Japan is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world and it’s always been my dream to visit Japan ever since I was a young kid. I finally fulfilled that dream two years ago when I visit Japan together with my friends. We explored so many beautiful places and ate a ton of delicious Japanese food from ramens, okonomiyaki, tonkatsu to Kobe beef! The whole experience was amazing and very surreal to me. However, even though we really enjoyed our visit in Japan, we faced with a little problem and that is communicating with the locals. Since most Filipinos really love Japanese culture, we knew some basic words and phrases that we will normally hear from Japanese Dramas or Anime but it’s still not enough to make a proper conversation. Now that I’m living and working in Tokyo, I started to picked up some very useful phrases from my friends and colleagues. Here are some useful phrases that can be applied in daily situations.
Let’s start with some Japanese greetings:
- Konnichiwa – Hello / Good Day / Good Afternoon
- Ohayou – Good Morning
- Konbanwa – Good Evening
- Sayonara – Goodbye / Farewell
Some phrases that you will often hear (eg. at restaurants, malls, streets or trains:
- Excuse me / I’m Sorry.
The most common phrase that you will hear all over Japan. It can be used to call the attention of the person (eg. waiters/waitress or staff). You can also use it when you made an inconvenience to someone and would like to apologize or give thanks.
Daijobu desu (polite/formal) / Daijobu (casual/informal)
- Okay / All right
This is one of the first phrase that I learned and I really believe this phrase is really significant to learn because it can be applied in many situations. I’ve always hear this phrase from Japanese Dramas and Anime when a characters wants to check the feelings of another character. “Daijobu desu ka?” (Are you ok?)”. But when my friend taught me this phrase it can be use in other ways like if someone is offering you something (eg. staff in Starbucks offering you the menu, staff in convenience store asking you if you want to heat up your food) you can politely say, “Daijobu desu”.
Even though I never properly study or learn Japanese language at the moment, by using some keywords and some hand gestures, locals will understand what I’m trying to say. As a very introverted person like me, it’s really hard for me to talk with strangers especially speaking in another language but in Japan because the staff here are so kind and so polite at least I’m starting to be comfortable speaking even though I’m just saying keywords and not whole sentences at the moment.
Some situations that I used some keywords when communicating:
At convenience store, when you buy microwavable foods (I really buy a lot), the staff will usually ask and say “Atatamemasu ka? (Should I heat it up?)”
- Hai, Onegai Shimasu – Yes, Please.
- Daijobu desu – No, It’s okay.
In some rare cases the staff never asked you, you can say, “Atatamete kudasai”. Keyword here is “Atatamete/masu” which came from the the adjective “Attakai” which means “warm”.
Sometimes after you give the money to the cashier, you will hear them say something like “Point-o card wo omochi desu ka?”, which means “Do you have a Point Card?”, You can reply with a simple “Iie (No)”. Keyword here is “Point-o card”.
At restaurants, the first thing you will hear from the staff is “Irrashaimase! Nan mei sama”, which means “Welcome! For how many people?”. It’s easy to recognize this phrase if you always go to restaurants. I would normally reply with hand gestures or with the phrase :
- Hitori desu – 1 person only
- Futari desu – Two people
- Sannin desu – Three people
- Yonnin desu – Four people
At fastfood restaurants, before you order your food the cashier will ask “Tennai de omeshiagari desu ka?” or depends on the store, sometimes I will just hear them say “Tennai desu ka?” which means (Will you be eating here/ Dining In). The keyword that I always check is “Tennai”, you can reply with:
- Hai – Yes
- Iie, Omochikaeri desu – No, for take out.
Based from my experience, in some other shops or cafes, they won’t ask. So if I want to take out my food or coffee, I would say Omochikaeri desu.
Some other useful phrase when in restaurants are:
- Kitsuen desu ka or kinen desu ka – Smoking or Non-smoking
- Okaikei, onegaishimasu – Check, please.
Other common words and phrases that you can use:
- Hai – Yes
- Iie – No
- Itadakimasu – Thank you for the meal (before eating)
- Gochisousama – Thank you for the meal (after eating)
- Sugoi – Wow! / Amazing
- Kawaii – Cute
- Oishi / Umai – Delicious
- Gomen Nasai – I’m Sorry
- Onegai Shimasu – Please
So when you’re ready to visit Japan, be ready and equip yourself with some of this helpful Japanese words and phrases. Japanese always appreciate to hear some foreigners speaking their language even if it’s not perfect. Go ahead and surprise them with these phrases.