How to Survive Your Short Stay in Japan (Learning Japanese the Easy Way)

Learning Japanese the Easy Way is a short but fast-paced guide to help you learn the basics of survival in Japan so that you will be prepared when you arrive in Japan. The material is broken down and chapter by chapter presented to help you get familiarized with the sentence structures of the Japanese language as well as help get you through many situations where language barriers can become an obstacle. From introductions to telling others what you think about certain things, each step in the language will guide you so that you have the tools to make your own sentences out of words you’ll learn on your own as well.


Image source: By Bernard Gagnon (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

You will be taught how to tell the time, count, and how to say you are going somewhere and where things and places are located. You will be able to say that the bank is in front of the hospital, or that you would buy those black shoes that are on the second floor of the department store if they are not expensive. Public transportation such as bullet trains, taxis, and even ambulances, and logging such as hotels will be discussed. In case of emergencies, how to say you are allergic to something and how to call for help is discussed.

You will also be taught about restaurant etiquette and how to order your meals in Japan, as well as various dishes that are commonly ordered there, how to say whether or not you thought the food was delicious, and to ask for the recommendation as well as the chef’s choice for the day.

1. How to Introduce Yourself in Japanese

While in Japan, there will be many times where you will meet someone for the first time. Whether it be through friends or family, business, or someone you met while out, you will most likely want to be introduced. If it can be helped, wait for someone to initiate the introduction as it can be seen as rude to introduce your own self.

Below is a scenario where Jasmine Williams, an American visiting Tokyo, is introducing herself to Hiroto Yamaguchi. On top, the conversation will be written in romaji, or “Romanized Alphabet”, and in parentheses will be the English translation. You don’t have to worry about the pronunciation right now. That will be covered in Chapter 4(in case you want to look there first). Just focus on remembering the phrases:

Jasmine: Hajimemashite. Williams desu. (How do you do? I am Williams.)

Hiroto: Hajimemashite. Yamaguchi desu. (How do you do? I am Yamaguchi.)

Jasmine: Douzo yoroshiku. (It’s nice to meet you.)

Hiroto: Douzo yoroshiku. (It’s nice to meet you.)

The phrase “hajimemashite” is used when meeting someone for the first time. You will often see this translated as “Hello for the first time” or simply “Hello” in some dictionaries.

In Japan, Japanese names are written as the family name(last name) first and the given name afterwards. So Hiroto Yamaguchi would be “Yamaguchi Hiroto”. Jasmine would still be “Jazuminu Williams” however because it is a foreign name.

Last names are usually used in Japan to address someone, especially when they are of higher status. When introducing yourself to someone who is not of family or friend status remember to use your last name. If you guys are closer, or if you are told you could, you can use someone’s first name instead. Also, Japanese traditionally bow instead of shaking hands. It may feel strange at first if you come from a country where shaking hands is the norm, but it is completely normal in Japan. You can practice by standing, putting your hands to your sides, and bending over with a straight neck and back. How far down you bow and for how long depends respectively on how much respect you must show the person being bowed to. This goes from a long, complete 90 degree angle bow to a short bend and nod of the head.

When introducing yourself, if the person is standing a little far from you don’t be alarmed. It isn’t because they don’t want to be close to you. It is normal in Japan to stand further apart when talking. This might be more apparent if you’ve ever watched a group of Japanese friends standing in a circle talking and how big the circle is with just a few people. It is also considered rude to look someone directly in the eyes. Without knowing this, it might look like people are just avoiding looking at you but really they are showing you respect. If the person you are talking to has a higher status be sure to not look them in the eyes.

After Jasmine and Hiroto told their names, they used the word “desu” which is a polite sentence ending. The “u” in “desu” is whispered, kind of like the s in “ships”. Often, it is used like the words “is”, “am”, “are”, etc. In Japanese, verbs come at the end of the sentence. They never used “I” in the dialogue because it is often left out in Japanese when the subject of the sentence is known or obvious.

To introduce yourself would be to simply replace Williams or Yamaguchi with your own surname.

Meishi, or “name cards”, are common in Japan. Like a business card, they have your first and last name, where you work or go to school, your level or rank where you work or learn, contact information, and so on. They are important because they can aid in showing you how much respect you must show the person you are talking to. You can exchange meishi while introducing yourself, along with the name of your workplace. When receiving a meishi, reach for it with both hands and bow slightly in thanks. Read all of the information on it and then put it away inside of a meishi-ire or “card holder”. Card holders keep all of the meishi you receive in mint condition. Because the meishi is basically a part of the person you received it from you should treat it with respect. Don’t ever put a meishi in your back pocket and then sit on it, especially when still in the presence of the person you received it from. If you received it during a business meeting, you can lay them out on the table neatly in front of you. You can even use your meishi-ire and put the boss’s card on top and in the middle of all the cards so it will look the most important.

Japanese people often state out loud where they work or go to school. People in Japan identify closely with whatever group they belong to, so when they state their affiliation they would most likely want you to do the same so they can learn more about you.

To state where you are affiliated, do the following:

– [work or school] no [name] desu.

(“no” is a possessive particle, showing that whatever comes after it is “of” whatever came before it. You are “of” the place you work at.)

In the next dialogue, Jasmine and Hiroto will state where they work while giving their meishi:

Jasmine: Hajimemashite. (How do you do?)

Hiroto: Hajimemashite. (How do you do?)

Jasmine: Nintendou no Williams desu. (I am Williams of Nintendo.)

Hiroto: Panasonikku no Yamaguchi desu. (I am Yamaguchi of Panasonic)

Jasmine: Kore wa watashi no meishi desu. (This is my meishi.)

Hiroto: Arigatou gozaimasu. Kore wa watashi no meishi desu. (Thank you very much. This is my meishi.)

Jasmine: Arigatou gozaimasu. (Thank you very much.)

Here, the two used “watashi” which is a standard and polite way to say I in Japanese. In “kore wa”, “kore” means “this”. The “wa” is just a particle that marks what comes before it as the “thing that the rest of the sentence is about”.

In “arigatou gozaimasu”, “arigatou” means “Thank you”. “Gozaimasu” is a polite ending, similar to “desu”, that is placed after “arigatou” to make it more polite. The person of higher status has the option of not using “gozaimasu” after it. For example, if a student gave something to a teacher, the teacher may only say “arigatou”. However if it were the other way around then the student should always say “arigatou gozaimasu”. If you want to say “You’re welcome” in Japanese, use the phrase “Dou itashimashite.”

