So, you’re planning a trip to Japan, or Nihon as the locals say. Hopefully you’ll be traveling with someone who is fairly fluent in Japanese (Nihongo) because most Japanese people (Nihonjin) speak very little English.
If you’re traveling alone, however, there’s no need to worry. Here are 13 basic Japanese expressions and some Japanese vocabulary that will help you on your trip.
Japanese people appreciate any attempt by a foreigner to use Japanese words, phrases, and sentences. The locals will speak slowly and go out of their way to help you communicate. They will respect and admire your effort.
You will most likely hear many of the following expressions. Practice these with a flat accent, in other words, with no stress or drop in tone. There are ways to show added sincerity and enthusiasm, but let’s keep things simple for now. Remember, most greetings and salutations are said with a bow.
(cone) (knee) (chee) wa
This means hello. Say this with a slight pause after the “n” in the first syllable and before the “n” at the beginning of the 2nd syllable.
ha (gee) (may) (mashte)
3. Ohayou Gozaimasu
(Ohio) go zai mas
This means good morning. When an “o” is followed by a “u” in Japanese, it creates a long vowel sound. The “u” is basically silent. Nihongo has no word for good afternoon, so konnichiwa is used between noon and dark.
(cone) (bon) wa
(oh) ya (sue) (me) na (sigh)
(sigh) (oh) na ra
7. Ogenki Desuka
(oh) gen (key) deska
wa ka re (mashta)
(sue) (me) ma sen
10. Amerikajin Desu
(America) (gin) (des)
I am American.
11. Suimasen Koohii O Kudasai
(suey) ma sen (co) (he) (oh) ku da (sigh)
May I have a cup of coffee, please.
12. Arigatou Gozaimasu
(are) (e) ga (toe) – go (zy) (mas)
13. Kekkou Desu
These Japanese expressions will help you find your way around Japan, or give you a solid foundation if you’re studying the language.
If you want to learn more Japanese expressions, or if you need some additional help with pronunciation and usage, find a Japanese teacher near you.
Andrew P. teaches English and writing in Milton, VT, as well as through online lessons. He studied Japanese at the University of Vermont and lived in Japan from 2003 t0 2005, where he taught English and Spanish classes. Andrew taught English courses at colleges and universities in five states for 35 years before retiring in 2013. Learn more about Andrew here!
Photo by Moyan_Brenn