Stop being lazy: It’s time to learn Survival Japanese

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Travel is exciting. We plan our vacation itinerary. We make advance bookings before the best deal runs out. We check for the weather forecast. We spend much time for preparation and we think nothing should go wrong. Then it’s time to explore, but getting to your destination seems to take a longer time than expected. This is especially true for first-timers in Japan. Then, most of us will whip out our smartphones to look at the map.

What if your answer was not to be found in maps or the Internet, but in asking? Let’s face it, online maps do have limitations. Some places in rural and urban will not show up on the map due to lack of information. On top of that, hidden places are common in Japan, so how are you supposed to find them? This is why asking directions from a local will help you – a lot.

Wait, speaking? But I don’t speak Japanese. Body language works to some extent, but if you need to communicate a specific information, learning some survival phrases will save you hassles. In this article, I will share with you some conversation tips and some useful Japanese phrases.


Conversation with a Local

When approaching a stranger for directions, you can say this:

すみません、Xへ行きたいです。
Sumimasen, X e ikitai desu.
Excuse me, I want to go to X. 

どうやっていったらいいですか?
Doyatte ittara ii desu ka?
How can I go there?

Note:
You can replace X with the place you want to go, for example: Tokyo 東京

If you are not at least an intermediate level Japanese speaker, you will have the problem understanding the answer you get if they answer in Japanese.

In this case, it is wise to let them know you don’t understand Japanese or you only speak English. That will make sense for them to answer you in English or using body language. To tell them about this, you can say the following:

日本語分かりません。英語で話して下さい。
Nihongo wakarimasen. Eigo de hanashite kudasai.
I don’t understand Japanese. Please speak English.

When you don’t understand their explanation, or if they are speaking too fast, you can say this:

もう一度言ってください。
Mo ichido itte kudasai.
Please say it again.

もっとゆっくり言ってください。
Motto yukuri itte kudasai.
Please say it more slowly.

After they give you the directions, be honest in letting them know if you understand what they mean. You can let them know by saying:

はい、分かります。
Hai, wakarimasu.
Yes, I understand.

すみません、分かりません。
Sumimasen, wakarimasen.
Sorry, I don’t understand.

After the local give you the direction you need, remember to appreciate them by saying:

ありがとうございます。
Arigatou gozaimasu.
Thank you.


The Toilet Question

It may be an embarrassing question to ask for some of us, but it’s a question we can’t live without!

When mother nature calls, just say:

トイレはどこですか。
Toire wa doko desu ka?
Where’s the toilet?

With this phrases and questions, you are almost ready to ask for directions in Japanese!

On top of what was written above, you can walk the extra mile to learn simple Japanese words. This will help you to understand Japanese people if they talk to you in Japanese. Here are some vocabularies:

どこ

doko

where?

eki

(train) station

地下鉄

chikatetsu

subway

出口

deguchi

exit

入口

iriguchi

entrance

バス

basu

bus

タクシー

takushii

taxi

住所

juusho

address

電車

densha

train

And here are vocabularies for directions:

migi

right

hidari

left

ue

up

shita

down

kita

north

minami

south

西

nishi

west

higashi

east

まっすぐ

massugu

go straight

Although the situation mentioned above is general for asking directions from a local, at times, a different situation may arise. In this case, you can use the phrases and question below to adapt into your conversation.

すみません、駅はどこですか? Sumimasen, eki wa doko desu ka? Excuse me, where is the (train) station?
出口はどこですか? Deguchi wa doko desu ka? Where is the exit?
このバスは東京タワーに行きますか? Kono basu wa Tokyo Tower ni ikimasu ka? Does this bus go to Tokyo Tower?
タクシー乗り場はどこですか? Takushi noriba wa doko desu ka? Where is the taxi stand?
この住所までお願いします。 Kono juusho made onegai shimasu. Please take me to this address.
ここで止まって下さい。 Koko de tomatte kudasai. Please stop here.
迷ってしまいました。手伝ってくれますか? Mayotte shimai mashita. Tetsudatte kuremasuka? I’m lost. Can you help me?

Study Tips

There are a few methods that will help you to memorise these vocabulary and phrases. You can:

  • Write it down in a notebook and carry it around when you travel
  • Memory cards
  • Watch YouTube videos of survival Japanese
  • Read the phrases out loud every day

And that’s it! I hope you get the hang of learning Japanese and getting around in Japan!

JAPAN WALKER SEA Editorial Team
JAPAN WALKER SEA Editorial Team
A fun-loving group of editorial team on the mission to introduce Japanese culture and lifestyle to the masses.

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