So, you’re in Japan and you’re hoping to be able to get from point A to point B without -- as I say --- getting spectacularly lost. Maybe you’ve had Japanese in school, or maybe you’ve seen a lot of anime and have some common words or fun expressions at the ready, but nothing that’s gonna help you talk to this train station attendant.
Well, Nihongo Master has you covered.
Basic Japanese Words
To start, here’s some extremely common words to get you started:
Eeto - ええと
This is “umm” in Japanese. It’s a great thinking word. Practice saying Eeto (Pronounced: Eyytoh) so when you want to say “umm” or “uh”, you automatically sound more fluent!
Hai - はい - is yes. It’s polite and the most basic of words for conversation!
Un (oon) - うん - is yes but a little less formal, as it has a casual sound to it. Better stick to “hai” in most situations for clarity! But you may hear it from people as you speak to them!
Sou desu - そうです - is “(yes) it is./ It seems so.” A positive confirmation that is both polite and a great way to respond to questions where the person is correct in their assumptions!
Ee (Pronounced like the letter A) - ええ - Ee is a less formal “hai” or yes. People also use this as a person is speaking to show they are listening. Ee is also polite, but hai is clearer in situations where you need to be precise. E can be a surprised interjection too!
Iie - いいえ - is no. It’s polite and be sure to listen for how the person may truncate it.
Iya - いや - is a casual form of no, and may accompany an explanation. Better stick to iie, but it’s good to know the variations of a word in case someone says them!
so janai desu - そうじゃないです - is “It is not./ Seems not.” A negative confirmation that is both polite and a great way to respond to questions where the person is incorrect in their assumptions!
For making your way around Japan, here are some essentials:
How do you get to _____?
Dono yō ni suru nodesu ka _____?
Where is the bathroom?
Toire wa dokodesu ka?
Where can I buy a train ticket?
Densha no kippu wa doko de kaemasu ka?
Where is the train station?
Eki wa dokodesu ka?
Does this train go to _______?
Kono densha wa _______ ni ikimasu ka?
How much is it?
Ikura desu ka?
I would like _____, please. (Buying an item and pointing to it.)
I am from _______.
Watashi wa ___ shusshindesu _______.
Please help me with this ticket machine.
Kono kenbaiki o tetsudatte kudasai.
I am going to ______.
私は ______ に行きます。
Watashi ha ______ ni ikimasu.
Asking is easy. Understanding the answer can be hard. Here’s a few more bonus phrases that can help you out in that department! Be sure to have a pocket dictionary, Nihongo Master’s Dictionary or your denshijisho handy when the helpful responses come flooding in!
Responses you might hear:
Turn right at the corner.
Tsuno de migi ni magarimasu.
Massugu susunde kudasai
Hidari ni magatte kudasai.
The train station is nearby.
Eki ga chikaku ni arimasu.
This line goes to Tokyo station.
Kono rosen wa Tōkyō Eki ni ikimasu.
Bonus Everyday Phrases!
Here are bonus basic Japanese phrases to memorize and practice for everyday interactions. If you want to get excellent at speaking and reading Japanese, consider subscribing to Nihongo Master, the fun and easy way to learn Japanese online!
Eigo o hanasemasu ka.
Do you speak English?
Motto yukkuri hanashite kudasai.
Please speak more slowly?
Watashi wa daijōbu.
I don't understand.
I am sorry.
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While Japanese seems complicated on the surface, it's very easy to get started communicating. These essential Japanese words only scratch the surface, but now that you've got these in your tool kit, continue your journey to Japanese mastery at Nihongo Master.The manga-style lessons make it easy and fun to keep on track. You can partner up with a friend and make a team then compete on the leaderboards! Chat in the forums, and get help from a community of over 80k subscribers! So, start brushing up on your Japanese skills before your next trip to Japan!