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Special Japanese Phrases

I was answering questions about Japanese on another site and realized they were asking about different special phrases that foreigners just need to learn to get along in Japan. I decided to come back over here and help you guys with those phrases just in case you need them. They have special phrases that we use in English, but also some special phrases that we don’t worry so much about.

A phrase that we often use is “Are you okay?” or “Is it okay?’ They both translate as “Daijobu desuka?’ To answer the question that you are fine or that everything is okay, say “Daijoubu desu.”

Say, “Itadakimasu” before you eat and “gochisosama deshita” after you eat. This is how you put your chopsticks down. Never stand them straight up in the rice. It is very rude because that is what they do at funerals.

Before Japanese eat and after they eat, they have special phrases that we don’t use in English. Often, we will pray before we eat, but that is only if we are a Christian. They also give thanks, but not really a prayer. Before they eat, they say out loud, “Itadakimasu.” It basically is thanking God or whoever made the food for the food. When you are finished, you need to say, “Gochiso sama deshita.” This basically means, “thank you for the food” or “The food was good.” They use these phrases religiously and never skip saying them. This is a little different from saying “oishi desu” meaning “It tastes good.” Or, after you have eaten you can say, “Oishi deshita” or “oishikata” both meaning “It was delicious.” Even if you choose to use one of these they will be listening to hear “Gochiso sama deshita.”

When you get home, take your shoes off at the door and say, “Tadaima!”, and someone inside will say, “O-karinasai!”

Before you leave the house, you must say “Itekimasu” telling everyone in the house that you are leaving. You will hear the response, “It-tarashai!” Telling you they heard, and it is kind of like saying goodbye, but not technically “goodbye.” When you get home, as you walk in the front door, you need to say, “tadaima!” meaning, “I am home!” or “I have come back!” However, it is not literally. It is just the basic meaning. When you say that, you should hear the response, “O-kairinasai! That means that they heard, and that you are welcome. These phrases actually mean, but not literally “hello” and “goodbye.” However, “hello” is actually “konnichiwa,” and “goodbye” is “sayonara.” If you want to say, “See you later,” say “Mata-ne?” That literally means, “Again”right?” You respond by saying, “Mata, ne.”

At the front door of a business, they may say to you, “Irashaimasei!”

When you are walking down the street in Japan, there may be a shop owner standing in the door of their business saying, “Irashaimasei” either that, or it could be written on a sign. It means “welcome.” The store or business is open for business, and they are welcoming you to come in.

In America, we may feel like pointing is impolite, but if a Japanese child points at you, screams, “Gaijin!” giggles, and runs away, you just laugh and ignore them…..// Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

While you are walking down the street, you may also see children pointing at you giggling, then saying, “Gaijin! Gaijin!” After that, they run away. “Gaijin” means “foreigner.” It is not considered an insult. They are just tickled by the idea of a foreigner, and slightly scared.

There may be some others, but those are just some that you may need if you decide to go to Japan. Most of these are not things we think so much about in English, and you don’t learn them in Japanese classes, but they say these things, and it is great to know what they are saying and what your response should be. There may be more, but I learned to use and understand these phrases outside of my Japanese class, but these are the kind that people are asking questions about.


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