Travelling in a foreign country can be daunting, especially if you don’t know the language. While a one-year preparatory course isn’t necessary for just a week or so in a foreign land, learning a few key words and phrases is certainly recommended.

Some time ago, travel culture website Matador Network put together a list of “10 Extraordinarily Useful Japanese Phrases for Travelers“, a mostly tongue-in-cheek collection of phrases which, while at times giving some useful material, is probably more suited for those looking to jazz up their Japanese than it is for the average traveler. For that reason, perhaps, the list recently caught the eye of Japanese net users and has been garnering a lot of attention in the language’s homeland.

Check out the list below and see what you can use!

The original writer behind the list sensibly offers a word of caution before his article, stating: “SOME OF THESE JAPANESE PHRASES are practical. Some of them are funny. All 10 will greatly enhance your trip to Japan.” Since we like to think of ourselves as being fairly handy with the Japanese language (though we’re no Secret Ninjas…), we took a look at each one and made our own judgments.

1. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu. [よろしく おねがいします。]

Often translated as “Please treat me well”, this simple phrase is probably the one you will hear and use the most. Said when introducing yourself to someone for the first time, it is also used when making requests or asking favors of someone. For travellers it’s probably not going to be all that handy, but if you’re here for work or doing a homestay you’d do well to break this one out during your first meeting with your hosts.

2. Yosh, ganbarimasu! [よしっ、がんばります!]

Meaning “Alright, I’ll do my best!”, this phrase is used before starting something challenging, like heading off to an interview, a sports match, a test… Not a really useful travel phrase, though it might elicit a few laughs if you use it before you dig into a plate of something questionable, like a stinky, slimy pile of natto.


Image: FreeDigitalPhotos/ photostock

3. Ara? Onara suru tsumori datta kedo, unchi ga dechatta. [あら?おなら する つもり だった けど、 うんちが でちゃった。]

Hats off to Matador Network for including this ‘phrase’, which literally means “Oops. I meant to fart, but some poop came out.” The original writer of this list claims that when travelling Southeast Asia he “especially enjoy[s] muttering in Japanese about crapping [his] pants while walking past Japanese tourists” to see their reactions. Unless you’re looking to be the object of concerned and disgusted glances, you may want to save this for your friends who might appreciate the potty humor. Or just not use it at all. Still, you never know…

4. Mou dame. Yopparacchatta. Gomen. [もう だめ。よっぱらっちゃった。ごめん。]

“No more. I’m drunk. Sorry.” Going out drinking with a group of Japanese people can be a risky adventure. Depending on the crowd, you may find yourself receiving a refill despite the fact that you’re not even halfway through your drink. If you don’t want to wake up face-down on ground outside the station the next morning, this phrase can come in handy for warding off an unending onslaught of alcohol.

5. Koko wa doko? Watashi wa dare? Nani mo wakannai. [ここは どこ? わたしは だれ? なにも わかんない]

“Where am I? Who am I? I don’t know anything.” In case you fail to use the previous phrase and do end up face down on a bench in an unknown neighborhood, this will certainly get across your confusion, though it probably won’t get you any help from passersby. The phrases can of course be used individually, should you not, in fact have completely lost your memory.


Image: FreeDigitalPhotos/ Phaitoon

6. Issho ni karaoke ni ikou ka? [いっしょに からおけに いこうか?]

Meaning “Shall we go to karaoke together?” the original writer of this list describes the phrase as “a good line to use if trying to pick someone up from the bar. Think of karaoke as a transition point between the bar and the love hotel.” But here’s a pro-tip from yours truly: have some more class, guys!

7. Hontou ni oishii desu yo! [ほんとうに おいしい ですよ!]

Here’s one that is actually worth remembering, and will put you in a good place with your host for your good manners. Meaning “It’s really delicious!”, this one can be shortened to simply “Oishii desu!” However, the “hontou ni” adds more emphasis, and can be used when you try something you particularly enjoy. Alternatively, you could add “sugoku” or “totemo” instead.

8. Anata wa haru no ichiban no sakura yori utsukushii desu. [あなたは はるの いちばんの さくら より うつくしい です。]

“You are more beautiful than the first cherry blossom of spring.” I wouldn’t recommend using this pick-up line in earnestness, as your attempt at being poetic might get you laughed at instead. Think along the idea as the “Heaven called, they said they’re missing an angel” pick-up line. But, hey, the Japanese enjoy a good laugh as much as the rest of us, so this might even work!


Image: FreeDigitalPhotos/ taesmileland (edited by RocketNews24)

9. Nihon daisuki. [にほん だいすき]

“I love Japan.” Can’t really go wrong with this one, and it will definitely make your Japanese host or friends glad to hear you’re enjoying your stay.

10. Konna ni kirei na tokoro wa hajimete mita! [こんなに きれいな ところは はじめて みた!]

“I’ve never seen a place this beautiful before!” It might sound a bit cheesy, but if you actually mean it when you say it, and say it with sincerity, it will be well received. Since it does carry a rather strong feeling with it, you probably do only want to save it for a place that is actually breath-takingly beautiful. Otherwise, a simple “Kirei!” (“It’s beautiful!”) will suffice.

Obviously, the writer behind the list meant for it to be humorous, though most of the commenters seemed unimpressed and disappointed at its lack of actual useful phrases. For me, I think a simple please (kudasai; onegaishimasu) and thank you (arigatou gozaimasu) can get you far in any country, so if you have those down you’ll probably be able to get by in Japan, a country whose people are generally very patient and accommodating.

But what other essentials should visitors learn? Japan veterans, what words and phrases would you have put on the list if you were writing it? If you’ve never been to Japan before, what do you think would help you get around? Let us know in the comments section below!

Source: Matador Network via Yurukuyaru
Top image: FreeDigitalImages/ num_skyman