When you are searching for someone you’ve never met before, you would need to ask someone if they are who you are looking for. This is done using the question marker “ka”. “Ka” comes at the end of the sentence and acts like a question mark. Though question marks are used often in written Japanese nowadays, they are more often not used at all:

– [person’s last name]-san desu ka. (Are you [person’s last name]?)

In the following dialogue, Jasmine will ask Hiroto if he is Mr. Williams, and then introduce herself afterwards:

Jasmine: Sumimasen. Yamaguchi-san desu ka. (Excuse me. Are you Mr. Yamaguchi?)

Hiroto: Hai, sou desu. (Yes, I am.)

Jasmine: Hajimemashite. Uiriamuzu desu. (How do you do? I am Williams.)

Hiroto: Hajimemashite. Yamaguchi desu. (How do you do? I am Yamaguchi.)

Jasmine: Douzo yoroshiku. (It’s nice to meet you.)

Hiroto: Douzo yoroshiku. (It’s nice to meet you.)

Williams is spelled as Uiriamuzu because in Japanese you say the words the same way they are spelled. Williams is foreign and cannot be pronounced the same way it is in English.

When you address someone else in Japanese, you often add suffixes to their names. The suffixes change depending on their affiliation and how well you know them. One common one is “san” which translated to “Mr.” or “Mrs.” When you say your own name however, never use suffixes. Instead, you can use your affiliation in the manner that was taught previously.

If you’ve asked the wrong person if they are who they are, they can tell no or “Iie”. Jasmine will now ask Hanako Nakamura if she is Yamaguchi:

Jasmine: Sumimasen. Yamaguchi-san desu ka. (Excuse me. Are you Mrs. Yamaguchi?)

Hanako: Iie. (No.)

Jasmine: Shitsurei-shimashita. (I’m sorry.)

Hanako: Iie iie. (No no.)

I used “Mrs.” Instead of “Mr.” this time because Jasmine would be able to tell that Hanako is a female. In Shitsurei-shimashita, “shitsurei” means “rudeness”, and the entire phrase translates to “I was rude” or “I’m sorry”. You will hear “I’m sorry” said many different ways in Japanese very often because it is normal for Japanese people to apologize to each other, even if whatever happened was not their fault or if nothing rude happened at all so that the other person doesn’t loose face. “Sumimasen” can be used to mean “Sorry” as well. In this dialogue, Jasmine was apologizing because she bothered Hanako for her time and then mistook her for someone else.

Hanako says “Iie iie” at the end to tell Jasmine that she doesn’t have to be sorry. That is pretty common also. The person you are speaking to may not say exactly “Iie iie”, but they will say something to let you know that they are okay and you didn’t need to apologize. Also, though Hanako said “Iie” as an answer to Jasmine’s question, it isn’t common in Japan to say “no” so directly.

When you are introducing yourself, you can ask for someone’s name if you don’t already know it. The ways to do this is to say “O-namae wa nan desu ka.”:

Jasmine: O-namae wa nan desu ka. (What is your name?)

Hanako: Watashi no namae wa Nakamura desu. (My name is Nakamura.)

You can also omit some of the phrase and just say “o-namae wa?” The question mark is used here because “ka” isn’t being used. Hanako can also omit most of her sentence too and just say “[name] desu.”:

Jasmine: O-namae wa?

Hanako: Hanako desu.

2. How to Greet and Take Leave

While in Japan, you may come across the same people more than once. For example if you are working together or go to the same store or restaurant every day, or even when meeting up with friends. In such situations “Hajimemashite” wouldn’t work as it is only said when it is the first time you are greeting someone.

One of the ways to greet someone in Japan is to say Good morning, afternoon, and evening to them:

– Ohayou gozaimasu (Good morning)

– Konnichi wa (Good afternoon)

– Konban wa (Good evening)

Konnichi wa is pretty well known even to people who don’t speak Japanese. It is even known by people who don’t even know it is Japanese! It is also the word for “Hello” or “Good day” in Japanese. You normally say it in the afternoon(after 12pm). Konnichi wa is not used when answering the phone however. To answer a phone, you say “Moshi moshi.”

“Ohayou gozaimasu” means “Good morning” and you say it to people in the morning times. Like “Arigatou gozaimasu”, the “gozaimasu” at the end is to make it more polite. If someone is of higher status to you, they might not say “gozaimasu” to you, but you should say it to them.

“Konban wa” is said in the late evening, when the sun is already down. It is not to be confused with “Good night” which is a different word.

Other ways to greet people is to talk about the weather. This is pretty normal in Japan. Usually they will say “The weather is good today, isn’t it?”. Even if the weather is unpleasant for you, you should agree with them. In America, when a stranger says “Hi, how are you?” you would say “I’m good.” It’s the same thing. Jasmine and Hanako will demonstrate how this situation would play out:

Hanako: Ii o-tenki desu ne? (Nice weather, isn’t it?)

Jasmine: Sou desu ne. (Yes, it is.)

“O-tenki” means “weather”. The “o” at the beginning makes the word “tenki” more polite for the person you are talking to. The “ne” is a sentence ending that can act similar to “ka”. It makes the sentence into a question that asks for the agreement of the person it is being said to, but it does not take the place of a question mark. Here, it is translated as “isn’t it?”, asking Jasmine to respond.

“ne” is also used in other ways as well, such as when you are commenting on someone’s belongings and want to add emphasis on it:

– “Utsukushii niwa desu ne.” ([You have] a beautiful garden you know.)

“Kono yasai wa yasui desu ne.” ([These] vegetables are pretty cheap, yeah?)

Jasmine’s response to Hanako, “Sou desu ne?” literally translates to “Is that so?” or “It is, isn’t it?”, but is a proper response to the weather and is used like “Yes, it is”. You can drop the “ne” and add “ka” to say “Is that so?” in other situations, such as if someone were telling you something interesting about themselves.

In Japan, when you haven’t seen someone for a while, you can ask them “How are you?” or “Are you well?” or “How have you been?”. The phrase for this is “O-genki desu ka.” And the reply would be “Genki desu.” To ask them back, you would say “Anata wa?” which means “And you?”:

Jasmine: “O-genki desu ka.” (How are you?)

Hiroto: “Genki desu. Anata wa?” (I’m fine. And you?)

Jasmine: “Genki desu.” (I’m fine.)

If it has been a very long while since you have seen the person, you can add in “O-hisashiburi desu ne?” which translates to “It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?”:

Jasmine: O-hisashiburi desu ne? (It’s been a long time, hasn’t it?)

Hiroto: Sou desu. (It has.)

Jasmine: O-genki desu ka. (Have you been well?)

Hiroto: Genki desu, arigatou. (I have, thank you.)

