Let’s talk Japanese in Tokyo

It’salways wise to learn some local languages when you travel.It getsyou closer to the local cultureand eases the pain of any language barriers. For example, if you get lost in the street and suddenly start talking to a Japanese person in English or another foreign language, the locals may be frightened. Here you can learn a few handy words and phrases in Japanese to help you through any hassles.


Kanji will come in very handy.

Kanji (standard) Reading Meaning
入口 Iriguchi Entrance
出口 Deguchi Exit
非常口 Hijōguchi Emergency exit
東, 西, 南, 北 Higashi, Nishi, Minami, Kita East, west, south, north
右, 左 Migi, Hidari Right, left
右折, 左折 Usetsu, Sasetsu Right turn, left turn
渋滞 Jūtai Traffic jam
危険 Kiken Danger
故障 Kosho Out of order
禁煙 Kin’en No smoking
大, 中, 小 Dai, Chū, Shō Large, medium, small
大人, 子供 Otona, Kodomo Adult, child
強, 中, 弱 Kyō, Chū, Jaku High, medium, low
開, 閉 Akeru,  Shimeru Open, close
Aki Vacant


There are lots of exits at large railway stations.

For example, east exit is “東口” (higashiguchi), west exit is “西口” (nishiguchi), south exit is “南口” (minamiguchi) and north exit is “北口” (kitaguchi).


Other handy phrases.

Phrase Pronunciation Meaning
こんにちは Konnichiwa Hello
おはようございます Ohayougozaimasu Good morning
こんばんは Konbanwa Good evening
さようなら Sayōnara Goodbye
ありがとう Arigatō Thank you
すみません Sumimasen Excuse me, sorry
はい、いいえ Hai, iie Yes, no
英語ができますか Eigogadekimasuka Do you speak English?
中国語ができますか Chūgokugogadekimasuka Do you speak Chinese?
分かりません Wakarimasen I don’t know
いくらですか Ikuradesuka How much is this?
トイレはどこですか Toirewadokodesuka Where is the toilet?
駅はどこですか Ekiwadokodesuka Where is the station?
どうぞ dōzo Please (offering something)
お願いします onegaishimasu Please (requesting something)


If you are lost in the street, try the following phrase when asking a Japanese person for help:

“Konnichiwa! Sumimasen ‘JR Ueno Eki’ wadokodesuka.” This translates to “Hello! Excuse me, where is ‘JR Ueno Station’?” If the person’s explanation of where to go is too difficult to follow, you should just try walking in the direction they pointed. Then after walking for a little while, ask the same question to a different person. You’ll eventually find your way to your destination!


Let’s use “Onegaishimasu”.

You can make polite requests by putting whatever you want with “onegaishimasu”.

Pronunciation Meaning
お願いします Onegaishimasu Please
コーヒー Kōhī Coffee
Mizu Water
英語のメニュー Eigo no menyu English menu
中国語のメニュー Chugokugo no menyu Chinese menu
タクシー Takushī Taxi
東京駅 Tokyo eki Tokyo Station


“Kōhīonegaishimasu” –“Could I get a coffee, please?”

“Mizuonegaishimasu” – “Could I get some water, please?”

“Eigo no menyuonegaishimasu” – “Could I get an English menu, please?”

“Chugokugo no menyuonegaishimasu” – “Could I get a Chinese menu, please?”

“Takushionegaishimasu” – “Could you please get a taxi for me?”

“Tokyo ekionegaishimasu” – “Please take me to Tokyo Station.”


Learning greetings and useful phrases in the language of the country you’re visiting can provide a real sense of satisfaction and belonging when you communicate with the locals. This couldn’t be more true than in Japan.

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