Some Useful Japanese Phrases

Yesterday, again, people were asking me how to say thing in Japanese. People who don’t speak Japanese seem to have a real need just to learn words and phrases in Japanese. Often I get just one question about one particular thing, and I answer their question, but don’t particularly blog about it. I decided I needed to tell you guys several useful things in Japanese. These are the kinds of things they ask. Things are really done differently in Japan than in other countries. Mostly I will tell you things that help you treat others well.

There are different levels of bowing in Japan. The second lady is actually kneeling on the floor.

If you want to say thank you, say, “domo arigato gozaimasu.” There are different levels of how much you actually can use with this phrase. If you just say, “domo” alone or “arigato” alone, it still works, and alone, it is like just saying, “thanks.” If you want to be nice, but don’t care if you are extremely polite, just say, “domo arigato.” If you want to be completely polite, say the whole thing, “domo arigato gozaimasu.” “Gozaimasu” can be put on the end of lots of things to make them more polite. When you thank someone, you may want to bow, and according to how important the person is you are thanking, there are different kinds of bows. If they are your professor or someone very high up the social scale, you may want to bow from the waist. If they are your friend, just nodding your head a bit might be okay. If they are the emperor or God, you may be all the way in the floor bowing. There are several different bowing positions in Japan.

When you pick up the phone, say, “Mushi, Mushi!”//Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

If you want to tell someone hello, say “konnichiwa” meaning “hello” or “good afternoon.” If you want to say “good morning,” say “ohio gozaimasu.” If you want to say “good evening,” say “konbanwa.” If you answer the phone, say “mushi mushi” literally meaning, “if, if,” but it means “hello” on the phone. If you want to ask someone how they are, say, “o’genki desuka?’ If you are fine, say, “Hi, genki desu.” You are literally asking, “Are you healthy?” The response literally means, “Yes, I am healthy.” If you aren’t feeling good, you may want to say, “iie, genki janai,” but don’t say it unless you know someone well. In Japan, they often go in circles to answer or to tell someone something. They just aren’t very direct. When you put “O” in front of something, it makes it more polite.

If you see two Japanese guys talking, they will be nodding, bowing, and saying, “hai!” and “Hai, so desu!”

If you want to agree with someone, say “so desu, ne!” meaning “that is the way it is, right!” If you want to ask them if that is how it is, use the same words with intonation at the end going up, “so desu, ne?” meaning, “Is that right?” If you just want to say “yes, that is the way it is,” say “hai, so-o desu.” These are used more often than you would think because of the Japanese active listening concept. When someone talks, you need to show them that you are listening by bowing, nodding your head, and saying things like this.

If you want to date a Japanese, it can be much more complicated than you realize.

If you want to tell someone that you love them, say “aishitemasu.” Something you need to understand in Japan, though, is that people are not very direct, so if you don’t know someone well, don’t say it. For example, a Japanese guy would never come right out and tell a girl he likes her unless they are already in a close relationship. He would tell someone else that he likes her, and let them tell her. A Japanese guy wanted to tell me that I was pretty once, so he gave me a kanji saying it was my Japanese name. He gave me the pronunciation of my kanji, but not the meaning. Someone else had to tell me that the kanji meant, “pretty girl.” If a Japanese guy likes a girl, he sits by her when their group of friends is together and buys her gifts. Japanese guys don’t carry things for girls or open doors for them, but the Japanese girls do those thing for the guy she likes. It is much easier for a western guy and a Japanese girl to get together than for a Japanese guy and a western girl to get together because of cultural differences. Historically, the western guys and the Japanese girls get along very well because if the western guys are gentlemen, they open the doors, and the Japanese girls open doors too.

If they make tea for you, they may hand it to you saying, “nonde kudsai” meaning, “please drink.”

If you want to ask someone in Japan to do something, use the “te” form of the verb and put “kudasai” on the end. It is called the “request form.” If you want to say, “please talk,” change “hanashimasu” to “hanashte kudasai.” If you want to say “please hold this,” change “kore wo mochimasu” to “kore wo mote kudasai.” If you want to say, “please drink,” change “nomimasu” to “nonde kudasai.” If you are a teacher, you need to know how to say, “please read.” You change “yomimasu” to “yonde kudasai.” If you want to say, “please do it,” change “shimasu” to “shite kudasai.” If you want to encourage them to eat, say “tabete kudasai.” If you write something in Japanese, often they will understand when they wouldn’t understand if you spoke English. If someone requests someone else to write it, they will say “ka-i-te kudasai” meaning “please write.”

