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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Survival Japanese

You don't need to know Japanese to travel in Japan, but it sure does help a lot if you do know some Japanese (and it would be appreciated by Japanese people since some are scared of foreigners due to the language barrier). Unless you are a linguistic genius, it'll usually take people years to learn Japanese.
But what if you have an opportunity to go travel in Japan soon than later? How will you be able to learn Japanese in that limited amount of time? You can't, and that's why I'm here to tell you the survival Japanese you should remember. I did a post on the Japanese you should know if you're trying to learn but this article is going to be talking specifically about Japanese that will make or break you in Japan.

Yes, there are people in Japan who know English, but the further out you go into the countryside and smaller cities you'll have to start being Japanese savvy. So here are my recommend phrases for survival Japanese.


Sumimasen has multiple meanings which makes it a very useful word to learn. It can be used as a sorry, excuse me, or a thank you. Here are scenarios: you bump into someone, you're trying to get someone's attention, someone stops what they're doing to help you with directions. Sumimasen is perfect to use in those situations.

Ii desu ka

This is a question phrase. Ii desu ka is asking if "it's okay." A big mistake foreigners are guilty of (including myself when I first went to Japan) is taking pictures of people without permission. Not only are some Japanese people shy, but they also like their privacy. So now with this handy phrase you can ask if it's ok while giving them a gesture of wanting to take a picture. They let you know if it's ok or not and you can proceed from there. Another scenario is that a lot of store may have samples you can try. Just point at the samples and ask Ii desu ka and they'll let you know if it's ok to have one.

Doko desu ka

Another question phrase, but very important. Doko is Japanese for "where." So this phrase is asking where something is. If you have a map or phone you can show someone you can just point to where you want to go and ask "doko desu ka." But if you don't, just add the place you are looking for before the phrase. An example is Tokyo eki doko desu ka. Translation: Where is Tokyo station. You'll never have to fear about getting lost in Japan with this phrase.
I couldn't tell you how many times I've asked for directions to Fushimi Inari in Kyoto before finally finding out there's a train that brings you right to it.

Iie keko desu

This is how you say "no thank you" in Japanese. It may seem like a mundane phrase to know but Japanese sales people can be a bit pushy at times, just like the American beauty clerks I see in the mall and avoid like the plague. This is a polite way to of telling someone no. You'll see people in the streets giving out tissues or flyers. If you don't want to carry it around all day (because it is hard to find a trash can in Japan) you can just say "Iie keko desu" and they won't be offended and will actually be very happy that you spoke to them in Japanese. This phrase also works if a person is trying to talk to you and you just don't want to be bothered with. Even if you don't know what they're saying you can always say "Iie keko desu" and they'll get the picture that you want to be left alone.
Tissues that were being handed out in the streets. This is an aspect of advertisement in Japan.

If you know these 4 phrases perfectly, you'll have no troubles in Japan. We'll call it "super, fast Japanese!" Of course there are tons of other useful phrases out there that will help you get more involved with the people but this is specifically survival Japanese.

I hope you enjoyed this blog post. Thank you for reading! If you'd like to learn more about Japan or just wanna chat please follow me on all my social media outlets such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.