best natural hot springs.

All You Can Eat Japanese Food!

April 29, 2010

The moment you (well, I) have all been waiting for is here! I present to you: All You Can Eat Sushi & Japanese Food! Actually, all I am presenting are the photographs and some commentary. But, if this post doesn’t spike your interest in going to Japan, I don’t know what will.

The Japanese were once very small and fragile yet healthy people. Their meals were eaten at home, and consisted mostly of some fish, vegetables, a little rice, and soup (though this varied according to where in Japan they came from).

Today, the bustling economy and hectic business culture forces most city dwellers to eat out. In other words, Japanese businessmen have now more freedom from their wives (who often work as well these days) to eat tastier food and more of it. Sorry if this sounds sexist, but that’s the way it pretty much is. This is one of the several reasons for the rapid development of the all you can eat scene in Japan. As a tourist on your Japan travel, you get to reap the harvest.

If you were to look hard enough (though usually it’s not difficult at all) during your Japanese vacation, you would be able find an all you can eat deal on almost any type of Japanese food. Many times these are extremely good deals, as they could be very cheap. It would be safe to say that your budget, whatever it is, could accommodate going out for all you can eat sushi even. The most popular types of all you can eat restaurants are:

1. Sushi

All You Can Eat Japanese Sushi 1

All You Can Eat Japanese Sushi #1

All You Can Eat Japanese Sushi 2

All You Can Eat Japanese Sushi #2

All You Can Eat Japanese Sushi 3

All You Can Eat Japanese Sushi #3

The following photographs are actually from a running sushi restaurant, but at the price of ¥100 per plate (2 pieces), it’s eat till you pop:

All You Can Eat Japanese Running Sushi 1

All You Can Eat Japanese Running Sushi #1

All You Can Eat Japanese Running Sushi 2

All You Can Eat Japanese Running Sushi #2

2. Pizza/Pasta

All You Can Eat Japanese Pizza Pasta

All You Can Eat Japanese Pizza Pasta

3. Japanese (Korean) BBQ

All You Can Eat Japanese BBQ

All You Can Eat Japanese BBQ

4. Chinese. Yes, Chinese – how surprising, right? Unfortunately, no pictures for this one.

There are many more types of Japanese food that you can pig out on at all you can eat restaurants. Even if not, there is always a way to find cheap deals on even the most expensive of dishes from the Japanese cuisine.

Hungry yet?

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    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" -

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