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23 Basic Japanese Phrases for Your Next Vacation to Japan

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23 Basic Japanese Phrases for Your Next Vacation to Japan

Lirene CilliersBy Lirene Cilliers   Posted 15th Aug 2023

Just as the Land of the Rising Sun beckons with mysteries waiting to be unraveled, diving into the Japanese language can feel like entering a maze blindfolded. However, amidst these linguistic twists and turns lies an opportunity to savor the magic that unfolds in every conversation, every shared smile, and every unforgettable encounter. 
In this article, we’ll share 23 common Japanese phrases that will help you navigate your journey with confidence, whether you're planning a vacation or going on a cycle tour in Japan

“But do I need to speak Japanese to visit Japan?” 

In short, no, you don't. However, learning a few common Japanese phrases is like adding that extra layer of flavor to your adventure sundae—not essential, but oh, what a delightful difference it makes! 

Rest assured, if you book one of our guided cycling tours, our friendly local guides have your back to bridge any language gap. 

Interacting with Japanese locals while on a bike tour in Japan.

Our guests on our Stunning Shikoku Bike Tour of Japan share smiles with welcoming locals.

The Basics: Common Japanese Words and Phrases 

1. Hello - Konnichiwa (こんにちは) 
Pronunciation: kohn-nee-chee-wah  
People in Japan greet one another with a bow. A bow can range from a modest nod of the head to a deep waist bend. A deeper, longer bow shows respect, while a short nod of the head is casual and informal. 
2. Thank you - Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) 
Pronunciation: ah-ree-gah-toh goh-zah-ee-mahs 
3. Please - kudasai (ください) 
Pronunciation: koo-dah-sigh 
4. Excuse me/ I'm sorry - Sumimasen (すみません) 
Pronunciation: soo-mee-mah-sen 
This versatile phrase can mean "Excuse me," "I'm sorry," or be used to express your gratitude or start a conversation. Whether you're catching someone's attention in a busy train station or apologizing for a minor inconvenience, "Sumimasen" is your go-to phrase for maintaining the harmony of your interactions.  
5. Yes - Hai (はい) 
Pronunciation: hi 
6. No - Īe (いいえ) 
Pronunciation: ee-eh 
7. Nice to meet you - Hajimemashite (はじめまして) 
Pronunciation: hah-jee-meh-mah-shee-teh 
8. Goodbye - Sayōnara (さようなら) 
Pronunciation: sah-yoh-nah-rah 
9. Beautiful - Utsukushii  (美しい ()  
Pronunciation: oo-tsoo-koo-shee 
This word carries some weight, is often reserved for describing nature, and is not tossed around lightly. So, save this word for those extra breathtaking moments! 

Embrace the 'utsukushii' on our Stunning Shikoku Bike Tour of Japan! An island of unimaginable natural beauty, epic coastal rides, verdant river valleys, and remote villages. 

Eating at a traditional Japanese restaurant on a cycling vacation with Grasshopper Adventures in Japan.

A quick pit stop to savor the flavors of Japan at a traditional Japanese restaurant on a cycling vacation in Japan.

Food and Drinks: How to order and appreciate food in Japanese 

10. An expression of gratitude spoken before the first bite - Itadakimasu (いただきます) 
Pronunciation: ee-tah-dah-kee-mahs 
Just as the dining experience in Japan extends beyond taste to encompass cultural rituals, "itadakimasu" is more than a mere phrase; it's a heartfelt expression of gratitude spoken before the first bite, symbolizing the humility of saying 'I humbly receive’. 
11. Delicious - Oishii (美味しい) 
Pronunciation: oh-ee-shee 
12. Wine - Wain (ワイン) 
Pronunciation: wah-een 
13. Beer - Bīru (ビール) 
Pronunciation: bee-roo 
14. Japanese sake - Nihonshu (日本酒) 
Pronunciation: nee-hohn-shoo 
15. Water please - O-mizu o onegai shimasu (お水をお願いします) 
Pronunciation: oh-mee-zoo oh oh-neh-guy shee-mahs 
16. Check, please - Okaikei onegaishimasu (お会計 お願いします) 
Pronunciation: oh-kai-kay oh-neh-guy shee-mahs 
17. I would like ___, please - __ o Kudasai (__をください) 
Pronunciation: ___ oh koo-dah-sigh 

Treat your palate, bask in tranquil onsens, and delve into Japan's rich culture while practicing these phrases on our Japan Bike, Walk, and Onsen Tour

Cyclists pause for a moment of laughter with the heartwarming community in rural Japan on a cycling tour of Japan.

Cyclists pause for a moment of laughter with the heartwarming community in rural Japan.

Useful Japanese Phrases to Use when Shopping 

18. How much is this? - Ikura desu ka? (いくらですか?) 
Pronunciation: ee-koo-rah deh-soo kah? 
19. I'll take it - Sore o moraimasu (それをもらいます) 
Pronunciation: soh-reh oh moh-rah-ee-mahs 

Encounters with Nara's friendly deer—an iconic moment for cyclists on Grasshopper Adventures Bike Tours in Japan.

Encounters with Nara's friendly deer.

Emergencies and Assistance: How to Ask for Help in Japanese 

20. Help! - Tasukete! (助けて!) 
Pronunciation: tah-soo-keh-teh! 
21. Hospital - Byōin (病院) 
Pronunciation: byoh-een 
22. It hurts! - Itai desu (痛いです) 
Pronunciation: ee-tie deh-soo 

Last, But Certainly Not Least: 

23. I love Japan! - Nihon daisuki (にほんだいすき) 
Pronunciation: nee-hohn dahy-soo-kee 
You're guaranteed to warm the heart of your newfound connection with this phrase. Make sure to memorize it as you'll probably be using it a lot! 

Cyclist interacting with local Japanese on a bike tour of Japan.

Local interactions like these on a Grasshopper Adventures Bike Tour bring you the real spirit of Japan.

Overcoming Language Hurdles to Unveil Unforgettable Adventures

By diving into these simple phrases, you're connecting with the country and its people on a deeper level and unlocking doors to experiences that will etch their way into your heart.  

Every "konnichiwa" you utter is a bridge that spans the cultural divide, a key that opens the treasure trove of human interaction.  

Sure, you might not become a fluent speaker overnight, but that's not the goal. The goal is to weave threads of understanding and to remember that it's not the words alone that matter; it's the intentions they carry, the stories they unveil, and the connections they forge.  

Go forth with courage, for Japan is waiting to embrace you.  

If you enjoyed learning about the Japanese language, here are some other articles that you will love: 
Top 7 Foods You Must Try in Japan 
Navigating Hot Springs in Japan 
9 Reasons to Explore Japan by E-Bike 


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