Visiting Japan is a mesmerizing experience. Between its modern skyscrapers and ancient temples, its unique blend of tradition and innovation captures the hearts of travelers worldwide. But like any foreign country, a trip to Japan becomes more rewarding when you can communicate, even just a little, in the native tongue. Machine translation can be a lifesaver especially when you are in trouble, but the act of trying to speak Japanese, even if it’s just a few phrases, often earns appreciation from locals and creates more genuine interactions.
While there’s an abundance of Japanese phrases and expressions to learn, we’ll focus on some fundamental ones that every traveler to Japan should know.
One of the most essential phrases in any language, “ありがとう (arigatou)” means “thank you”, and adding “ございます (gozaimasu)” makes it more polite. Use this phrase liberally; whether you’re receiving help or acknowledging someone’s kindness. Japanese culture places great emphasis on gratitude, and this phrase will be your constant companion.
Or, it’s also possible that you are thanked by someone in Japan. When they say to you, “Arigatou gozaimasu,” the expression corresponding to “Your welcome” in Japanese is “どういたしまして (Douitashimashite).”
Before diving into a delicious bowl of ramen or sushi, it’s customary to say “いただきます (itadakimasu)”, which can translate to “I humbly receive”, albeit not a perfect correspondence. It’s an expression of gratitude for the meal and the hands that prepared it.
Once you finish eating, express your satisfaction and gratitude with “ごちそうさまでした (gochisousama deshita)”, meaning (literally) “it was a feast”. These expressions enrich the dining experience and show respect to those who made it possible.
These expressions are not something formal or ceremonial. It’s very common to casually say these phrases before and after a meal. However, saying these phrases at the moment will be considered very polite and nice, so practice the phrases a few times just before visiting a restaurant in Japan. Plus, it’s also nice to say “Gochisousama deshita” to the staff in the restaurant where you had a good time when you leave there. It will entail the nuance of “Thank you for a good feast”.
As versatile as it is essential, “すみません (sumimasen)” is the Swiss-army knife of Japanese expressions. Need to grab a waiter’s attention? Sumimasen. Bumped into someone on a crowded subway? Sumimasen. Asking for directions? Start with Sumimasen. This phrase is your go-to for apologies, getting attention, and polite interruptions.
Actually, “sumimasen” can be used as “Thank you”. For example, when someone does you a favor and you feel that you owe him/her for it, you can say “Sumimasen.” In this case, the “thank-you nuance” stems from the expression of being sorry for bothering him/her by having you do that. Having said that, when you feel grateful for a kind behavior of someone, it’s much better to simply say “Thank you” or “Arigatou gozaimasu.” However, just remember that some Japanese people may say “Sumimasen”, sounding like “I’m sorry,” when you do them a favor, and all you have to say is, “Your welcome” or “Douitashimashite.”
Directly translating this phrase is a bit tricky, but it generally means “I’m counting on you” or “please.” It’s used in various situations, such as when making a request, introducing yourself, or concluding a business meeting. It’s a phrase of goodwill, entrusting something to someone, or seeking a favor.
For example, when you have ordered something in a restaurant and a waiter has accepted it, you can add to the order, “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.” The general rule is, when you request something, you can add this phrase to the end of it. In that sense, we might say that this phrase is something like “Thank you (in advance)”.
Or, when you introduce yourself, you can also add to it, “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu.” This is because you are expecting a good relationship with him/her. If you are said “Yoroshiku onegaishimasu” when you introduce yourself, let’s say, “こちらこそ よろしくおねがいします (Kochirakoso yoroshiku onegaishimasu)”, which can be, if needed, translated as something like “That’s my word; I’m looking forward to being with you”.
With these phrases in your arsenal, you’re well-equipped to navigate many social situations in Japan. Of course, the nuances of a language are vast, and there’s always more to learn. But by starting with these expressions, you’re showing a willingness to connect with the Japanese culture. You don’t have to worry about making mistakes. Just show your respect to them. That’s the most valuable aspect of communication between us, isn’t it?
Of course, as I mentioned above, it’s not a bad idea to use a translation machine or such a tool. However, what you can’t miss about using such a tool is that the machine often takes an Internet connection. Therefore, the need to stay connected digitally while traveling cannot be overstated. A portable wifi device or a sim card ensures you can access maps, translation apps, and stay in touch with loved ones, making your journey smoother and more enjoyable.
Are you unsure what plan will be the best for you? Let’s check the comparison and benefits of the pocket WiFi device.
So, as you prepare for your Japanese adventure, remember these phrases, and consider the peace of mind a reliable internet connection can offer. Dive deep into the culture, the language, and the remarkable experiences waiting for you in the salad bowl of the entire gamut of cultures. Safe travels!