“5 Basic Key Words to Help You on Your Japan Adventures
Before you travel to Japan, you should know that most Japanese people do not use English often.
It is not because they aren’t any good at speaking English, but because they aren’t confident enough to communicate with tourists in English.
Therefore, you might struggle to communicate with restaurant servers or shop assistants who only speak Japanese.
However, there is a way to help you. Here is what I consider the 5 essential Japanese words for tourists.
1. “Kore” = This
This word is useful when you want to order food as you may find it difficult to understand Japanese menus.
Just point at a picture and say “kore” (“this”), and the server will automatically understand.
You could use “kore” when out shopping, too.
2. “Kudasai” = May I have…
“Kudasai” is used when politely asking for assistance.
For example, “Kore kudasai,” means “May I have this, please?”
You can use “kudasai” in other situations too, such as “Ticket kudasai,” which means “May I have a ticket, please?”
You will notice that it is convenient to use “kudasai” when asking for help or making a demand while remaining polite.
3. “Doko” = Where is…?
It is a very important word for surviving in Japan and is often used in two main situations.
First is when you are looking for a toilet.
You can say “Toilet wa doko?” to any Japanese person, and they will understand you and guide you to the nearest toilet.
However, saying “Toilet doko?” will also be understood.
Second is when you get lost.
Name a place where you would like to go when asking a Japanese person, “[place] wa doko?” and they will realize that you need directions.
For example, “Shinjuku station wa doko?” means “Where is Shinjuku station?”
Or “Hilton Hotel wa doko?” means “Where is Hilton Hotel?”
By using this simple Japanese sentence pattern, you will be able to communicate where you would like to go and are more likely to receive help.
4. “Sumimasen” = Excuse me / Sorry
“Sumimasen” could mean both “excuse me,” and “I’m sorry.”
It is always good to show your manners.
For example, when you collide with somebody and would like to apologize, say “sumimasen.”
It can also be used when you need assistance.
“Sumimasen, kore kudasai,” means “Excuse me. May I have this, please?”
Therefore, “sumimasen” can be used in general situations when you want to apologize or need assistance.
5. “Wakarimasen” = I don’t understand
“Wakarimasen” means “I do not understand.”
When you ask for help from a local, you might experience difficulty understanding instructions or advice especially when you don’t know any Japanese.
That is when you would use “wakarimasen” to let them know that you don’t understand and they may try body language or actions to try and assist you instead.
With these 5 useful Japanese words, there is no need for you to worry about getting lost in Japan just because of the language difference.
The Japanese are some of the most helpful people and they will usually want to help you to the best of their abilities.
So try and use some of these words the next time you’re visiting the country.
And of course, don’t forget to say “arigatou gozaimasu” or “thank you” afterwards!