Heading to Japan might be intimidating as English is not a common language amongst Japanese. Other than simple lingo such as ‘arigato’ (thank you), and ‘konnichiwa’ (hello), most of us are stuck with using hand signs to supplement English in communicating when we are there. It is however, reassuring to know that most of the Japanese that you will meet are some of the nicest souls on earth; they will do their best to help and even guide you to your location.

That said, it would still be great to know survival Japanese phrases to make it easier for you on your vacation.

simple japanese phrases for travellers

Basic phrases:

英語はできますか? (Eigo wa dekimasu ka?) Do you speak English?

はい (Hai) Yes
いいえ (Iie) No

わかりますか? (Wakarimasuka?) Do you understand?
わかりません (Wakarimasen) I don’t understand.
わかります (Wakarimasu) I understand.

simple japanese phrases for travellers

Need help with directions?

If you are going somewhere and needed help in getting to the destination, the following sentences can come in handy. Fill in OO with your destination and you will never get lost again.

OOはどこですか?(OO wa doko desu ka?) Where is OO?
OOに行きたい (OO ni ikitai) I want to go to OO

You can use these words for reference in order to understand what might be replied when you asked for directions.

左 (Hidari) Left, 右 (Migi) Right
真直に行け (Massugu ni ike) Go straight

However, in the worst case scenario that you still got lost while in Japan, here is how you can explain yourself and ask for help.

迷いました (mayoi mashita) I am lost
助けてください (tasukete kudasai) Help me please
署までご同行願います (Sho made go dookoo negaimasu) Please accompany me (us) to the police station

simple japanese phrases for travellers

At Restaurants / Food ordering

One of the biggest attractions to Japan is their food. Think of the fresh sushi, delicious takoyaki, thick ramen soup, and even those tasty bullet train bentos! While restaurants in popular tourists’ destinations do have English menus, they are not available until you ask for it.

英語のメ二ューはありますか (eigo no menyu wa arimasu ka?) Do you have English menu?

The following would be great if you are asking for recommendations, or to check if certain ingredients are used in the food. It is also handy when making sure a certain ingredient is not in the food you ordered.

おすすめは何ですか (Osusume wa nandesuka) What do you recommend?
何でも食べられます (nandemo taberare masu) I can eat anything
OOは食べられません (OO wa taberare masen) I can’t eat OO
OOにアレルギーです (OO ni arerugi desu) I am allergic to OO

simple japanese phrases for travellers


Last but not least, Japanese phrases for your shopping needs!

いくらですか? (ikura desuka) How much is it?
OOはありますか? (OO wa arimasu ka?) Is there OO?
OOは何ですか? (OO wa nandesu ka?) What is OO?
ここでOOは売っていますか?(Kokode OO wa utte imasuka?) Do you sell OO here?
これを試着できますか? (Korewo shichaku dekimasuka) Can I try this on?
もっと(大きい/小さい)のはありますか? (Motto (ookii/chiisai) nowa arimasuka?) Is there a (bigger/smaller) piece?
これは免税で買えますか? (Korewa menzei de kae masuka?) Can I buy this under duty-free?


Armed with these handy Japanese phrases, you will be able to enjoy a stress-free trip to Japan. Try out some of the freshest sushi in Tsukiji Market or explore the ramen street in Ikebukuro! Help to fulfill requests on Airfrov while you shop in popular shopping districts such as Shibuya and Akihabara!