Japanese Word to Use When Traveling

While the use of English is slowly increasing around the country, you can’t always rely on it. Japanese people in many areas of the country, especially in the countryside, are not always able to use English conversationally. Therefore, knowing the following five words before coming will help you in most everyday situations.

お願いします (O-ne-gai-shi-ma-su)

On its own, onegaishimasu means “please.” When linked with another word before it, the phrase expresses a request. It will come in useful when ordering at a restaurant. Let’s see how it works with some examples:

Japanese: お茶お願いします。(ocha onegaishimasu)

English: Tea, please.

You can use onegaishimasu not only when ordering food, but also in a clothing store or any other kind of shop.

Japanese: このシャツお願いします。(kono shatsu onegaishimasu)

English: This shirt please.


おすすめ (O-su-su-me)

Another useful word at a restaurant, osusume translates to “recommendation.” When you’re not sure what to order, you can ask for the restaurant’s recommendation using this word. The full sentence would be as follows:

Japanese: おすすめは何ですか。(osusumewa nan desu ka)

English: What do you recommend? (Literally: What is the recommendation?)

Alternatively, you can drop the end of the sentence and say simply: osusume wa?


すみません (Su-mi-ma-sen)

Sumimasen, meaning “excuse me,” can be used both as a way to get someone’s attention as well as a way of apologizing. In a restaurant, calling out sumimasen is a way of bringing a waiter or waitress to you. In case you bump into someone on the street, a quick sumimasen is also appropriate.

いくら (I-ku-ra)

Ikura means “how much.” It can be used to ask about something’s price.

Japanese: このシャツはいくらですか。(kono shatsu wa ikura desu ka)

English: How much is this shirt?

Ikura, in an informal setting, can also be used on its own. For example, you and a friend have gone out to a restaurant and it is time to pay for the bill. You want to know how much your share of the bill will be so you ask: ikura?


どこ (Do-ko)

An all-purpose word, doko means “where.” It can be used when asking for directions as well as when trying to find a product in a store.

Japanese: 東京タワーはどこですか。(Tokyo tawa wa doko desu ka)

English: Where is Tokyo Tower?

With the five words above, you’ll be armed with some of the basics of the language and will be ready for your trip to Japan!