10 extraordinarily useful Japanese phrases for travelers
SOME OF THESE JAPANESE PHRASES are practical. Some of them are funny. All 10 will greatly enhance your trip to Japan.
Note that all of the phrases are pretty informal, especially the one about crapping your pants. Also, I spell the phrases phonetically in the header, but spell them with the most common romanization of the Japanese characters when explaining a point.
Confused already? Don’t worry about it.
1. “Yo-ro-sh-ku o-neh-gai-shi-mus.”
This phrase is absolute magic. Say “yoroshiku” to any Japanese person in any situation and they will help you with anything and everything you need. It’s impossible to translate literally, but means something to the effect of, “Please do your best and treat me well.”
If you memorize nothing else before going to Japan, remember “yoroshiku” and you’re totally set. “Onegaishimasu” is a common word that means something similar to “please.”
2. “Yosh. Gahn-bah-di-mus.”
This phrase means something like, “OK, I’m going for it,” or “I’ll do my best.” A Japanese would say “Ganbarimasu” before taking a test or leaving the house for a job interview.
Japanese people will crack up if you say it before walking outside, eating noodles, or using a vending machine. Try saying it before using phrase #8.
3. “Ara! Onara suru tsu-mori datta keh-do, un-chi ga de-chatta.”
The literal translation of this useful phrase is, “Oops! I meant to fart but poop came out.”
Saying this never gets old, especially in public places, especially on a first date, and most especially if it’s clearly one of only 10 Japanese phrases that you’ve memorized.
When in Southeast Asia, I especially enjoy muttering in Japanese about crapping my pants while walking past Japanese tourists. The reactions are priceless.
4. “Mo da-meh. Yoh-para-chatta. Go-men.”
At some point during your stay, Japanese people will probably try to make you drink past your limit. That’s when this phrase comes in handy. It means something like, “No more, I’m already drunk, sorry.”
5. “Ko-ko wa do-ko? Wa-ta-shi wa da-reh? Na-ni mo wah-kah-nai.”
Where is this? Who am I? I don’t understand anything. This is what you say after failing to use phrase #4 in time.
6. “Ee-show ni kah-rah-o-keh ni ee-koh ka?”
Shall we go to karaoke together? This is a good line to use if trying to pick someone up from the bar. Think of karaoke as a transition point between the bar and the love hotel.
Note: Please don’t pronounce “karaoke” with lots of EEE sounds. It should sound like “kah-rah-o-keh,” not “carry-oh-key.”
7. “Hon-toe ni oh-ee-shee des yo!”
Use this one when eating. It means something like, “For real, it’s delicious!”
“Hontou ni” means “for real” or “really” or “I’m not kidding.” Japanese people are always telling sweet little white lies, so dropping a “hontou ni” from time to time is very much appreciated.
8. “Ah-nah-tah wa ha-ruh no ee-chee ban no sah-ku-rah yo-ree u-tsu-ku-shee.”
This classic Japanese pickup line means, “You’re more beautiful than the first cherry blossom of spring.”
9. “Ni-hon dai-skee.”
Japan is the best. I love Japan. When in doubt, just smile, nod, and repeat.
10. “Koh-nah ni kee-ray na to-ko-ro wa hah-jee-meh-teh mee-tah!”
Japanese people love it when you gush about their country. This phrase means, “I’ve never seen a place so beautiful before.” Bust it out at famous attractions and you’ll meet with instant approval.
This post was originally published on May 25, 2009.