As much as traveling around a new country is exciting, it can also be daunting – especially if you are unfamiliar with the language. Although many people in Tokyo speak English, in other more rural parts of Japan, which should be added onto your bucket list, this is not the case.
Apps like Google translate are a great tool to use and nowadays travellers often solely rely on them. However, it is just as useful to remember some key short phrases which you can instantly use in a variety of situations.
In this article, we will be going through 10 must-know short phrases which will be helpful for those traveling in Japan for the first time!
① Where is... / Can I have Some Directions?
When travelling, it is essential that you know the word for ‘where’ and how to ask for directions as it is easy to get lost, especially in the city. To first ask where something is, you will need to repeat this phrase:
…はどこですか。( Where is …?)
Example: 新宿駅はどこですか。(Where is Shinjuku Station?）
To ask more specifically for directions, you can use the phrase below:
にはどうやっていきますか。 (How do I get there?)
Example: 東京タワーにはどうやっていきますか。(Tōkyō tawā ni wa dō yatte
How do I get to Tokyo Tower?
You will also need to understand the following words which are used to describe directions:
- ひだり – Left
- みぎ – Right
- ますぐ – Straight
- もどります – Go back
- かど – Corner
- こうさてん –Intersection
② Can I have a ticket to…?
Although many transport stations and tourist attractions now have machines where you can select and purchase tickets by yourself, in some situations you may need to directly ask someone. To do this, you will want to use the phrase:
。。。のチケットをください。 (No chiketto o kudasai)
Could I have a ticket please?
Example: ディズニーランドのチケットをください。 (Dizunīrando no
chiketto o kudasai)
Could I have a ticket to Disneyland Please?
If you want to specifically ask for a ticket from one destination to another you need to add ‘まで’ meaning ‘to’ .
。。。までのチケットをください。 (Made no chiketto o kudasai)
Could I have a ticket to…
Example: しんじゅくえきまでのきっぷをください。 (Shinjuku-eki made no
kippu o kudasai)
Could I have a ticket to Shinjuku Station please?
It is worth noting that often the word チケット (chiketto) is used for more general things such as tourist attractions and movie theatre. Whereas the きっぷ (kippu), which also means ticket, is more traditionally used when purchasing a train or shinkansen ticket.
③ I’d like to make a reservation
Knowing how to make a reservation is also very useful. For example, usually if you want to visit a more popular and exclusive restaurant or book a big table, you will likely need to make a reservation in advance. The key phrase that you will need here is:
よやくをしたいんです。 (Yoyaku o shitai ndesu)
I would like to make a reservation)
(hachigatsu futsuka no 6-ji kara 4-nin de yoyaku o shitai ndesu)
I would like to make a reservation for 4 people
at six o’clock on August 2nd
④ Can I please pay by card?
Japan is still mostly a cash-based society but since COVID-19, paying by card has become more common. To ask if you can pay by card, you will need to say:
カードはつかえますか。 (Kādo wa tsukaemasu ka?)
Can I please pay by card?
However, we would still recommend bringing a good amount of cash with you wherever you go since many local places still don’t accept credit or debit cards. If a shop or restaurant does not accept card, you will most likely hear the phrase:
すいません、げんきんのみなんです。 (Suimasen, gen kin nomina ndesu)
Sorry, we only accept cash
⑤ Could I have the bill please?
After finishing a delicious meal or some nice drinks, you will need to ask for the check. The best way to do this is to raise your hand to the waiting staff and say:
すみません。おかいけいをお願いします 。(Sumimasen. O kaikei o onegaishimasu)
Excuse me, could I have the bill please?
In the case that you are leaving a restaurant, it is polite to also say ごちそうさま でした (Gochisōsamadeshita) as a way of showing your appreciation for the meal and service.
⑥ Can we store the luggage here?
Despite Tokyo having an abundance of lockers where you can store your luggage, in other places across Japan there may not be as many so you may want to leave your luggage at your hotel or drop it off at a luggage storage place. In this instance, you will need to use the phrase:
にもつをあずかってもらえますか。(Nimotsu o azukatte moraemasu ka)
Can I store my luggage here?
⑦ Where can I get a taxi?
Everyone knows that Tokyo has some of the best public transportation in the world. Yet, in Japan’s smaller towns and cities, the train and bus services can be run at slightly more irregular times. That’s why it’s sometimes more convenient to hop into a taxi in order to get to your destination.
Most train stations will have a taxi stand (タクシー乗り場) where you can wait in a line for one. However, in the case that you can’t find one and need to ask someone where to get a taxi, you just need to say:
タクシーはどこでのるれますか。(Takushī wa doko de noru remasu ka)
Where can I get a taxi?
You may want to also use the phrase we learnt earlier カードはつかえますか (Kādo wa tsukaemasu ka) in this scenario too. Although now most taxi companies accept card payments so still request cash so it is good to ask and check before jumping in.
⑧ I'm Looking For...
This is a good phrase to know since it can be used in a few different situations. For example, if you are out shopping and looking for a certain item or if you are lost and wanting to find a certain place. You just need to state the thing you are looking for and then use these words:
。。。をさがしています。 (O sagashite imasu)
I’m looking for…
Example: おみやげをさがしています。 (Omiyage o sagashiteimasu)
I’m looking for a souvenir.
⑨ Will you help me?
Sometimes, you will just want to simply ask for some help, whether this is help with translating something or asking for a favour. For this, you should use the phrase:
てつだってもらえますか。(Tetsudatte moraemasu ka)
Will you help me?
Note that てつだう (tetsudau) means ‘to be of assistance’ If you or someone else is in immediate danger use the word たすけて (tasukete) instead as this version of the word ‘help’ is used to signal emergencies.
⑩ Do you speak english?
In some more important and urgent situations, you will need someone who you can easily communicate with. To ask if someone can speak English, you will need to say:
英語を話しますか？ (Eigo o hanashimasu ka)
Can you speak English?
As previously mentioned, most people living in Tokyo speak a good amount of English so in most scenarios you should be able to speak to someone. If the person you have asked replies that they don’t, you could always ask:
英語がはなせるひとをおねがいします。(Eigo ga hanaseru hito o onegaishimasu)
Please, can I speak to someone who speaks English?
We hope that these 10 short phrases prove useful in your travels across Tokyo and Japan!
Stay tuned for more content like this coming soon.
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- Japan Bus Procedure and Etiquette Guideline: Four Must-Know Before Taking a Bus in Tokyo/Japan
- On a Budget? Here are Five Affordable Things to do this Summer Around Tokyo!