Whether you’re visiting Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, or even Okinawa — these super easy to use Japanese phrases will make a big impact on your time in Japan.
Simple, common phrases you can use in a variety of situations — when eating out at a restaurant, adventuring around Nikko, looking for a friend, or just learning the Japanese language.
This guide gives you several convenient phrases for travelers who want that superpower of talking to a Japanese person when you need assistance in Japan.
The local language is tough, but a little goes a long way. Lets get started.
Sumimasen is used in a couple of different ways. First, it can be used to say excuse me. As if you bumped into someone you’d say “sumimasen” with a small head bow to show you were sorry for bumping into them.
If you’re eating out at a restaurant that doesn’t have a call button on the table, you’ll need to get the waiter’s attention by saying “sumimasen!”
Sumimasen is first on the list because you’ll find it useful for each of the following phrases. Add it to the front when you need to get someone’s attention before asking a question.
__ doko desu ka?
“Where is __?”
Doko desu ka is used to ask where something is. You can use this phrase to ask where almost anything is: a restaurant, mall, park, train station… or even people (some phrases are different when talking about living versus inanimate objects, but not this phrase).
Bonus tip: if you have a photo of something and you want to ask where it is, you can say: “kore ha doko desu ka?” while holding up the photo for the Japanese person to see.
Kore wa ikura desu ka?
“How much is this?”
Kore wa ikura desu ka is used to ask how much something costs. Kore wa means this in Japanese, so you use this phrase when you have something in hand, or can point at, that you want to know the price of.
For example: at a restaurant with no prices on the menu, and you want to know how much the Japanese food costs — point at the menu item and say “kore wa ikura desu ka?” to ask the price.
Extra: if you like the price and end up wanting to buy the item you just asked the price of, say onegai shimasu. This basically means please, but will indicate you want the item too.
__ eki made nanbansen desu ka?
“What number train to __ station?”
__ eki made nanbansen desu ka is used to ask which train to take to a given train station. Simply replace the __ with the name of the train station you’re trying to get to. This phrase literally translates to “What number train stops at __ station?”
HELP! Are you stationed at Yokota Air Base? If you’re lost and need to get back to Yokota, go to the train station, stop someone and say: “Sumimasen. Fussa eki made nanbansen desu ka?” Fussa eki is Fussa station, the closest train station near Yokota Air Base.
Toire o kashite kudasai
“May I use the toilet?”
Toire o kashite kudasai is used when you wish to use the restroom at a place (such as a convenience store), or someone’s home. In Japan, it’s not polite to just use a place’s restroom without asking (unless it’s a restaurant, or a public restroom at a park, or train station).
For example: at a convenience store, at the counter say: “Sumimasen. Toire o kashite kudasai.“
“Thank you for this food”
Itadakimasu is a part of Japanese food culture. It is something said when the food has been served, it is right in front of you, but before you begin eating. It’s much like saying grace. It means to be thankful for the food you are about to eat.
🔥 I have a more in-depth guide about itadakimasu (and gochisousama — the word used after you are done eating) here.
And that’s a wrap. Use these phrases throughout your journey in Japan. These common words will make a big difference while you learn the Japanese customs and meet new Japanese friends — and the local people will appreciate your effort (so don’t bee too self aware).
More Language Help
If you’re looking for more Japanese phrases I have a few more guides. Do you like ramen? Here are some phrases you can use to order the perfect bowl of ramen.
Good luck and enjoy your adventures in Japan!