Common phrases/words to learn before traveling to Japan

While traveling to an unfamiliar country where you might not speak the language can seem a little intimidating, learning a few common phrases or words will help you feel confident when communicating and show that you respect the culture and customs of the country you're visiting. In this case, we're not saying you have to dedicate hours and hours to learning Japanese (although there's nothing wrong with that), but learning basic words that you'd use in everyday conversation can go a long way in helping you communicate effectively and will only add to your overall trip experience. 

So you don't have to spend your time typing words into google translate, we've put together a list of the phrases/words you should have up your sleeve before your trip to Japan begins. 

Common phrases and words

How to say 'hello' in Japanese - Konnichiwa

The word you're probably going to use the most during your time in Japan is 'hello', and coincidentally, it's probably one of the words you already know how to say. The Japanese word for 'hello' is Konnichiwa (こんにちは, pronounced kon-nichi-wa) and is most commonly used when greeting people. This word is typically only used during the day as there are different words for 'good morning' and 'good evening'. 

How to say 'how are you?' in Japanese - O Genki desu ka 

Along with Konnichiwa, the Japanese term for 'how are you?' can also be used as a greeting so knowing and understanding this phrase should also be high on your priority list. The most common Japanese phrase for 'how are you?' is O Genki desu ka (お元気ですか) and is used for polite conversations with strangers and older people. However, if you're among friends or in a more casual setting, the word Genki (元気) is used. 

How to say 'good morning' in Japanese - Ohayō gozaimasu

Also seen as a form of greeting, the informal Japanese term for 'good morning' is Ohayō (おはよう, pronounced oh-high-yo) and is usually accompanied by a nod of the head. The more formal way to say 'good morning' is Ohayō gozaimasu (おはよう ございます, pronounced oh-high-yoh go-zah-ee-moss). Both of these terms are the respectful way to greet friends, elders, and strangers before 10 am, after which you should be using Konnichiwa until 5 pm when you can switch to Konbanwa (meaning 'good evening'). 

How to say 'thank you' in Japanese - Arigatou Gozaimasu

Japanese people are known to be extremely polite so there's a large chance you're going to hear this next word wherever you go. To reciprocate that same kindness, knowing how to say 'thank you' will go a long way in showing respect to those around you. The Japanese word for 'thank you' is Arigatou Gozaimasu (ありがとうございます) and is often used in formal settings to show proper etiquette towards strangers and elders. 

How to say 'no' in Japanese - Iie

Japanese people don't often use the word 'no' as it can come across as being quite strong and harsh, however, if someone is asking you a question that you don't want to answer or if someone has gotten something wrong and you wish to tell them that then the Japanese word for 'no' is 'Iie' (いいえ, pronounced ee-ye).

This is considered to be the formal way to say no, and like different languages in other countries, there are several other ways to convey the message of no like Chigau (meaning 'to be different') or Chotto (meaning 'it's a little'). 

How to say 'please' in Japanese - Onegaishimasu

There are a number of different ways to say 'please' in Japanese with the correct word to use depending on the context of the conversation and who you're talking to. The most universally polite way of saying 'please' is Onegaishimasu (お願いします) and can generally be used in any situation as it refers to requesting something such as 'coffee please' rather than asking someone. 

How to say 'goodbye' in Japanese - Bai Bai

While the Japanese word for 'goodbye', being Sayonara (さよなら), doesn't necessarily have the same meaning as its English counterpart, it's still the first form of the word people get taught when learning Japanese and probably the most appropriate one to use while you're on your travels. It roughly translates to 'goodbye forever' so it can be used in a formal setting when you're not sure if you'll see that person again. 

A more casual way to say 'goodbye' in Japanese is Mata ne (またね - meaning to see you again) or Bai Bai (バイバイ - meaning bye bye) which are more commonly used among people you see all the time and friends. 

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