If you're learning Japanese and considering a trip to Japan, you'll probably want to learn some Japanese travel phrases so you can make the most of your trip.
Getting a feel for which expressions will be most important to you can vary depending upon your specific interests and goals while traveling. But some vocab is particularly useful no matter what.
If you spend time learning any basic Japanese phrases and words, start with these 83 Japanese travel phrases so that you can head into Japan on the right foot!
Regardless of where you are or what you’re doing, two of the most important words you’ll need to know are arigatou gozaimasu and sumimasen.
Arigatou (gozaimasu) means “thank you,” and it’s very polite; you can use it with anyone. Sumimasen means “excuse me” (when trying to get someone’s attention) or “I’m sorry” (if you’ve inconvenienced someone, such as by misunderstanding or taking up time).
Let's discover the other Japanese travel phrases that will be a must on your next trip to Japan.
By the way, if you're getting started in Japanese and want to get to conversational level fast, without getting bogged down with grammar, check out my story-based beginner course, Japanese Uncovered.
At The Airport
So you have arrived in Japan, and you’re in the airport. Depending on how your travels went and what you’re planning on doing next, you might have multiple places you need to visit.
To start, review your vocab and see if any of these locations apply to you for your next stop:
#1 currency exchange (ryougaejo 両替所)
#2 toilet (toireトイレ)
#3 customs (zeikan 税関)
#4 immigration (nyuukoku shinsa 入国審査)
#5 information (desksougou annaijo 総合案内所)
#6 souvenir shop (omiyageya お土産屋)
#7 Seat (seki 席)
#8 Train (densha 電車)
#9 Taxi (takushi タクシー)
These are the most likely places you’ll need to stop next once you arrive. If you need to locate a certain establishment or find where to go, you can always ask someone:
#10 Where is the ______? (____ ha doko desu ka?＿＿はどこですか。)
After you conclude your business wandering around the airport, you’ll probably be heading out into the city. In order to do that, you’ll most likely need to take a train out of the airport. If you feel confident using the airport’s self-service ticket machines, you can buy your own ticket.
However, if you have a JR Pass or need to use special train services, or if you don’t know how to use the machines, you can approach the manned ticket counter and ask:
#11 Can I have a ticket to _______ please? (____ made no chiketto wo kudasai.＿＿までのチケットをください。)
If you are concerned that you may have to change trains during the process, you can ask about this too by saying:
#12 Is there a transfer? (Norikae ha arimasu ka? 乗り換えはありますか。)
Taking A Taxi
Taxis in Japan are much more economical options than people give them credit for, so if you’re overwhelmed about navigating by yourself, a taxi can be a great option. The vocabulary for taking a taxi is simple, and drivers typically go above and beyond to help you.
#13 Taxi (takushi タクシー)
When you have located the taxis, you will see that they typically drive up in a line. Wait your turn, and when one drives up, approach. Remember: do not open or close the taxi doors yourself; the driver has an automated button to do this for you.
#14 I’d like to go to _____, please. (____ made onegaishimasu＿＿までお願いします)
#15 How much does it cost? (Ikura desu ka?いくらですか。)
One important thing to remember is that Japan is a very cash-centric society. The use of credit cards is much rarer than you may be used to, so you should plan to carry larger than normal amounts of cash with you in general. This also means that you should be prepared to ask your taxi driver if he or she accepts credit cards at all.
#16 Is paying by credit card okay? (Kurejitto kaado de ii desu ka? クレジットカードでいいですか。)
Checking Into Your Hotel
So you have taken a taxi or train, and you’ve arrived at your hotel. Hotels have a wide array of commodities that you can take advantage of, which means that you’ll also get to use a lot of unique vocabulary.
