When visiting Japan, there are several useful phrases you should probably know, as there may not be many Japanese people who speak English very fluently. But with these key phrases, whether shy or famous, any Japanese-speaking person you talk to will be sure to understand you.

Let’s look at some commonly used expressions for situations you may encounter when visiting Japan in the following example sentences, along with their meanings and usage.

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Greetings, Replies, and More! Basic Phrases for Smooth Conversation

The following are some essential, must-know phrases when communicating with Japanese people.

1. Ohayou-gozaimasu (おはようございます): Good morning
2. Kon’nichiwa (こんにちは): Hello (during daytime only)
3. Konbanwa (こんばんは): Good evening/hello (during evening/night)
In Japan, the words used in greeting vary depending on the time of day: morning, noon/daytime, and evening/night. In the mornings, say “Ohayou-gozaimasu” (lit. ‘Good morning), during the day say “Kon’nichiwa,” and in the evening/at night, “Konbanwa” (lit. ‘Good evening’).

4. Arigatou gozaimasu (ありがとうございます): Thank you
This is a phrase to express thanks and gratitude. You can shorten the phrase to “arigatou” in a casual situation, but “arigatou gozaimasu” is more polite. If somebody tells you “Arigatou gozaimasu,” you can reply with “Dou itashimashite (どういたしまして),” or “You’re welcome.”

5. Hai (はい): Yes
6. Iie (いいえ): No
Use “hai” as a positive/affirmative response in conversation. To deny or negate, say “iie,” or “no.”

7. Sumimasen (すみません): Excuse me
This useful phrase can be used as both an apology and as thanks, as well as to address a stranger or unfamiliar person. Its nuance is quite similar to the English equivalent “excuse me.”

Useful Phrases When Lost

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Here are some useful phrases for if you happen to lose your way. Even if this is the only thing you are able to say in Japanese, it will be much easier for someone to help you out.

8. O-tazune shite mo ii desu ka? (おたずねしてもいいですか?): May I ask you a question?
When asking someone for directions, this is a good phrase to begin the interaction with. Alternatively, you can use the previously mentioned “Sumimasen” (Excuse me). If they can help you, they will probably respond, “Hai, ii desu yo” (Yes, that’s fine), and stop to help you. But if they say “Gomen nasai” or “Sumimasen” (both meaning “I’m sorry”), they may not be able to…

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