Japanese words you should know when visiting Japan!
Written by Méline

Some words you might want to know to travel Japan!

Thank you, hello, I’m sorry… Learn the basic Japanese words!

Most of Japanese people only know a few words in English, so in oder to make your time in Japan easier and smoother for both you and the Japanese you’ll meet, here are some very convenient Japanese words for your everyday life in Japan!

1 - The basics

- Yes - No / Hai - iie

Japanese people are not very direct when they talk and tend to avoid certainties, so as surprising as it may seems, they don’t use that often ‘yes’ and ‘no’, because those are a bit too 'strong'. Japanese would try to give their opinion or answer in a different, more subtile way. But as a foreigner, they will probably understand that it’s easier for you to use those, so don’t be afraid to say ‘hai’ and ‘iie’!

- Hello / Konnichiwa

Sometime Japanese people are very strict about the greeting manners, and you should avoid forgetting to say ‘konnichiwa’ when meeting someone for the first time of the day. If it’s after 6pm, you can switch ‘konnichiwa’ to ‘kombawa’, which means ‘good evening’.

- Thank you / Arigatou

Basic word of politeness, you will probably hear ‘arigatou’ every day, and its variation ‘arigatou gozaimass’, which is ‘thanks a lot’. For the pronunciation, the final ‘U’ is silent, and the ‘R’ is pronounced as a mix between the english ‘R’ and the english ‘L’. Don’t be afraid to use and abuse it, Japanese people are extremely polite in society and it will alway be better to thanks too much than not enough!

- I’m sorry / Sumimasen or Gomenasaii

You’ll very likely heard this word a lot while in Japan. Japanese people tend to avoid conflict as much as possible, ad will rather apologize than getting in an argument with anyone. ‘sumimasen’ would be used in a situation where you could also said ‘excuse me’: passing in front of someone to get somewhere, calling the waiter in a restaurant, etc. ‘gomenasai’ is when you really made a mistake and want to apologize: bumping into someone in the street, making something fall down, etc. However in most of cases you can use ‘sumimasen’ instead of ‘gomenasai’, but not the other way around!

- Nice to meet you / Hajimemashite

After meeting someone for the first time, you will probably have to decline your identity. ‘My name is ____’ can be said in a very simple way: ‘____ dess’, and to be perfectly polite, you can add ‘hajimemashite’ after saying your name. For the pronunciation, the ‘i’ is silent.

2 - Vocabulary for dates

- Shall we go for a drink? / Nomi ni ikimasennka?

In Japanese, you don’t really ask directly for something, and even less for going on a date. A possible alternative is offer to go together for a drink, which implies going on a date without really saying it. As mentioned before, Japanese are not very direct, so your crush might not answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ but something like ‘that could be nice’ if it’s a yes, or ‘maybe later’ if it’s a no.

- See you again / Matane

After a date, rather than saying ‘sayounara’, that means ‘goodbye’, you should opt for ‘matane’. Saying goodbye imply in Japanese that you may never see each other again, and is a bit brutal, whereas ‘matane’ is a way to express your will to meet this person again, in a short term. If you look to your date’s reaction after saying ‘matane’, maybe you could guess if he/she likes you back!

- I like you / Anata ga ski dess

Time for a confession! In Japan you rarely say the real ‘I love you’, it is considered as very heavy and serious, so for a first confession you may want to choose a lighter ‘I like you’, which would express your romantic affection for the person without being over the top. If you want to make it more personal, you may replace ‘anata’, which is ‘you’, by the person’s name!

3 - Bonus

- A date: dayto

- Let’s go: Ikou!

- Cheers (when drinking): kanpaii

- I’m happy: urey shii

- I’m sad: kana shii

- It’s ok: daiijobu

I hope those few words will be able to help you communicate with Japanese people! Matane!