Check out some of the words you’re most likely to use:
#17 Key (kagi 鍵)
#18 Front desk (chouba (but furonto desuku is more common) 帳場 (フロントデスク))
#19 Lobby (robii ロビー)
#20 Dining room (shokudou 食堂)
#21 Hall (rouka 廊下)
#22 Towel (taoru タオル)
#23 Soap (sekken 石鹸)
#24 Toothbrush (ha-burashi 歯ブラシ)
#25 Toothpaste (ha-migaki 歯磨き)
#26 Razor (kamisori かみそり)
#27 Television (terebi テレビ)
#28 Housekeeping (kaji-gakari かじがかり)
#29 Laundry (sentaku 選択)
If you are looking to do laundry at a hotel, be aware that Japanese dryers are not as powerful as most countries’, so you may need to run the dryer multiple times or simply hang your clothes to dry.
When you are ready to check in, you can approach the front desk. Depending on what you need to do next, you can use phrases such as:
#30 I’d like to check in. (Chekku in wo onegaishimasu.チェックインをお願いします。)
#31 My name is _______. (Namae wa _____desu.名前あ＿＿＿です。)
#32 I’d like to make a reservation. (Yoyaku wo shitai desu.予約をしたいです。)
#33 Is there wifi? (Wi-Fi ga arimasu ka? WIFIがありますか。)
#34 What time is checkout? (Chekku auto wa nanji desu ka? チェックアウトは何時ですか。`)
#35 Can you hold my luggage for me? (Nimotsu wo koko ni oite itte mo ii desu ka? 荷物はここに置いていってもいいですか。)
Now that you have settled into Japan a little bit, you’ll probably enjoy going for a walk to see the sights. As you interact with other people, the phrases you’re most likely to hear them say are:
These are the “daily” greetings that mean “hello.” Ohayou (good morning) is typically used until about 11:30 or noon, then people switch to konnichiwa (good afternoon). At about 5pm, most people will switch to konbanwa (good evening).
When you leave and return for the day, you may be greeted with unique phrases. Itterasshai means “have a safe trip” or simply “goodbye for the day,” said as you leave. Your hotel staff may say this to you. They may also greet you with okaeri (welcome back) when you return.
Whenever you enter a business, you’ll likely be greeted with irasshaimase, a very formal welcome. You are not expected to say anything in response; it’s sort of like the staff saying hello while also thanking you for shopping or visiting.
If you can’t go a day without your morning brew, take heart—Japanese coffee shops are everywhere, and the vocabulary is actually almost identical to what you may be used to ordering.
#39 Coffee shop (kissaten 喫茶店)
#40 Hot coffee (hotto kohi ホットコーヒー)
#41 Iced coffee (aisu kohi アイスコーヒー)
#42 Cafe latte (kafe rate カフェラテ)
#43 Drip coffee (dorippu kohiドリップコーヒー)
#44 Soy milk (soi mirukuソイミルク))
#45 Espresso (Esupuressoエスプレッソ)
When it comes time to order your drink, you can specify what you want via the following format:
#46 I’d like to order [number] of [item]. ([item] wo [number] onegaishimasu.[item] を [number]お願いします。)
The [item] can be kohi, mizu (water), or any other item you would like to order. If you don’t know how to say what you want to order, you can point to a menu and simply say “kore” (this) in the [item] place. You can fill the [number] slot with the quantity you would like; the words hitotsu, futatsu, and mitsu mean one, two, and three, respectively.
- I’d like one hot coffee, please. (Hotto kohi wo hitotsu onegaishimasu.)
After this, the waitress may ask what size you would like. You can typically choose from small (S), medium (M), and large (L).
Use the letter to indicate which size you would like:
#47 Size (saizu サイズ)
#48 Medium M (saizuM サイズ)
In A Japanese Restaurant
If you’ve decided to stop by a Japanese restaurant instead of a café, you might need a wider variety of words to make sure you can get by.
The good news is that many restaurants—especially in large cities—have pictures on their menus, and no one will be upset if you point and simply say “this, please.”
