Japanese words you “Must” know before you set foot in Japan

Planning a long trip to Japan or going for a short one, either ways learning basic Japanese is a must. Japanese culture is unique in its own ways whether it’s the food, the dress or the way they say hello. According to a recent survey, only 25% of the tourists in Japan know basic Japanese and end up getting lost or eating the wrong food. A poor state indeed and I totally sympathize with them. Make sure you read these important Japanese words so you don’t suffer a similar fate.

Hai or Iie

Nodding or shaking your head is considered a rude gesture sometimes so make sure you know the basic Yes and No in Japanese. “Hai” means Yes and “iie” means no in Japan.


There are several greetings in Japan. If you greet Japanese locals in their own language, it gives you a sense of belonging and they also treat you with more respect and are very eager to offer hospitality.

  • Ohayou Gozaimasu — good morning
  • Kon-nichiwa — good afternoon
  • Oyasuminasai — good night
  • Konbanwa — good evening


If you are in a rush, say “domo” if you are grateful to someone or you can also say “Arigato Gozaimasu” which is the longer version of thank you.

Excuse Me!

Often there is a lot of rush in Japanese shops specially the open Japanese markets and if you want the shopkeeper to be attentive to you, you can loudly say “Sumimasen” which means excuse me in English. This word can also be used as apology if you bump into someone accidentally.

What? Where?

If you are going to this beautiful country for the first time, you might need to ask some questions from the locals even if you have maps and guides. These sentences will help you:

  • Nanji desuka? — asking for the current time
  • Korewa nan desuka? — asking what a certain object is
  • Wa doko desuka? — asking for direction
  • Ikura desuka — how much is the item/service

See you later

This is the most common Japanese word that is often heard even outside Japan. Sayonara or see you later is said when seeing off guests in Japan.

Help me!

Japanese locals are very hospitable and accommodating when it comes to helping someone and if you ask them for help in their own language saying “ Tasukete” they are sure to stop by and help you even if they have a meeting to catch.

What? I don’t understand!

Japanese locals are very expressive and talkative people. Once you strike up a conversation they will be doing the talking and you will be just nodding and smiling, they love to tell tales and stories. So if they are speaking fast just say “Wakarimasen” meaning I don’t understand as a polite gesture.

Learn these easy words, and I am affirmative your travelling in Japan will be a piece of cake.