20+ Words and Phrases to Help Kickstart Your Japanese!

20+ Words and Phrases to Help Kickstart Your Japanese!

Update: 18 January 2018

Are you going to Japan soon and are in need of a few useful Japanese phrases to help you on your trip? In need of a few Japanese phrases that will help you express your thoughts to your friends? If you don’t have time to sift through textbooks , listen to podcasts, or study with apps, this list of useful Japanese phrases is for you!

Use these phrases to convey your sincere appreciation to your Japanese acquaintances and friends, meet business associates, have a fun night out, or express your feelings to that special someone.

Everyday Phrases

Everyday Phrases

ありがとう!Arigatou!)― Thank you!
Sometimes a little bit goes a long way, and with arigatou, it’s a magic word filled with kindness. どうもありがとう. In a casual setting use どうも Doumo and in formal situations use the poltie form どうもありがとうございます Doumo arigatou gozaimasu.

感謝しています。Kansha shiteimasu.) ― I truly appreciate it.
When it feels like arigatou doesn’t convey your sincere feelings of gratitude, express your heartfelt thanks with kansha shiteimasu. It’s especially useful for when someone goes out of their way to guide you to your destination or when your lost items are returned to you.

頑張って!Ganbatte!)― Don’t give up!
If you’ve ever watched a Japanese TV show, anime, or sports game, you’ve no doubt heard ganbatte a million times over. You can use it to cheer on your favorite team as well as encourage your friend to reach their goals.

よくやってるね!Yoku yatteru ne!)― You’re doing great!
Let your friends know that their hard work does not go unnoticed. Congratulate them for keeping their cool despite tough times with this phrase that is sure to motivate them.

大丈夫!Daijoubu!) ― Everything’s going to be OK!
Daijoubu is an all-purpose word that can be used from everything from, “No thanks, I’m fine” to “I’m sure you’ll have better luck next time. Use daijoubu to give a friend positive energy and reassure them that things are going to be OK.

すみません。Sumimasen)― I’m sorry.
Given how crowded Tokyo can be, it’s easy to accidentally bump into someone. Use this phrase to let them know it was an accident. Sumimasen can also be used to grab the attention of a store clerk, or as a way to say “excuse me,” when asking for directions.

Restaurants & Izakaya

Restaurants & Izakaya

お願いします。Onegai shimasu.)― Excuse me!
Some Japanese restaurants and izakaya (Japanese-style bars) have bells on the table so you don't have to feel self conscious about shouting across a room full of people. The wait staff may come to your table to take your order if it looks like your party is settled in. But, if you need to grab staff’s attention, use Onegai shimasu.

乾杯! Kanpai!)― Cheers!
Before you down your glass of beer or Cola, get the party started with a heartfelt, Kanpai!

お冷ください。Ohiya kudasai.)― Water, please.
Use this when out with group of Japanese and you’re sure to be met with surprised looks. This old-school way of asking for water will even surprise your waiter or waitress!

割り勘で。Warikan de.)― Split the bill, please.
While some places may ask that you settle your bill in full, you can use this to let staff know that everyone will be paying separately. Do keep in mind some places have a gratuity added (お通し代-otoushidai or 席料 - sekiryou) so don't be surprised if your calculations are a bit off.

Business

Business

はじめまして。-- です。 (Hamijemashite. -- desu.)― I’m ○○. Nice to meet you.
When meeting someone for the first time, try to introduce yourself in Japanese, even if you can’t speak the language fluently. Being able to use a few key phrases shows your willingness to learn about Japanese culture and business practices.

いつもお世話になっております。 (Itsumo osewa ni natte orimasu.) ― Thank you for your continuous support.
Show your appreciation to business partners, your teachers, or figures of authority with this phrase. When writing an email or talking on the telephone, use it as an opening line to convey your sincerest thanks.

申し訳ございません。 (Moushiwake gozaimasen.)― I’m terribly sorry.
Whether you are apologizing for tardiness or an unexpected or unforeseen event, use moushiwake gozaimasen convey your deepest apologies. Tokyo’s extensive system of train, subways, and buses can be difficult to navigate, even for locals. Avoid arriving late to interviews and business meetings by familiarizing yourself with how to purchase tickets and carefully navigating your route.

恐れ入ります。Osore irimasu)― Thank you.
Lastly, address busines partners and clients with 恐れ入ります Osoreirimasu, which is perhaps the most formal way to say “thank you” in Japanese.

お疲れさまでした。Otsukaresama deshita.)― It's been a pleasure working with you today./Thank you for your cooperation.
Otsukaresama deshita is typically used at the end of the day, but you will also hear at throughout the day -- for example, at the end of a team meeting or after completing a project.

お先に失礼します。Osaki ni shitsurei shimasu.)― Sorry for leaving (work) before you.
This phrase is best used if you have to leave work early for unavoidable reasons, or if are leaving at your scheduled time while everyone else is still working away. Directly translated it means, “Sorry for leaving (work) before you.”

Phrases to Make Japanese Men Happy

Phrases to Make Japanese Men Happy

カッコいい!Kakkoi!)― You’re hot!
Get straight to the point and let your guy know what your really think about him by completing his brains, looks, fashion sense -- or all of the above!

さすがだね!Sasuga da ne!)― You’re incredible!
Win your way straight to his heart with this phrase. Praise your guy on his accomplishments by letting him know how much you acknowledge his talents. Rather than focusing on brute strength, this phrase goes well when used to show admiration for work or academic accomplishment.

いつも頼りにしてるよ。Itsumo tayori ni shiteru yo.)― I can always count on you.
Does your special guy always know how to cheer you up when you're down? You’ll feel like a heroine starring in your very own manga after letting your guy know how much you appreciate him through this phrase.

Phrases to Make Japanese Women Happy

Phrases to Make Japanese Women Happy

かわいい!Kawaii!) ― You’re adorable!
You may already be familiar with this word, but kawaii isn't just about youthful appearances and pink, fluffy items. Anything can be kawaii, from a hairstyle to the way one eats ice cream. Pick the most unexpected trait to call kawaii and you’re sure to bring a smile to her face.

気が利くよね!Ki ga kiku yo ne!)― That’s really thoughtful of you!
Loosely translated, ki ga kiku yo ne means something along the lines of,“You’re so thoughtful.” But its true meaning is more along the lines of describing a person who is aware of the needs of others and ready to act without being told explicitly what to do. Use this phrase to praise the “mind reader” in your life.

好き!Suki!)― I like you!
Get straight to the point by letting the woman in your life know how you feel about her. Whether you’re trying to win her over or if you’re already in an relationship, you can use suki to express your romantic feelings without feeling cheesy.

Written by:

Teni Wada

Teni Wada

American by birth, Japanese by choice, and traveler at heart, Teni Wada is a Tokyo-based content creator who enjoys browsing combini shelves for limited edition drinks and snacks. Find out more about her Tokyo life and travels over at Instagram @wadateni and blog babykaiju.com.

*This information is from the time of this article's publication.

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