Just like when saying Hello in Japan, you may need to leave the group that you went out with. Or maybe you need to excuse yourself from a business meeting or table dinner early. Do you remember “Shitsurei shimashita” from chapter one? This is the phrase you can use to excuse yourself. Again, it means “I was rude.” and in this situation it is used to apologize for having to leave sooner than anticipated.

“Shitsurei shimashita” is also used when you sneeze or cough. In Japanese, there is no phrase “Bless you” when you sneeze. Even in English when someone says “Bless you”, you will often hear someone say “Excuse me” or just “ ’scuse me”.

When you are leaving but you know you will see the person again, you can say “See you later.” or “See you tomorrow.” There are various ways to say this:

– Dewa mata / Jya, mata (See you again)

– Dewa mata ashita / Jya mata ashita (See you tomorrow)

– Mata ashita (See you tomorrow)

“Dewa” and “Jya” are the same. “Jya” is simply a combination of “de” and “wa” and can be used if it is easier to pronounce. Usually the longer and “strung out” a phrase sounds in Japanese the more polite it is. Keeping that in mind, “Dewa” might be better to say in business situations.

When you are leaving the house but are coming back later, for example when you are leaving to go to school or work, you can say “ittekimasu” which means “I’m off”. When you get back, you can say “Tada ima” which means “I’m home” or “I’m back.”

To tell someone “Good night” in Japanese, you say “O-yasumi nasai”. This is not a “leave-taking” word. This is said when you are about to go to bed. In more casual situations you can just say “O-yasumi”, and you will probably hear it said that way more than “O-yasumi nasai” as “Good night” is usually said in casual situations.

“Sayounara” is just like “Konnichi wa” in the fact that it is very widely known to people who don’t even know it comes from Japanese. It means “Goodbye” and is usually said when you either aren’t going to see that person for a very long time, or if you are never going to meet again. It is better translated as “So long” or “Until we meet again”.

3. How to find where stuff is

Knowing how to find what it is you are looking for is important when you’re a foreigner in the middle of a country that doesn’t speak the same language as you. Without those tools you could end up being lost. Even native Japanese people get lost in Japan themselves, so don’t be embarrassed to go to a kouban, or “police box”, to ask for directions.

Four words that would really help with this are Here, There, Over there, and Where:

– Koko (Here) – closest to the speaker

– Soko (There) – closest to the listener

– Asoko (Over there) – away from both the listener and the speaker

– Doko (Where)

To ask where something is, you use the following sentence format:

– [noun] wa doko desu ka. (Where is [noun]?)

Depending on what you asked for and where it’s located, the person being asked will respond using one either koko, soko, or asoko:

Jasmine: Ginkou wa doko desu ka. (Where is the bank?)

Hiroto: Ginkou wa asoko desu. (The bank is over there.)

The “asoko” Hiroto used tells that the bank is a ways away. Here is another instance:

Jasmine: Enpitsu wa doko desu ka. (Where is the pencil?)

Hiroto: Enpitsu wa soko desu. (The pencil is right there.)

The “soko” shows that the pencil was near Jasmine. Here is one more instance, using koko:

Jasmine: Watashi no keshigomu wa doko desu ka. (Where is my eraser?)

Hiroto: Anata no keshigomu wa koko desu. (Your eraser is right here.)

The “koko” shows that the eraser was right by Hiroto, or that he had the eraser. “Watashi no(my)” and “Anata no(your)” was thrown in to show a different way to word the sentence.

Koko, Soko, and Asoko can also be used to express ideas brought up by either the talker, listener, or something neither of them know about or brought up.

Of course, if you are asking for specific directions, the person can’t just say “it’s over there” and point, expecting you to know that meant “two blocks down to the right”. There are more words to help with this:

– Mukougawa ni (across from, on the other side of)

– Mukaigawa ni (across from and facing; directly across from)

– Tonari ni (next to)

– Hidari ni (to the left of)

– Migi ni (to the right of)

– Mae ni (in front of)

– Ushiro ni (behind)

– Aida ni (between)

– Naka ni (inside/in)

To state where something is, use this sentence structure (with the exception of “aida ni” which will be explained):

– [place/noun] wa [another place] no [one of the listed words with “ni”] arimasu.

“Arimasu” is like “Desu”. It is a verb that means “to be” and in some instances is interchangeable with “desu”. To help make this more clear, Jasmine will ask the police officer Takashi where the high school is:

Jasmine: Sumimasen. Koukou wa doko arimasu ka. (Excuse me. Where is the high school?)

Takashi: Koukou wa ginkou no mukaigawa ni arimasu. (The high school is directly across from the bank.)

“Mukaigawa” lets Jasmine know that if she were standing in front of the bank and facing forward, the high school would be directly across from here. It’s easy to mix it up with “Mukougawa”, which would mean that the high school is anywhere opposite of the side of the street the bank is on.

A few more dialogues will be listed so you can get used to how they “feel” when being said. There will also be new places in the sentences for vocabulary-building reasons:

Jasmine: Suupaa wa doko arimasu ka? (Where is the supermarket?)

Takashi: Suupaa wa danchi no tonari ni arimasu. (The supermarket is next to the apartment complex.)

Jasmine: Mooru wa doko arimasu ka? (Where is the mall?)

Takashi: Mooru wa byouin no ushiro ni arimasu. (The mall is behind the hospital.)

Jasmine: Iin wa doko arimasu ka? (Where is the doctor’s office?)

Takashi: Iin wa resutoran no mae ni arimasu. (The doctor’s office is in front of the restaurant.)

When it comes to using “aida ni”, you need to be able to say two places and then tell what is between them. To do that, you use this:

– [place] wa [place 2] to [place 3] no aida ni arimasu. ([place] is between [place 2] and [place 3].)

The particle “to” is used like “and” in this case. It links two nouns together just like in English:

Jasmine: Suupaa wa doko arimasu ka? (Where is the supermarket?)

Takashi: Suupaa wa chikatetsu no eki to ginkou no aida ni arimasu. (The supermarket is in between the subway station and the bank.)

NOTE: “Chikatetsu no eki” means “Subway station”

These location words can also be used to ask where someone is. The only major difference is that you use “imasu” instead of “arimasu”. “Imasu” means the exact same thing as “arimasu”, except that it is for animate, living objects, such as people and animals:

Jasmine: Yamada-sensei wa doko imasu ka. (Where is Mrs. Yamada?)

Hanako: Yamada-sensei wa kyoukasho no naka ni imasu. (Mrs. Yamada is inside the classroom).

For Hanako’s response, you can also drop the “no naka” and only use the particle “ni” which is also used to say where someone is:

– Yamada-sensei wa kyoukasho ni imasu. (Mrs. Yamada is in the classroom.)

