KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
KidTripster Teeen: Top 5 most useful phrases to know in Japanese
1/Thank you very much
Arigatou gozaimasu, pronounced “ah-ree-gah-toe go-za-ee-mas”
In my opinion, this phrase is the most useful to know how to say in Japanese. Especially when you’re traveling, you end up needing to ask people for help or directions pretty frequently, and knowing how to thank them politely in their own language is always well-received. All of the people that I’ve met in Japan have been incredibly kind and helpful, and I was always thankful to know how to express my gratitude in Japanese.
2/Excuse me/I’m sorry
Sumimasen, pronounced “sue-mee-mah-sen”
This word is a good one to know before asking for help - something that people do a lot while traveling in a foreign country. Getting someone’s attention politely is a good opener.
3/Where is the bathroom?
Otearai wa doko desu ka, pronounced “oh-teh-ah-ra-ee wah doe-ko des kah”
This question, and the next one, are great phrases to have ready while traveling in Japan. A nice thing about memorizing these questions is that you can usually glean what the person’s answer is by her gestures alone.
4/Where is the train station?
Eki wa doko desu ka, pronounced “eh-kee wah doe-ko des kah”
This phrase has the same idea as the last one, only asking about the train station instead of the bathroom. To be extra fancy, you can set up these phrases with “sumimasen” (see #2), ask your question, and follow up with “arigatou gozaimasu” (see #1). Nice!
5/How much does this cost?
Ikura desu ka, pronounced “ee-koo-rah des kah”
This phrase comes in handy but can be a little difficult to use, if you can’t translate the Japanese words for different numbers. That’s a problem that can be bypassed, though; if you can get the person whom you’re asking to show by pointing out a sign that you missed or writing the price down on a piece of paper, then you’ll be able to get the answer, regardless of how much Japanese you know!
Tessa Plumb is a high school senior in Portland, Oregon, studying Japanese. She’s visited Japan twice - once with her family and once as an exchange student. Her other interests include writing, video editing, and graphic design.