Basic Japanese words and phrases cheatsheet

Japanese words and phrases you can bring with you on your next trip to Japan
Basic Japanese words and phrases cheatsheet - Pat Kay Away

If you’re anything like me, you like to learn just a little bit of the local language whenever you’re travelling.

After all, learning how people communicate is one of the best ways to really start to understand a culture!

Having travelled to Japan many times, I’ve picked up a few basic Japanese words and phrases here and there, but just like everyone else, after awhile I forget 😅. So I need something to help me

Over these trips, I’ve come to realise which Japanese words and phrases I tend to use and hear often, and that’s where this cheatsheet comes in handy. Of course, it’s not like you need it – most cities in Japan speak English pretty well, plus pointing at things always works, but it’s nice to be a conscientious traveller anyway.

Romaji

I’m sure you’ve heard that Japanese is a very difficult language to learn and study, and it is. But thankfully for us English speakers, Japanese has been romanised into what’s called “Romaji”, which if you’re not super serious about learning everything there is to know about Japanese language, is more than enough to babble some words to communicate what you need to say.

Of course, it’s not a replacement for learning actual Japanese though.

Romaji breaks down pretty easily into English letters you can start to pronounce, but there’s a bit of a catch with how they pronounce vowels.

Pronunciation

Essentially, the vowels (A,E,I,O,U) are the same, but they’re pronounced differently. From there, you take the consonant that surrounds it and you can essentially pronounce the word (although the Japanese find consonants like “L”s etc difficult to pronounce).

It works like this:

A – Pronounced “Ah”. Like in “Far”.

E – Pronounced “Eh”. Like in “Edge”.

I – Pronounced “Ee”. Like in “See”.

O – Pronounced “Oh”. Like in “Moe”.

U – Pronounced “Oo”. Like in “Moo”.

So if you take the word “Sashimi”, it pronounces down into: Sahsheemee. Or if it’s the word “Atsui”, which means “Hot”, you would pronounce it as Ahtsooee.

Don’t worry, you’ll get it.

Here’s a list of common Japanese words and phrases

Yes – Hai

No – Iie (“iie”, pronounced “eeee-eh” …although you really don’t have to hold those first “e”s that long.)

Thank you – Arigatou

(A more polite way to say) Thank you – Arigatou gozaimasu

Thanks (but also can be used for hello or goodbye in the right context) – Domo

You’re welcome – Douitashimashite

Excuse me, sorry, pardon me or thank you for your trouble – Sumimasen

I am sorry – Gomennasai (give it some emotion)

After you (letting someone go first) – Dozo

That’s okay – Daijoubu desu

It’s good – Ii desu yo

That’s good – Ii ne (pronounced “eeee-neh”)

I’m well, thanks – Genki desu

Amazing – Sugoi (prepare to hear this a lot.)

Please – Kudasai (when casually requesting something), Onegaishimasu (for a more formal request)

Greetings

Good morning – Ohayo gozaimasu

Good afternoon – Konnichiwa

Good evening – Konbanwa

Good night (time for sleep) – Oyasumi nasai

Nice to meet you – Hajimemashite

Bye – Jaa ne or Mata ne

Goodbye (won’t see them for awhile) – Sayonara

Conveniences

Convenience store – Konbini

Supermarket – Suupaa

Restaurant – Resutoran

Toilet – Toire

Bathroom – Tearai

Hotel – Hoteru

Airport – Kuukou

Station – Eki (pronouced “eh-ki”. E.g: Shibuya Eki = Shibuya station)

Taxi – Takushi (pronouced “Tah-koo-shi”, almost like the English “Taxi”)

Food

Delicious – Oishii

Let’s eat, thanks for the food – Itadakimasu

Thank you for the food (after) – Gochisousama deshita

I’m hungry – Onaka ga sukimashita, Onaka suita (casual)

I don’t/ I cannot eat X – Taberaremasen (e.g: Sushi taberaremasen = I don’t eat sushi)

Cheers! – Kanpai! (give it some enthusiasm)

Water – Mizu (o mizu kudasai = Water, please!)

Beer – Bi ru

To drink – Nomimasu (combine with the “O” particle to show the object, E.g: biru o nomimasu = drink beer)

Ramen refill – Kaedama (you know, the important stuff)

Help

English – Eigo (pronouced “eh-ee-go”)

Do you speak English? – Eigo ga hanasemasu ka?

Can you help me? – tetsudatte itadakemasu ka?

I don’t know – Shirmasen

Where is it? – Dokodesu ka? (tip: combine this before a place. E.g: Shibyua-eki wa dokodesu ka? = Where is Shibuya station?)

Do you have X? – X Arimasu ka? (e.g: Ramen ga arimasu ka? = Do you have ramen?)

Why? – Doushite

What – Nani

I understand – Wakarimashita

I don’t understand – Wakarimasen

Helpful verbs

To go – Ikimasu

To eat – Tabemasu

To do – Shimasu (e.g: o hanami o shimasu = to go cherry blossom viewing)

To speak – Hanashimasu

Common adjectives

Amazing – Sugoi (prepare to hear this a lot.)

Happy – Ureshii

Okay – Daijoubu

Near – Chikai

Far – Tooi

Good – Ii (Pronounced “eeee”)

Bad – Warui

Fun – Tanoshii

Hot – Atsui

Cold – Samui

Numbers

One – Ichi

Two – Ni

Three – San

Four – Shi

Five – Go

Six – Roku

Seven – Nana

Eight – Hachi

Nine – Ku

Ten – Juu

100 – Hyaku

1000 – Sen

10000 – Man

Yen – En (E.g: “Hyaku en”)

Did I miss anything?

These are the most common Japanese words and phrases I use whenever I go back to Japan. What are yours? Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy travels.

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