4. How to Say What You are Doing

Saying what it is you are doing at the moment, will do, and have done is important in many situations. Even if you just want to have a small conversation, you would want to communicate to the next person that you ate pizza yesterday, or that you’ve never been to Peru before. This is a near simple task in Japanese using various verbs.

As stated previously, verbs almost always come at the end in Japanese sentences and pronouns such as “I” and “You” are almost always omitted. wo is the particle that says that “what comes after it is what is happening to whatever comes before it”. It can be pronounced as “wo” or “o”:

– Watashi wa asagohan wo tabemasu. – I will eat breakfast.

– Asagohan wo tabemasu. – (I) will eat breakfast.

“wa” is showing that “I” is the subject of the sentence; the “thing that is going to do something”. “wo” shows that something is happening to asagohan and that what comes after it is what is happening to asagohan.

To say “I am eating breakfast”, you would say “Asagohan wo tabete-imasu.”

Some common verbs:

– tabemasu – to eat

– wakarimasu – to understand

-mezamemasu – to wake up

– okimasu – to get up

– mimasu – to see/to watch

– yomimasu – to read

– ikimasu – to go

– kimasu – to come

– kaemasu – to go home

– kaemasu – to change

– hairimasu – to enter

– yobimasu – to call

– oyogimasu – to swim

– hajimemasu – to begin

– kaimasu – to buy

– kakimasu – to write

– nemasu – to go to bed

Using these verbs, you can create sentences with these using the above-mentioned sentence format, with a little tweak depending. For verbs where you are just doing something, you use the particle wo as usual:

– [something] wo [verb]。- I [verb] [something].

Hiroto: Nani wo shimasu ka. – What are you doing?

Jasmine: Shinbun wo yomimasu. – I am reading the newspaper.

However, for moving verbs, where you are going from one place to another, you use e. If you are going somewhere specific, you use “ni”:

– [somewhere] e [verb]. – I [verb] [somewhere].

– [place] ni [verb]. – I [verb] to (the) [place].

Hiroto: Doko e ikimasu ka. – Where are you going?

– Jasmine: suupaa e ikimasu. – I am going the supermarket.

Hiroto: Doko e ikimasu ka. – Where are you going?

Jasmine: Shigoto ni ikimasu. – I am goint to work.

Here are some sentences that can be used every day:

– Asagohan wo tabemasu. – I will eat lunch.

– Terebi wo mimasu. – I watch TV.

– puuru ni oyogimasu. – I swim in the pool.

– Nihongo wo benkyou-shimasu. – I study Japanese.

– depaato e ikimasu. – I will go to the department store.

– bangohan wo ryouri-shimasu. – I will cook dinner.

You can also say that you will do or did something in a place using the particle de:

– [place] de [noun] wo [verb]。 – I [do something] at [place].

Hiroto: Do ni imasu ka? – Where are you?

Jasmine: Toshokan de nihongo wo benkyou-shiteimasu. – I am at the library studying Japanese.

Hiroto: Ashita, nani wo shimasu ka. – What will you do tomorrow?

Jasmine: Suupaa de yasai wo kaimasu. – I will buy vegetables at the supermarket.

To use past tense with masu-verbs, you change masu to mashita:

Hiroto: Kinou, nani wo shimashita ka. – What did you do yesterday?

Jasmine: Shigoto ni ikimashita. – I went to work.

To use negative tense with masu-verbs, you change masu to masen. Also, you use the particle wa instead of wo:

Hanako: Ringo wo tabemasu ka. – Do you eat apples?

Jasmine: Ringo wo tabemasen. – I do not eat apples.

To use the negative-past tense with masu-verbs, change masu to masen-deshita:

Hanako: Terebi wo mimashita ka. – Did you watch TV?

Jasmine: Terebi wo mimasen-deshita. I did not watch TV.

The word “wakarimashita” is used as a response to when someone higher up tells you to do something, such as when your boss tells you to do some paper work or your teacher critics your homework.:

Yamada: Kono shukudai wo shite . – Please do this homework.

Jasmine: Hai, wakarimashita. – Yes, understood.

In Japanese, the te-form, like shite, os also used to tell someone to do something. It seems a bit rude to just demand, and so often Japanese people add “kudasai” at the end of the te-form to make it a little more polite. It is translated as “please”:

Hiroto: Kaidan wo nobotte kudasai. – Please go up the stairs.

Jasmine: Hai, wakarimashita. (Yes, understood.)

You can also tell people that you “have done something” or “have not done something” using “koto ga arimasu”.

Jasmine: Kankoku e itta koto ga arimasu. – I have been to South Korea before.

Hiroto: Sou desu ka. – Is that so?

Jasmine: Sou desu. – Yes, it is(lit. That is so?)

Hiroto: Amerika-ryouri wo tabeta koto ga arimasu. – I’ve eaten American food before.

Two other verbs that are useful:

– Tsurete-ikimasu – to take someone along

– Motte-ikimasu – to take something along

Trurete-ikimasu is used when you are bring someone of lower status somewhere with you:

Jasmine: Ashita, imouto wo shigoto ni tsurete-ikimasu. – I will bring my little sister to work with me tomorrow.

Motte-ikimasu is used when you are taking something along with you:

Jasmine: Hon wo ie ni motte-ikimasu. – I will take this book to the house with me.

Hiroto: Hanako-san wa kyoukasho wo ie ni motte-kimasu. – Ms. Hanako will bring the textbook to the house with her.

You can use adverbs to say that you will be there “soon”, or that you go somewhere “often”. You can either put the adverb at the beginning of the sentence or right before the verb:

– mamonaku shigoto e ikimasu. – I will go to work soon.

– Mooru e yoku ikimasu – I often go to the mall.

– Sanaka wa kesshite tabemasen. – I never eat fish.

Some common adverbs:

– mamonaku – soon

– yoku、shibashiba– often

– kesshite…shinai– I never…

– amari ni – too(as in “too much”)

– itsumo– always

– jouzu ni– well

– heta ni– poorly

– yukkuri to – slowly

– tokidoki – sometimes

– totemo – very

– amari – very(used with negative verbs)

Hanako: Koukou a dou desu ka. – How is high school?

Jasmine: Kantan na shigoto ga arimasu. – I have easy homework.

Hanako: Nihongo wa totemo kantan deshita ka. – Was Japanese very easy?

Jasmine: Nihongo wa amari muzukashiku-arimasen. Suugaku wa kantan desu. – Japanese is not very difficult. Math is easy.

