There are many places in Japan where other languages aren't available or easily understood. In order to make your trip as great as possible and lessen the frustration of not being understood, here are some phrases you should know. These phrases cover meals, photography, transportation, and even ATM locations. Please use these phrases if you find yourself in the right situation!
- A phrase you'll be asked at restaurants if you want take-out: Tennai de omeshiagari ni narimasu ka?
- When you want someone to take your photo, please say "shashin wo totte kudasai"
- A phrase used at convenience stores: "atatamete kudasai"
- When you want to try on clothes, ask "shichaku shitemo ii desu ka?"
- If you're out too late you might miss the last train. In those cases, ask "shuuden wa nanji desu ka?"
A phrase you'll be asked at restaurants if you want take-out: Tennai de omeshiagari ni narimasu ka?
You will hear "tennai de omeshiagari ni narimasu ka?" and "omochikaeri ni narimasu ka?" often in fast food restaurants and cafes. If you want to eat in, you can respond with just "tennai de," but if you want to take out please say "mochikaeri de." However, please be aware that not all restaurants offer takeout.
When you want someone to take your photo, please say "shashin wo totte kudasai"
When you're traveling, sometimes you'd like photos that aren't just selfies, but a proper full-body photo. Maybe you want a photo with your whole group! In those cases, you can ask a nearby Japanese person "shashin wo totte kudasai" and they will probably help you. You can also ask "shashin wo tottemo ii desu ka?" After they take the photo, don't forget to properly thank them by saying "arigatou gozaimashita." You'll be able to make even better memories not just of the photo but of the situation the photo was taken in.
A phrase used at convenience stores: "atatamete kudasai"
If you get tired of eating at restaurants, why not try a Japanese convenience store? Japanese convenience stores are known around the world for how useful they are. One thing they offer that Japanese people utilize daily are their bento meals. When you buy one and want it heated up, please be sure to say "atatamete kudasai." Pretty much all convenience stores have microwaves for this purpose. When you pay for your bento, you will most likely be asked "atatamemasu ka?" to which you can answer "atatamete kudasai" or a simple "hai." You will receive your bento hot and ready for eating.
When you want to try on clothes, ask "shichaku shitemo ii desu ka?"
A lot of people want to shop for clothing and Japanese fashion items when they visit. However, since you may not know your size, it's best to try it on. In Japan, it's expected that you ask a store attendant before going into the fitting room, so please make sure to use this phrase before trying something on. You may get into trouble if you walk into the fitting room without asking! Please ask a nearby employee "shichaku shitemo ii desu ka?" if you find something you like, and they will escort you to the fitting room.
If you're out too late you might miss the last train. In those cases, ask "shuuden wa nanji desu ka?"
Because Japan's public transportation shuts down over night, if you get too excited and stay out too late you might be stuck away from your hotel with few options to get back. In order to avoid that, please make sure to ask "shuuden wa nanji desu ka?" This is how to ask what time the last train or bus leaves. You can ask a nearby station attendant and they'll be able to answer you easily. However, make sure you're not at risk of missing it while you're asking!
When you don't have money, ask "kaado wa tsukaemasu ka?" and "ATM wa doko desu ka?"
When you're on a trip and you buy too many souvenirs, you might find yourself without any cash! When you want to use a credit card, make sure to ask the attendant in advance "kaado tsukaemasu ka?" Many stores and restaurants in Japan do not accept credit cards, so ask this before you pay to know if you can use it. If they say "hai" then there's no problem. However, if they say "iie," ask "ATM wa doko desu ka?" This is how to ask where the ATM is so you can withdraw cash. If you're in a big city then you should be able to easily find useable ATMs at almost all times of the day, but if you're in smaller cities or out in the country side it will probably be very difficult. Please carry plenty of money with you to avoid a troubling situation.
There are many Japanese people who get nervous when spoken to in a different language and that in turn frustrates the confused traveler. If you use even just a little Japanese, your communication with Japanese people will go more smoothly and you can find solutions and avoid problems much easier. Please remember these phrases on your trip.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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