5 phrases you need to learn to survive in Japan 5 phrases you need to learn to survive in Japan Japan Travel Guides SHARE Ricky , June 16, 2014 / 0 Japan is one of the few countries in the world where as a visitor you truly feel that you are out of your comfort zone – everything is written in characters that you can’t read and once you are out of the main tourist areas you won’t find many people that speak much English. One of the complicating factors is that there are some regional variations in the way that Japanese is spoken – different greetings or phrases may be used depending on where you are. However if you are armed with a few of the key common phrases you will be able to get by in most situations – plus you will need to smile a lot and use a few charades and some mime, but learning a few phrases is definitely a good place to start. Phrase 1: Hello When you are meeting new people one of the most important things is to know how to properly greet them. The easiest and most common greeting to use is konnichiwa. Japanese people also use a lot of bowing as a sign of respect, so your greeting should generally be accompanied by a bow – the deeper that you bow the more respect that you are showing the other person. Don’t stress too much about getting the bowing exactly right though as the Japanese are pretty forgiving to foreigners when it comes to etiquette. If you are answering your phone, the correct phrase to use is “moshi moshi”which is pretty cool. Phrase 2: Please and Thank you The Japanese people do seem to be incredibly polite in every situation. For example, if you are buying something in a store there seems to be a lot of dialogue that the store clerk has to get through for each transaction. If you watch the locals though it doesn’t seem like you need to respond to everything that they’re saying – a simple nod or an affirmation of “hai” (“yes”) is generally sufficient. The key ones that you need to have ready are Please: “onegai”; and Thank you is: “arigatōgozaimasu”. Throw a few small bows in for good measure – they never go astray. Phrase 3: Excuse me Being able to say “excuse me” (“sumimasen”) is always good to know for a whole range of situations, but in Japan it is essential if you want to get some service in a restaurant. Most restaurants in Japan seem to operate a little different to how they work in other countries – generally the waiters will leave you alone unless you make it clear that you want to order something, and the way that you do that is by shouting out: “sumimasen!” This isn’t being rude, it’s just being clear that you need some assistance from the waiter – shout loudly, if you sit there politely trying to catch someone’s eye as they pass then you will go hungry. Phrase 4: I’m a vegetarian Japan does a lot of really great vegetarian food, however they will generally assume that everyone is okay with a bit of meat in their diet. You need to point out when you are ordering your food that you are a vegetarian: “watashi wa saishokushugisha desu”. If you are a really strict vegetarian or vegan you are going to need to be fairly vigilant – for example, you might order a vegetarian ramen but it will be cooked in pork or chicken stock. Your okonomi-yaki may not have any meat in it but it will come topped with bonito flakes. The restaurant may interpret vegetarian as no meat but still laden your plate with seafood. Dumplings are delicious, but they are generally not vegetarian. It’s going to be a challenge. Phrase 5: Cheers! The Japanese really like their booze – they make really good beer and you are going to want to try the local sake and shochu. Like in any culture, you need to get familiar with the drinking culture of the country that you are visiting. In Japan it is pretty simple – you just need to raise your glass and say “kanpai!”. Kanpai literally translates as “dry glass”, a simple encouragement to finish that drink so that it can filled up again and again and again. Get ready to immerse yourself in the fascinating world that is Japan. The food is great, the people are friendly, and with a few key phrases in your back pocket you should be able to cope with any situation you are faced with. If all else fails then a big smile will go a long way.