5. How to Count and Tell Time in Japanese

Telling time is important no matter where you are. It helps when you can tell someone where you will be at what time, and when someone tells you that something needs to be done by “next week on Tuesday”. Of course, in order to tell time in Japanese you have to be able to count in Japanese. Japanese numbers are actually more simple than English numbers. Once learned, numbers can help is many more areas than just in telling time.

Below is a list of numbers from one to twelve:

– ichi – one

– ni– two

– san –three

– yon, shi –four

– go – five

– roku – six

– shichi,nana – seven

– hachi – eight

– kyuu – nine

– ten – ten

– jyuu-ichi – eleven

– jyuu-ni – twelve

The numbers four and seven have two pronunciations. For four, “shi” is not normally used when it can be helped because it sounds just like the word for “death”.

Just like with eleven and twelve, to make higher numbers than ten you put the number after ten:

– Jyuu-ichi is 11(ten and one), Hachi-jyuu is 18(ten and eight).

To make numbers from 20 and up, you put a number before ten this time too:

– Ni-jyuu is 20(two tens), Yon-juu go is 45(four tens and five)

After 99(Kyuu-jyuu kyuu), there are special words for hundreds and so forth:

– Hyaku – one-hundred

– Sen one-thousand

– Man – ten-thousand

The same rules apply to these numbers as well:

– San-hyaku go – 305(three one-hundreds and five)

– Ro-ppyaku nana-jyuu san – 673(six one-hundreds and seven tens and three)

Once it gets to the ten thousands, it can get a little confusing. That is because in English, when we count there is a comma after every three places: a thousand is 1,000. A million is 1,000,000. Ten thousand is 10,000. In Japanese, think of the comma being after every four places and you can understand why “ten thousand” has its own word: ten thousand = 1,0000:

In Japanese, counting actual items is a bit more complicated. In English, when you want to say “three pigs”, you just say “three pigs”. In Japanese, everything needs a “counter” because there are no plurals with nouns. For example, to say “three pigs” in Japanese, you need the word for pig, buta, the number three, and the counter for “small animals”, hiki:

Hiroto: Nan-hiki no buta ga imasu ka? – How many pigs are there?

Jasmine: San-hiki no buta ga imasu. – There are three pigs.

This style is used when counting any kind of item:

Hiroto: Kaisha ni nan-mai no kami ga arimasu ka? – How many pieces of paper are in the workplace?

Jasmine: Hyaku-mai no kami arimasu. – There are a hundred pieces of paper.

Hiroto: Nan-nin ga kaisha e kimasu ka? – How many people will come to the workplace?

Jasmine: Go-nin e kimasu. – Five people will come.

There is even a counter for age, sai:

Hiruto: Moushiwake-arimasen ga, o-ikutsu desu ka. – I am terribly sorry(to ask), but how old are you?

Jasmine: Eeto, Jyuu-nana-sai desu. – Errr, I am 17 years old.

Be careful of asking females how old they are as this is considered rude in Japan. If you must ask, you will be expected to take extra care. That is why Hiroto used “Moushiwake-arimasen” before asking which is a very formal way of sayin “I’m sorry” or “This is inexcusable”.

Telling time is similar. Time has counters too, for hours, ji and minutes, hun:

Hiroto: Ima, nani-ji desu ka. – What time is it right now?

Jasmine: Jyuu-ichi-ji yo-ji go-jyuu desu. – It is 11:45.

To say “30” or “half past” in time(for example, “5:30”) you have the option of using “han”

– Shichi-ji han – 7:30

To say A.M. you use “gozen” and to say P.M. you use “gogo”:

Gozen ichi-ji han: 1:30 AM

Gogo go-ji go-jyuu-go-hun – 5:55 PM

To say that is is “around” a certain time, you use go:

– Yamada-san wa san-ji goto kimasu. – Mr. Yamada will come around 3 o’clock.

-Toukei ga arimasu ka. – Do you have a watch?

Be careful not to ask “Do you have the time?” if you just want the time. That sounds like “Jikan ga arimasu ka.” and can translate to “Do you have time?” In other words, you are asking them if they have a minute to do something for you.

Hiroto: Itsu kaisha e modorimasu ka? – When will you go back to the workplace?

Jasmine: Gozen ichi-ji ni kaisha e modorimasu. – I will go back to the workplace at 1AM.

Hiroto: Itsu koukou e ikimasu ka? – When will you go to the high school?

Jasmine: Getsuyoubi ni koukou e ikimasu. – I will go to the high school on Monday.

– Nichiyoubi – Sunday

– Getsuyoubi – Monday

– Kayoubi – Tuesday

– Suiyoubi – Wednesday

– Mokuyoubi – Thursday

– Kinyoubi – Friday

– Doyoubi – Saturday

The months are easy. They generally don’t have names like they do in English(January, October, December, ect.) Instead they are literally “First-month, Second-month” and so on:

Hiroto: Amerika de, Koukou wo nan-gatsu ni hajimemasu ka? – In what month does high school start in America?

Jasmine: Amerika de, koukou wo hachi-gatsu ni hajimemasu. – In America, high school starts in August.

Hiroto: Sou desu ka. Nihon de, shi-gatsu ni hajimemasu. – Is that so? In Japan, it starts in April.

The days of the month are not so hard either. The first ten days have unique pronunciations:

– Tsuitachi – the 1st

– Futsuka – the 2nd

– Mikka – the 3rd

– Yokka – the 4th

– Itsuka – the 5th

– Muika – the 6th

– Nanoka – the 7th

– Youka – the 8th

– Kokonoka – the 9th

– Tooka – the 10th

– Hatsuka – The 20th

Hiroto: Tanjyoubi wa nan-gatsu nan-nichi desu ka. – What month and day is your birthday?

Jasmine: Tanjyoubi wa go-gatsu ni-jyuu hachi-nichi desu. – My birthday is May 28th.

Hiroto: Mei no kinenbi wa? – What about your niece’s anniversary?

Jasmine: Mei no kinenbi wa jyuu-gatsu san-jyuu ichi-nichi desu. – My niece’s anniversary is October 31st.

Hiroto: Harouiin jya-arimasen ka? – Isn’t that Halloween?

Jasmine: Harouiin ni kekkon shimashita. – (They) got married on Halloween.

Hiroto: Kanojo no tanjyoubi wa nan-gatsu nan-nichi desu ka. – When is her birthday?

Jasmine: Mei no tanjyoubi wa go-gatsu ni-jyuu ku-nichi desu. – My niece’s birthday is May 29th.

Hiroto: Omoshiroi desu. Jasmine no ichi-nichi ato desu. – That’s interesting. Its one day after yours.

