10 Essential Japanese Phrases for Your Next Trip to Tokyo

Konnichiwa! Are you planning a trip to Tokyo? Learning a few Japanese phrases can greatly enhance your travel experience and make it more enjoyable. As a frequent traveler to Japan, I've learned that even knowing just a few basic phrases can make a huge difference in communicating with locals and navigating through the city. In this article, I'll cover the 10 essential Japanese phrases that every traveler to Tokyo should know.

Basic Japanese Greetings and Expressions

Here is the easiest way to learn Japanese with minimal effort!

Let's start with some basic Japanese greetings and expressions. One of the first phrases you'll need to know is "Hello" or "Konnichiwa" in Japanese. It's a polite way to greet someone and shows that you're making an effort to communicate in their language. When you're leaving, don't forget to say "Goodbye" or "Sayonara" to be polite.

When someone helps you or gives you something, it's important to show your appreciation. A simple "Thank you" or "Arigato" goes a long way in Japan, and it's one of the most commonly used phrases. Another phrase that's useful in crowded places like trains and buses is "Excuse me" or "Sumimasen." You can use it to get someone's attention or to apologize for bumping into them.

Ordering Food and Drink

Next up, let's talk about ordering food and drink in Japan. If you're a foodie like me, you'll love the variety of dishes and flavors that Tokyo has to offer. But sometimes, it can be a bit intimidating to order in a foreign language. Don't worry, it's not that hard!

When you're at a restaurant, you can use the phrase "Onegaishimasu" which means "I'll have" to order your food. If you're thirsty, you can say "Mizu kudasai" for water or "Biru kudasai" for beer. In Japan, politeness is highly valued, so remember to use "please" and "thank you" when ordering.

Personal anecdote: One time, I went to a small izakaya (Japanese pub) with some friends, and we wanted to order some drinks and food. We tried our best to communicate in Japanese, but the server didn't seem to understand us. It wasn't until we showed her pictures on our phones that we were finally able to order. So, it's always a good idea to have some visual aids or a translation app just in case!

Asking for Directions

Getting lost in Tokyo is a common occurrence, even for locals. That's why it's important to know how to ask for directions in Japanese. A useful phrase is "Sumimasen, ___ wa doko desu ka?" which means "Excuse me, where is ___?" You can fill in the blank with the name of the place you're trying to find.

To give directions, you can use the words "Hidari" for left, "Migi" for right, and "Massugu" for straight ahead. In addition to asking for directions, it's also helpful to know how to read Japanese maps and street signs.

Personal anecdote: Once, I was trying to find a specific restaurant in Shibuya, but I got lost in the maze of streets. I asked a local for directions, and even though they didn't speak much English, they were able to guide me to my destination using gestures and pointing. It just goes to show that even if you don't know all the words, a little effort can go a long way in communication.

Shopping and Bargaining

Shopping in Japan can be an exciting experience, but it's important to know some essential Japanese phrases before you start browsing. Japanese shopkeepers are usually very polite, and it's important to show them the same respect.

When shopping in Japan, it's common to ask "Kore wa ikura desu ka?" which means "How much is this?" If you find that the price is too high, you can say "Takai desu" which means "It's expensive." It's important to note that bargaining is not common in Japan, and it's only appropriate in certain situations like flea markets or street vendors. However, if you do decide to negotiate the price, you can say "Negotiate suru koto wa dekimasu ka?" which means "Can you lower the price?"

I remember the first time I went to a flea market in Tokyo, I saw a beautiful kimono that I wanted to buy as a souvenir. When I asked the seller how much it was, I was taken aback by the high price. However, I remembered the phrase "Takai desu" and was able to negotiate a lower price. The seller was happy to make a sale, and I was happy to have a beautiful souvenir from my trip.

Making Small Talk

Making small talk with locals is a great way to learn more about Japanese culture and practice your language skills. To start a conversation, you can say "Onamae wa nan desu ka?" which means "What's your name?" or "Doko kara kimashita ka?" which means "Where are you from?" If you want to know if someone speaks Japanese, you can say "Nihongo ga hanasemasu ka?" which means "Do you speak Japanese?"

To keep the conversation going, you can ask questions about their hobbies, interests, or favorite places in Tokyo. Showing interest in their culture and language is a great way to build connections and make new friends.

During my first trip to Tokyo, I met a group of young Japanese locals who were eager to practice their English with me. We started chatting about our favorite foods and restaurants in Tokyo, and they even taught me some useful Japanese phrases. By the end of the night, we exchanged contact information and made plans to hang out again later in the week.


Learning these essential Japanese phrases will not only help you navigate Tokyo with ease but also make your trip more enjoyable and culturally enriching. Remember to practice these phrases before your trip and don't be afraid to use them during your stay in Tokyo.

If you want to learn more about Japanese language and culture, there are many resources available online, including language apps, online courses, and language exchange programs. And remember, the more you practice, the more confident and proficient you'll become in speaking Japanese.


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