If you want to tell someone not to do something, add “nai” before that “te” or “de.” to say, “don’t do it,” say “shinai de kudasai.” If you want to tell them not to forget, change “wasureru” to “wasura nai de kudasai.” If you want to say, “don’t eat,” change “tabemasu” to “tabenai de kudasai.” If you want to say, “don’t stand,” change “tachimasu” to “tate nai de kudasai.”

This lady is presenting a gift wrapped in a furokshi. A furoshiki is a piece of cloth that is like a huge head scarf. They are the traditional way to carry packages like we use bags. If it is wrapped in regular wrapping paper and it is a happy occasion, they would put a red bow on it because red means happiness in Japan.

There are two ways to say “excuse me” or “I am sorry.” One way is, “gomenasai.” Some people shorten this to “gomen.” The other way is “sumimasen.”

Japanese sit in the floor a lot. If you want them to sit, say “suwate kudasai.”

If you want to tell someone to sit down, there are two ways to say it. If you want them to sit on a chair, say “Kakete kudasai.” “Kakeru” actually means “to hang,” so you are telling them to hang themselves on the chair. If you just want to say sit, say “suwate kudasai.” You have to say this if you want them to sit in the floor, and you could say it if you want them to sit in a chair. “Suwaru” is the verb “suwate kudasai” comes from.

If you want to ask them to wait just a minute, say “choto mate kudasai.” If you want to tell them “see you later” instead of “goodbye,” say “mata, ne?” meaning “again, right?” Most people know that “sayonara” means “goodbye.” If you want to tell them you must go, say “ikanakerebanarimasen” meaning “I must go.” If you must study, say “benkyo shinakerebanarimasen.”

If you want to say, “Shall we go to the beach together?”, so “Umi e ishoni ikimashoka?”

If you want to say “one more time,” say, “mo ichi do.” If you want to invite someone to go with you, say, “ishoni ikimashoka?” meaning, “Shall we go together?” The posititve answer is, “Hai, ikimasho,” meaning “Yes, let’s go.” If you want to tell them you aren’t going, respond by saying, “iie, ikimasen.” If you just want to say, “let’s go,” say, “ikimasho.”

If they offer you a second cup of tea, and you don’t want it, say “Mo keko desu.”

If someone offers you something, and you don’t want it, say “keko desu” meaning, “no thank you.” If they offer you seconds when you are eating, and you can’t eat them, say, “mo keko desu” meaning, “No more thank you.” If someone offers you something in Japan, don’t be bold and take it right away. They will think you are rude if you do. Don’t take it until they offer it a third time.

If you are eating with them and it tastes good, say “oishi desu” meaning, “It’s delicious.” If you want to say “I like it,” say, “suki desu.” If you want to say, “It is good,” say “ii desu.”

If you want to tell someone you like something, say “suki desu.” If you want to say you really like it a lot, say “dai suki desu.”

There may be more things like this you would like to learn to say. You can always leave me a comment and ask me, and I will try to answer. I don’t know everything in Japanese, but I can get around. I have given you nice things to say. People also ask me how to say things like “you are stupid.” Japanese usually wouldn’t say anything like that directly to someone’s face. However, there is a word for it. The only time I have heard of someone saying it was when I heard a Japanese teacher told a group of students at the junior high off, and the called them “baka.” From what I understand, if you watch anime, you are more likely to hear words like that because they come at each other in full force in their cartoons very unlike what they do in real person. They are so polite they don’t even ask people where the bathroom is. However, if you are looking for the bathroom, you need to realize the word for bathroom is like the word for box lunch, “obento” and don’t get them mixed up. You could say “obenjo wa doko desuka?” to ask where the bathroom is, but you would be considered completely impolite. It is better just to look around and find it. I am a crazy “gaijin” (foreigner), and that is the only reason I can write, “Where is the bathroom” in Japanese. I hope I didn’t offend any Japanese by putting it there.

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