Jasmine: Harouiin wa mei no ichiban sukina jyuujitsu. Mai-toshi, torikku-oa-toritto shimasu. – Halloween is my niece’s favorite holiday. Every year, she goes trick or treating.

Hiroto: Otto mo shimasu ka? – Does the husband do it too?

Jasmine: Itsumo. Mei no otto no tanjyoubi wa Harouiin desu. – Always. My neice’s husband’s birthday is on Halloween.

Hiroto: Nani! – What!

The years are marked by the counter nen and are used two different ways. The first way is familiar to the way western countries count years and can be used when saying the full date, such as “2014-nen” which is said as “ni-rei-ichi-yon-nen”.

The second way is the way you mark the year you were born on documents in Japan, such as resumes. The year always resets every time there is a new ruler, so use their last name and then add from the date they started ruling there to get the year plus 1. For example, Heisei began on January 8th, 1989. If the current year is 2014, which is 25 years after that, then you would write the year as such:

– Heisei 26 nen – 2014

– Heisei ni nen – 1990

Showa(Shouwa) began December 25th, 1926 and is used for people who were born before the Heisei era. If you were born in 1989 but before January 8th, you say Showa 64 nen

Hiroto: Otousan wa Showa 64(roku-jyuu yon) ni umaremashita – My father was born in 1989.

– Kyou – today

– Ashita – tomorrow

– Asatte – day after tomorrow

– Kinou – yesterday

– Ototoi – day before yesterday

– Kon-shuu/gatsu/toshi – this week/month/year

– Sen-shuu/gatsu/nen – last week/month/year

– Rai-shuu/gatsu/nen – next week/month/year

– Mai-nichi/gatsu/toshi – every day/month/year

– Kesa – this morning

– Kyou no asa – this morning

– Ohiru – afternoon

– Ban – evening

– Yoru – night

These particular words cannot use the particle ni. To use these words in a sentence, use one of these two sentence structures:

– Kyou wa nihongo wo benkyou-shimashita. – I studied Japanese today.

– Maiasa, jyogingu-shimasu. – Every morning, I go jogging.

– Ni-nen mae, sono ginkou ni tsutomete-imashita.– I was employed at that bank two years ago.

6. How to Order in a Restaurant

Going out to eat is an experience in Japan depending on the type of restaurant you go to. You are always taken care of, the staff always makes sure your requests are met with the best of their abilities, and you are even often greeted at the entranceway.

There are many types of restaurants in Japan. Some usually specializing in one type of food, like udon, raamen, and so on, and others offering a variety of things. There are even well known fast food restaurants that are from America and other countries. Knowing how to order your food while in Japan is a needed ability, especially if you are eating alone or with other people who don’t speak the language.

When you first walk into a restaurant, you are usually greeted at the door by someone who will say “irasshaimae” which means “Welcome”, and when they refer to you they will most likely call you “okyaku-sama” which means “guest”. You usually wait to be seated, but before that you will be asked how many people are in your party. “Nan-nin” means “how many people”. You answer using the Japanese counter for “people.” If you are too shy to talk, you can show the number on your fingers.

Once you sit down, you are given free tea or water, or if it isn’t brought to you it is most likely set up somewhere in the restaurant. Some restaurants that serve mainly noodles and “don” bowls require you to purchase a ticket before entering. In these kinds of restaurants, you don’t really have conversation inside the restaurant.

If you are given disposable chopsticks, it is rude to rub them together when you break them. Most people who rub the wooden chopsticks do so to make sure there are no splinters. If you do this then you are implying that the restaurant can’t be trusted to give you quality utensils. Even if they do have a splinter in them, don’t rub them. Also, don’t use your chopsticks to point at anything. If you prefer to use a fork, and if the restaurant has them, you can be provided with one. You can ask “Fooku ga arimasu ka.” which means “Do you have forks?”

Many restaurants in Japan are smoking restaurants which means the customers have the option of smoking a cigarette while at the table eating. There are also non-smoking restaurants as well, and there are restaurants who offer different parts where you can and can’t smoke. If there is a choice you will most like be asked about it.

Some Japanese menus come with pictures next to an explanation of what to order and people who cannot understand Japanese can simply point to a picture of what it is they want. Some restaurants even have English translations of their menus. To ask for an English menu, you say “Eigo menyuu ga arimasu ka.” which means “Do you have an English menu?” You can also point to a picture and say “Kore wa nan desu ka.” which means “What is this?”

However, there are still many menus that are Japanese only menus and require you to be able to read Japanese including the kanji in the names of the food in order to order off of it. If you don’t know what something is, you can still ask “kore wa nan desu ka”.

When you are ready to order, you can click your order button that would be near or on the table. If you do not have one, you can yell Sumimasen loudly to get a waiter or waitress. It isn’t rude in Japan to yell for a waiter or waitress very loudly in a restaurant, and you might have to yell even louder if your voice was too soft and they didn’t hear you.

To order your beverage, you use counters as well.

– Mizu wo i-ppai onegai-shimasu. – I would like a glass of water.

– Biiru wo i-ppon kudasai. – One bottle of beer please.

– Koucha wo i-ppai moraemasen ka. – May I have a cup of green tea?

If you’re drinking with friends or colleagues, you can make cheers or make a toast. To say “cheers!” you say “kanpai!”.

To order food, you use the same sentence formats as for drinks, but you don’t have to say how many:

-Udon wo onegai-shimasu. – I would like udon.

– Tenpura wo kudasai. – Tenpura please.

If you are having a hard time reading the menu, you can ask for “osusume” which is the recommendation. If you’ve ever eaten in a restaurant in your own country with a Japanese foreigner, they most likely asked you “What do you recommend I should try?” if they don’t know what anything is. It’s the same idea. Omakase is the “chef’s choice(literally “leave it to you”, “I trust you”)”. This means that either the chef chose a favorite meal for instance to make that day, or he or she(most likely a “he” because it is believed that a female’s hands are too warm to make sushi) will surprise you with whatever they feel like cooking:

Jasmine: Kyou no osusume wa nan desu ka. – What is today’s special?

Waiter: Oyakodon desu. – The oyakodon

Jasmine: Nani wo osusume-shimasu ka? – What do you recommend?

Waiter: Oyakodon desu. – The oyakodon.

– Omakase-shimasu – I leave it to you. (to ask for the chef’s choice)

Depending on the restaurant and/or the people you are eating with, you will either order separate dishes for each person, or you will “share” the dishes. When you share dishes, it is when a lot of food is ordered, then sat in the middle of the table and everyone gets a little bit of each. Don’t pass food with your chopsticks because that is a ritual done at funerals when the family passes the deceased’s remains between each other. Also, don’t stick your chopsticks upright into your rice because that is also a funeral ritual. If you need to set your chopsticks down, set them on the chopstick holder, or if there is none you can make one out of the paper holder the chopsticks may have come in. If you don’t want to do that you can just lay them on the table. Make sure they aren’t crossed when you put them on the holder or lay them down.

