So flights are booked, your accommodation is sorted and your bags are packed. You are figuring out the last details for your trip and then it dawns on you. You dont speak a word of Japanese.
Here is a couple of real useful phrases to get you on your way and great apps to get some practice in before you touch down in the land of the rising sun.
The classic Konichiwa most people know this one which just means hello.
kudasai – please. The way to ask for anything in Japan is to say the name of the thing you want first and then tack ‘o kudusai’ on the end. For example, Beer o kudusai. This is a lot simpler than asking ‘Can I have a beer please’. Substitute anything you like such as Wine o kudusai, Ticketta o kudusai.
sumimasen – excuse me. You will hear this a lot great to use at busy train stations when wheeling big ski bags past everyone.
desu ka – is it? This is put on the end of the phrase or sentence to ask a question. Even though they write it as ‘desu’ the ‘u’ on the end is silent, so it’s pronounced ‘dess.’ For example, Myoko bus desu ka? Is this the Myoko bus? Toyko Shuttle bus des ka? Is this the Tokyo Shuttle Bus? This is not perfect Japanese but everyone understands it.
ga arimas ka – do you have it. Just like the previous example by putting the ‘ka’ on the end you can make a question. Say the thing you want first and then put ga arimaska on the end. For example, ‘coffee ga arimaska’ do you sell coffee? Mizo ga arimas ka – do you have water?
O genki desu ka – how are you? Generally the reply will be always genki desu. Its similar to, how’s it going? Just like Aussies and Kiws say ‘how are you? Instead of hello, the Japanese love it.
Doko desu ka -where is it? Once again with the Japanese word order you put the thing you want to know about first- Bussu Stoppo, doko desu ka? Where is the bus stop? Eiki, doko des ka? Where is the train station?
ikuradesu ka How much is it? Putting it into the right Japanese word order you get, Tokyo Bussu Ticket, ikuradesu ka. How much is the Tokyo bus ticket? Now unless you are really good at Japanese you won’t understand the reply but most ticket offices will write it down for you or if you are at a supermarket the assistant will turn the cash register display around so you can see it.
ichi-ni-san- yon- go- roku-nana- hachi-ku ju– ( 1-10) Counting from one to ten is important in any language although the Japanese are pretty good at it. It helps if you need 3 rooms or 4-tickets, 6 beers
domo arigato thank you, and thank you very much. I have left this until last because it is one of the first words people learn in Japan, however it is one of the most important in a country which prides itself on politeness. It is usually accompanied by a bow. In fact, I use this so much in Japan that I am often bowing to people when I get home many weeks after I get back.
Here are a couple of great apps to get you on your way the Duolingo is great for all languages and the free version is good.
Rocket languages is another great app but are limited on the free version if you are serious about your Japanese it is worth the investment
If you wanted some one on one Japanese lessons Italki is a great website where you can have Japanese lessons online with local speakers ranging from $5 to $15 for a 1 hour lesson. Hope this helps if you have any other suggestions drop them in the comment box below.