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)


“Mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice. And she said..”

July 19, 2010

When traveling in Japan you will naturally need accommodation, and therefore seek out some form of hotel. There are, however, hotels that serve a different purpose all together: Love hotels.

Love hotels, though sometimes named differently, are short stay hotels found in many parts of the world, and especially popular in Japan. The primary purpose is to provide couples some privacy for a short period of time to…satisfy their biological urges. It’s not necessarily sleazy, however. These places are just like regular hotels and are priced similarly, easily passing the 100$ mark per overnight stay. The idea with love hotels is privacy. They have discrete entrances to conceal the identity of the people who use them. The selection of rooms, settlement of bills is all done by selection from a panel and automatic cash machines – vacant rooms are lit, occupied rooms dimmed. At times clerks from behind a frosted glass attend to the needs of a customer.

Although the cheaper hotels are purely utilitarian, there are higher end types too with rooms decorated in various themes, rotating beds, ceiling mirrors, jacuzzis, and bizarre lighting. They are at times very garish, with the building in the shape of a castle or UFO. The more contemporary love hotels look like ordinary buildings. Besides the neon signs and usage of heart symbols, you can recognize love hotels from their small covered windows, or at times from having no windows at all.

Mostly love hotels are found in areas nearer to railway stations, industrial areas or on highways outside the city. The rest time may vary from one hour to an entire overnight stay that starts after ten at night. There are also rooms offered at a cheaper day time rate. No advance reservation is possible. Note that as soon you leave the room the hotel does not allow you to get back into it. Although these places are sometimes used for prostitution, it’s a legitimate accommodation choice for those of you traveling as a couple and are looking for an experience that is, well, unique.

Japan Travel Destination: Yokohama

July 11, 2010
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Yokohama, a city that sits in Tokyo Bay, is often overlooked when traveling in Japan. I admit, it is not that exciting and culturally rich as other travel destinations, but it still has unique attractions to offer. If you are in the Tokyo area looking for a day-trip and are sick of shrines and temples, Yokohama is for you.

Yokohama is the capital city of Kanagawa prefecture. It is slightly to the south of Tokyo and on the mainland of Honshu Island. It is a major commercial hub of the Greater Tokyo area. Initially starting out as a fishing village that opened Japan’s doors to foreign trade through its port, it developed into a prominent port city very rapidly, and also holds a large population of foreign nationals. Yokohoma’s climate is a humid subtropical climate with hot and humid summers and not too cold winters.

There are many places of interest in Yokohama that fascinates travelers. At 106 meters, Yokohama Marine Tower, is the tallest inland light house in the whole world. It is located in the Yamashita Park next to the water front in the celebrated port area of Kannai. Japan’s largest Chinatown is situated in this city as well, and is worth a visit. You will find the food tasting very different from the Chinatown in New York or any other place. If you liked the ramen noodles there, be sure to stop by the Shin Yokohama Ramen Museum to learn how this mouth-watering dish spread from Yokohama to the rest of Japan. Very near to Chinatown is the famous Yokohama Doll Museum and the Silk Center. The Kanagawa Museum of Modern Literature with its lovely rose garden is also within reach.

Yokohama’s harbor area houses the Cosmo Clock 21, which is not only a giant ferry wheel but the worlds biggest clock too. It also provides amazing photographs at night. If you’re awed by vast arenas or stadiums, the Yokohama Arena built for 17,000 people is in the vicinity, next to the Shikansen station. The International Stadium Yokohama and Nissan Stadium are some more. Finally, in the Naka Ward, there is a famous Japanese garden called “Sankeien” that was designed by a silk trader, Tomitaro Hara.

Japan Travel Destination: Kamakura

July 6, 2010

Located to the southeast of Tokyo, Kamakura is on the itinerary of almost all tourists. Once upon a time it was the political capital of the country. Later its glory as a capital was lost to another city, but it remains a favorite tourist destination.

Kamakura has numerous attractions which bring tourists to this small city in great numbers, usually as a day-trip from Tokyo. Located in an open, picturesque location, is the second tallest bronze Buddha statue in Japan. It is 13.35 meters high and is second to the one in Nara’s Todaiji temple. The temple for the goddess of mercy, Kannon, sits in Hasendera. The 9.18 meters tall goddess has eleven heads representing its various characteristics. Adjacent to the temple is the Amida-do Hall, which houses a three-meter tall golden Buddha. From there you can visit the observation deck that offers a splendid view of the city, and back at the base of the slope lies a lovely garden with a temple – Benten-do – dedicated to the goddess of feminine beauty and wealth.

Kamkura’s most prized shrine is the Tsurugaoka. It is dedicated to Hachiman, the Samurai god. The main hall has a museum which displays swords, masks and documents – true treasures of the shrine. Out of the five Zen temples of Kamakura, Engakuji temple is most famous. The temple grounds include Shariden, a well designed hall where rests a tooth of Buddha. Engakunji lights up colorfully during autumn.

The beaches of Kamakura come alive with people in the summer months, while millions of people gather in the historic city to witness the New Year celebrations. In the spring, it is a custom for the Japanese to visit the Zeniarai Benten shrine to wash money. It is believed that by doing so the money doubles – worth a shot.

Shopping for a Creative Life

June 25, 2010
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Shopping is an integral part of your travels in Japan. If it isn’t in your itinerary, it should be. You do not, however, need to mindlessly follow the horde of Japanese consumers just for the sake of it. Shopping in Japan can also be as cultural of an experience as is ringing the bell in a Shinto shrine.

Calling itself the “Creative Life Store,” Tokyu Hands is a department store chain that houses multiple floors of stationery, gifts, cooking utilities, home decorations, furniture, gadgets, and super kawaii toys. Wandering around the huge complex, you will quickly realize that apart from providing hours of pleasure and making you miss the last train back to the hotel, Tokyu Hands gives you an insightful glimpse into popular Japanese culture and Japanese ingenuity. Their biggest branch is in Ikebukuro and is well worth the visit. Many of the goods make great gifts to take home, and aren’t expensive. Take a look at their brochure too.

Thanks to the invention of the Internet, you can do some online browsing of the Tokyu Hands merchandise without traveling all the way to Japan. Find something unusual, extremely kawaii, or  bemusing? Send in your discoveries as comments for me and the other readers to see! The site is in Japanese, but that just makes it more amusing. Here’s some stuff I ran into when I was there:

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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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