As you drink all of what’s in your cup, the waiter or waitress will usually come and refill it. If you don’t want a refill, don’t drink anymore after the last time it is refilled so that your cup stays full.

Once the bill comes, it is usually brought upside down. You usually have to go pay at the cash register instead of at the table.

Tips are not customary in Japan. If you leave a tip, you will be chased! You will most likely have a worker from the restaurant running after you with your money thinking you’ve forgotten it on the table or counter, or to tell you that there is no need for tips.

In Japan, fish(sakana) is not considered meat, so if you are a vegetarian who does not eat fish or a vegan, you can specify this by saying “sakana wa dame desu” which means “Fish is no good”. You can also ask “bejiterian no tabemono ga arimasu ka.” which means “Do you have any vegetarian foods?” The word for “egg” is “tamago” and the word for cheese is “kanraku”. “Dairy products” is “nyuuseihin”.

The phrase “Douzo meshiagatte-kudasai.” is equivalent to “Please enjoy your meal.” Your server might say this to you.

When you get ready to eat, you can say “Itadakimasu!” which means “I’m about to receive”. It’s equivalent to praying before eating. It is thanking the people for cooking the meal, the people who grew and harvested it, giving thanks that you can even eat period, and thanking the animals that gave their lives so you could eat. Groups of people can say it together, and it could be really fun to do especially when said with all of your Japanese friends because you feel a sort of a high from being included in a part of the culture.

Some foods have certain ways you should or shouldn’t eat it. For example, you shouldn’t eat sushi with a fork(that can be considered rude). If you don’t know how you should eat something, you can ask:

– Kono ryouri wo douyatte taberu no desu ka. – How do you eat this dish?

Once you are finished, you can say “Gochisou-sama deshita” which translated to “That was a wonderful meal!” You can even tell the waiter, waitress, or cashier this, or you can just say “Thank you very much.”

The word for delicious is oishii. If you didn’t like the taste of something, it could be considered rude to just say “I don’t like it.” You can use “maamaa” which means “so-so” or “not so bad” or any phrase that gives an equivalent feeling:

Waiter: Ryouri wa dou deshita ka. – How was the food?

Jasmine: Totemo oishii deshita. – It was very delicious.

Waiter: Koohii mo oishii deshita ka. – Was the coffee delicious as well?

Jasmine: maamaa deshita。 – It was alright. (she didn’t like it at all, but it would be rude to say “amari oishiku-arimasen(it was very un-tasty”)” to the waiter)

One more thing: There are ways to say “I am hungry” and “I am thirsty” in Japanese:

– Onaga ga sukimashita. – I am hungry.(lit. “My stomach is empty”)

– Nogo ga kawakimashita – I am thirsty.(lit. “My throat is dry”).

7. How to Commute in Japan

Public transportation in Japan is pretty easy. There are a lot of people living in Japan and many of them need to get to somewhere all at the same time. Japan has top-notch transportation to make sure everybody gets where they need to on time.

The shinkansen, or bullet train, is probably the most convenient for everyone. Just like how there are roads in western countries that make it easy to drive anywhere with your car, the bullet train is exactly the same. There is even English on the signs to make it easier for English speakers to get around town. Also, the bullet train is rarely if ever late. During certain times of the day for bullet trains and subways, there are special cars that are female-only.

If you are out somewhere and have missed the last train to get back to where you were, there are capsule-hotels that you can stay in. The “rooms” are very tiny(capsules), but they have tv and light. Businessmen who missed the last train are usually the main customers at many of these hotels, so they cater better to males than they do females and children, and many of them are “adult male-only” hotels.

There are also modern-style hotels and ryokan which are traditional inns that can also be rented. The word yoyaku means “reservation”. To say that you “would like to make a reservation”, say “Yoyaku shitai no desu ga.”

If you don’t want to take any trains or subways, or if you need to get somewhere really fast, you have the option of taking a taxi. You hail a taxi just like you do in western countries by waving it down. You can also call a taxi from the phone and make a reservation the same way you’d do for a hotel room. Some taxis will have an LED display on the top of the car or in the window displaying its availability:

– Chinsou – occupied (usually shown in red)

– Kusha – vacant taxi (usually shown in green)

– Yoyakusha – reserved taxi

Taxi fare in Japan is pretty expensive, and though you might see someone try to haggle the bill every once in a while taxi fare in Japan stays the same. Just like in restaurants, there is no tipping a taxi driver either, so there is no increasing the amount to pay the taxi driver. Calling a taxi from a restaurant or after certain hours of the night will make the bill be higher as well.

– Takushii untenshu – taxi driver

– takushii ryoukin – taxi fare

– meetaa – meter

– kanjou – bill

– reshiito – receipt

– shiharaimasu – to pay

– Yoroshii desu ka. – Are you free?

– Kono jyuusho made onegaishimasu. – To this address please.

– Kuukou e ikitai no desu ga. – I would like to go to the airport.

– Ii resutoran wo susumete-itadakemasen ka. – Can you please recommend a good restaurant?

– Itsugoro tsukimasu ka. – About when will we arrive?

– Isoide-imasu. – I’m in a hurry.

– chizu – map

– Takushii wo norimasu – I will ride in the taxi.

Hiroto: Kaimono e douyatte ikimasu ka – How will you get to the store?

Jasmine: Shinkansen de kaimono e ikimasu. – I will go to the store via the bullet train.

Hiroto: Koukou e douyatte ikimasu ka – How will you get to the high school?

Jasmine: Takushii wo norimasu. – I will ride in a taxi.

– Toshokan made dono kurai no jikan ga kakarimasu ka. – About how long would it take to get to the library?

– Byouin made no kyori wa dono kurai desu ka. – About how far is the distance to the hospital?

– Ichiban mijikai michi de itte kudasai. – Please go the shortest way.

If you need to call for an ambulance, or kyuukyuusha, you dial 119. If you are unable to, you can ask someone “Kyuukyuusha wo yonde-kudasai.” which means “Please call an ambulance.”

The number to the police (keisatsu) is 110. The number to the fire department(shoubousha) is 119, same as the ambulance number.

Jasmine: Kyuukyuusha wo yonde kudasai! – Please call an ambulance!

Hanako: Doushite desu ka? – What for?

Jasmine: Yamaguchi-san wa kai wo tabemashita! Kai no arerugii ga arimasu! – Yamaguchi(Hiroto) ate shellfish! He’s allergic to shellfish!

