For many visitors, Japan (日本) is a faraway, strange and very different country. It was just like that for me when I first visited. To help battle cultural differences and communication issues, it can be very helpful to know some Survival Japanese.
With this article, I want to introduce the overall “Japanese” category into my blog. In the future, more articles concerning the Japanese language will be released!
When reading through forums in the worldwide web, you can find many people who are worried about being able to communicate with Japanese people. Very understandable, since Japanese is very different from western languages.
For those of you also worrying about this: don’t stress it too much. The Japanese are very open-minded when it comes to tourists, especially in Tokyo (東京) or Osaka (大阪). In those cities, many people will try to speak English with you. Some might be a little shy about it, but generally people are really trying to help.
Train stations and street signs are also mostly available in English. So in theory, if you stay in big cities and mostly do popular stuff, you can get by with 0 Japanese.
However, as soon as you try visiting more rural areas or city outskirts, English will become very scarce. If communicating with locals is something you want to do, I highly recommend learning some basic Japanese.
The Japanese language
And that’s what we’ll do now!
First, let me say something about written Japanese. Most of you probably just see some weird little pictures instead of actual words. Everyone starts with that impression, but with a little work you can already achieve a lot. With that, you can also tell the difference between Japanese and Korean for example.
The Japanese language uses three alphabets: Hiragana (平仮名), Katakana (片仮名) and Kanji (漢字). I will cover all three in separate articles in the future.
The first two are relatively simple to learn. Kanji is where the real headache begins. Below, you can find the Hiragana table as an example.
As already mentioned, most signs are also available in English, so you probably won’t need to read all that much (unless you visit small bars/restaurants without English menus). I’ll still give you some important Kanji to remember down below.
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Survival Japanese – phrases
Now I’ll list you some basic phrases that will help you in your overall communication when ordering, etc.
Konnichiwa – こんにちは
Ohayou (informal) / Ohayou gozaimasu (formal) – おはよう / おはようございます
Konbanwa – こんばんは
How are you?
Genki? (informal) / Genki desu ka? (formal) – 元気? / 元気ですか?
Arigatou (informal) / Arigatou gozaimasu (formal) – ありがとう / ありがとうございます
Onegai shimasu/kudasai (when asking for something) / douzo (when offering something) – お願いします/下さい / どうぞ
Gomen (informal) / Gomen nasai (formal) – ごめん / ごめんなさい
Sumimasen/Suimasen (Tokyo) – すみません
This one, please (while pointing finger)
Kore, onegai shimasu – これ, お願いします
Where is the train station?
Eki wa dochira desu ka? -駅はどちらですか?
Where can I find a taxi?
Takushii wa doko desu ka? – タクシーはどこですか?
Where is …? (E.g. a hotel)
Hoteru (or anything else) wa doko desu ka? – ホテルはどこですか?
What is your recommendation? (if you don’t know what to eat)
Osusume wa nan desu ka? – お勧めは何ですか?
Do you accept credit cards?
Kureejitto kaado wa daijoubu desu ka? – クレジットカードは大丈夫ですか?
Restaurant – resutoran (レストラン)
Taxi – takushii (タクシー)
Train – densha (電車)
Train station – eki (駅)
Bus – Basu (バス)
Airport– Kuukoo (空港)
Survival Japanese – useful Kanji
Men – 男
Women – 女
Alcohol – お酒
Meat – 肉
Left – 左
Right – 右
Shinkansen – 新幹線
Temple – 寺
Shrine – 神社
Survival Japanese is a very useful tool to help you navigate your Japan trip. You don’t need to be super good at the language and your pronunciation doesn’t need to be perfect either.
All that matters is that you try to communicate with the locals and they will 100% appreciate the effort. Knowing just these few sentences that I gave you will make a huge difference. If you have a question to one of them or want to know additional ones, feel free to ask me!
As mentioned above, I will create more articles to cover the Japanese language from now on. Stay tuned!
That’s it for Survival Japanese, I hope it helped!
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See you there.