To start, the vocabulary you’re most likely to need include:
#49 Fish (sakana 魚)
#50 Meat (niku 肉)
#51 Vegetables (yasai 野菜)
#52 Vegetarian (begitarian ベジタリアン)
#53 Beer (biiru ビール)
#54 Water (mizu 水)
#55 Tea (ocha お茶)
As you enter a restaurant, you will likely be asked how many people are in your party. Using basic Japanese numbers 1-10, you can create the following sentence:
#56 There are [number] people. ([number] mei desu.___名です)
Once you have been seated, you may need to use some of the following phrases:
#57 Do you have an English menu? (Eigo no menyu arimasu ka? 英語のメニューありますか。)
#58 What is this [while pointing]? (Kore ha nan desu ka?これは何ですか。)
When you have decided what you would like to order, you can simply state:
#59 [item] please. (____ onegaishimasu.＿＿お願いします。)
If you do not know the name of the item and would like to order just by pointing at the menu, you can use:
#60 I’d like to order [number] of [item]. ([item] wo [number] onegaishimasu.[item] を [number]お願いします。)
When your meal is over, your next step is to pay. Important phrases that can get you through this phase of the interaction include:
#61 Could we have the bill, please? (Okaikei kudasai. お会計ください。)
#62 Can I pay with a credit card? (Kurejitto kaado de daijoubu desu ka? クレジットカードで大丈夫ですか。)
In A Convenience Store
If you don’t feel like stopping by a restaurant, or if you’d just like a quick bite to eat or other item, the thousands of convenience stores (called konbini, short for konbiniensu sutoa, “convenience store”) that appear on nearly every street corner are ready to serve you.
The easiest meals in terms of simplicity will be bento boxes, or small boxes (in the cold section) that serve as a whole meal. If you pick one of those up and stand in line, you will almost always hear the following three phrases (to which you can answer yes or no, which keeps things simple):
#63 Next in line, please! (Otsugi no kata douzo! お次の方どうぞ。)
#64 Do you have a point card [a rewards card for the convenience store]? (Pointo ka-do ha omochi desu ka? ポイントカードはお持ちですか。)
#65 Would you like your bento warmed up? (Obento atatamemasu ka? お弁当温めますか。)
Getting Directions And Getting Lost
Almost inevitably, you’ll find yourself turned around once you start exploring. That’s not such a bad thing! Japan is full of small, tucked away secrets, and the people are eager to help you get back to a familiar place much more often than not.
If you need to ask directions, the phrases that will serve you best are:
#66 Where is [place]?( ____ ha doko desu ka?＿＿ はどこですか。)
#67 Can I ask you for directions? (Michi wo kiite mo ii desu ka? 道を聞いてもいいですか。)
#68 Can you help me? (Tasukete kudasaimasen ka? 助けてくださいませんか。)
In response, Japanese people are likely to use the following words:
#69 Next (totonari となり)
#70 In front of (mae 前)
#71 Behind (ushiro 後ろ)
#72 Nearby (chikaku 近く)
#73 North (kita 北)
#74 South (minami 南)
#75 East (higashi 東)
#76 West (nishi 西)
#77 Right (migi 右)
#78 Left (hidari 左)
#79 Street/road/path (michi 道)
#80 Bridge (hashi 橋)
#81 Corner (kado 角)
Thanks to the consistent presence of trains and other forms of public transport, you should feel emboldened to explore as much as you like. There will always be a train station or bus nearby where you can ask directions or head back to a familiar place!
Japanese Travel Phrases
So there you have it – 83 Japanese travel phrases to hit the ground running on your next trip to Japan. From the airport to the convenience store and from the hotel to Japanese restaurants these knowing these Japanese travel phrases will help you feel less like a tourist.
And who knows, maybe getting started with these Japanese travel phrases will be your gateway into learning the language.
By the way, if you'd like to learn some more Japanese phrases before your trip, make sure you check out this post on basic conversational Japanese for your first chat with a native speaker. You might also like this list of Japanese conversation starters.