– Sono kusuri no arerugii ga arimasu. – I am allergic to that medicine.

– Penishirin – Penicillin

– asetoaminofen – acetaminophen

– jifenhidoramin – diphenhydramine

– kai – shellfish

– ki no mi – tree nuts

– zensoku – asthma

Jasmine: Tasukete! – Help!

Hiroto: Doushite no? – What’s wrong?

Jasmine: Nakamura-san wa shinzou bossa shite-imasu! Hayaku kyuukyuusha wo yonde kudasai – Nakamura(Hanako) is having a heart attack! Please call an ambulance quickly!

– Zensoku bossa ga hassei shite-imasu. – I’m having an asthma attack.

8. How to go Shopping in Japan

There is no real “art” so to speak when shopping. You can go in and buy things just like you would in your own country. Of course you would like to know how to ask how much something is or what floor something is on or to ask someone to lend you a hand with something.

Floors of a building have a counter, kai. As previously stated, the numbers 4 and 9 are considered unlucky. One pronunciation for four, shi, is the exact same pronunciation for death, so that number is usually skipped when numbering floors and rooms in hospitals and other buildings. You also will most likely have a hard time finding bundles of items with only four things(i.e. a small box of dinner plates or forks will have 3 or 5 in them.) 9 can be pronounced as く in some situations, like in “9 o’clock(ku-j)”. It is the same pronunciation as “pain”. It isn’t as unlucky as 4, but it may be skipped as well.

To say that something is on a floor, you use a similar sentence structure for when you say something is “to the left of” something or when something is “in front of” something else:

Jasmine: Sumimasen. Kutusu wa doko arimasu ka. – Excuse me. Where are the shoes located?

Worker: Kutsu wa ni-kai ni arimasu. – The shoes are on the second floor.

Jasmine: Kasa wa nan-kai ni arimasu ka. – What floor are the unberallas on?

Worker: Kasa wa go-kai ni arimasu. – The umberallas are on the fifth floor.

Jasmine: Arigatou gozaimasu. – Thank you very much.

To say the level of a basement, you use “chikatetsu” before it to say “B”:

– chikatetsu i-kkai – B1

– chikatersu san-kai – B3

The particle mo means “also” and can take the place of wo:

Jasmine: Kono shatsu wa ikura desu ka – How much is this undershirt?

Worker: Shatsu wa ni-sen en desu. – The shirts are 2000 yen.

Jasmine: Shatsu wo kaimasu…tokei wa ikura desu ka. – I’ll buy a shirt…how much are watches?

Worker: go-man en desu. – They are 50,000 yen.

Jasmine: Tokei mo kaimasu. – I’ll also buy a watch.

Worker: Shatsu to tokei wo kaimasu ka – You will buy the shirt and the watch?

Jasmine: Hai. – Yes.

Here are some other useful words and phrases:

– Kaimono – shopping

– Konbini – convience store

– mise – shop

– housekiten – jewelery store

– yaoya – greengrocer

-kudamonoya – fruit shop

– sakanaya – fish shop

– nikuya – butcher(lit. meat shop)

– panya – bakery(lit. bread shop)

– sakaya – liquor store

– meganeya – optician

– bunbouguya – stationery store

Jasmine: Sumimasen. Kono kutsu wa amari ni kitsui desu ga. – Excuse me. This shoe is too tight.

Waitress: Sumimasen. Kutsu no saizu wa nan desu ka. – I’m sorry. What is your shoe size?

Jasmine: ni-jyuu roku desu. – A 26.

– yurui – loose

– yasui – cheap

– takai – expensive

– kaimasu – buy

– urimasu – to sell

– shoutengai – shopping district

– Kaimono ni ikimashou. – Let’s go shopping.

– ~ikaga desu ka. – How about~?

– Kore wo zenbu kudasai. – All of this please.

– Kite-mite mo ii desu ka. – May I try this on?

– Tetsudatte itadakemasen ka. – Can you please give me a hand?

Hanako: Kono waishatsu ga suki desu ka. – Do you like this dress shirt?

Jasmine: Hai, suki desu. – Yes, I like them.

Hanako: Orenji-iro no shatsu ga suki desu ka. – Do you like orange undershirts?

Jasmine: Iie, kirai desu. – No, I dislike them.

– daisuki – really like

– daikirai – really dislike

– Bootsu ga hiiru desu ka? – Boots or heels?

– ookii – big

– chiisai – small

– nagai – long

– mijikai – short(length)

– atsui – hot, thick

– samui – cold(weather, atmosphere)

– tsumetai – cold(to the touch)

– yawarakai – soft

– katai – hard(to the touch)

– takusan na – a lot

– sukinai – a little bit

– kawaii – cute

– akai – red

– aoi – blue

– midori no – green

– murasaki no – purple

– kuroi – black

– shiroi – white

– kiiroi – yellow

– orenji-iro no – orange

– cha-iro no/buraun – brown (“cha” is “tea”)

– momo-iro no/pinku – pink (“momo” is “peach”)

– nezumi-iro noey(“nezumi” means “mouse”)

– Kuroi kutsu ga san kai arimasu. – The black shoes are on the third floor.

– Midori no keitai wo mimashita. – I saw a green cellphone.

Hiroto: Jasmin-san no Sukina iro wa nan desu ka. – What is favorite color color, Jasmine?

Jasmine: Suki na iro wa midori desu. – Sukina iro wa midori desu.

Hiroto: Doushite desu ka? – Why?

Jasmine: Onii-san no suki na iro deshita kara. – Because it was my older brother’s favorite color.

Hiroto: Naru hodo…hontou ni totemo kirei na iro desu . – I see…it really is a very lovely color.

All of these phrases and vocabulary that you have encountered in this guide should be more than enough to help you survive in Japan. Using the sentence structers now, you can apply any words you want. Even ones that were not listed here. You can say “The ceiling is white.” If you know that the word for ceiling is “tenjou” because you know where to plug the noun in. Or you can say that the toast was “goldren brown” if you knew that “kitsune-iro” meant “goldren brown” and you’d understand why it stands for that color if you know that a kitsune means “fox”.

The sentences are like toy blocks. You can take them apart and put them back together in ways that make sense and make a variety of new words. I wish you all the best on your stay in Japan and that it will be one of the best experiences you have ever encountered.

I hope you have enjoyed this lengthy article. Now it’s your turn. Please leave a comment in the section below and share it with your friends to help them as well.

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Jennifer
I'm a teacher and traveler from the US. Hopefully, you find some some insight, useful information, or even some inspiration!