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Ten Power Japanese Phrases: Your Key to Navigating Nihon Like a Native



Hey there, konnichiwa! If you're reading this, then it's likely that you've been bitten by the travel bug and have set your sights on the Land of the Rising Sun—Japan. Well, buckle up, for we're going to give you the secret sauce to mastering your journey—the ten most useful Japanese phrases.


You're probably thinking, "I already know 'arigatou' and 'sayonara.' What else do I need, right?" Oh, dear friend, prepare to unlock a whole new level of communication.


**1. おはようございます (Ohayou gozaimasu) - Good Morning**


Let's start our day on the right foot. When you stroll out of your ryokan or hotel, greet the world (or the hotel staff) with a hearty "Ohayou gozaimasu!" They might think you're a morning person, even if you're still mentally hugging your pillow.


**2. すみません (Sumimasen) - Excuse me/I'm sorry**


A Swiss Army knife of phrases, "sumimasen" can be your go-to when you want to catch a waiter's attention, apologize for bumping into someone on the metro, or even as a polite way to start a conversation. It's like 'sorry' in Canadian frequency of usage!


**3. どこですか?(Doko desu ka?) - Where is it?**


Now, we don't want you getting lost in Shinjuku Station or the maze-like streets of Kyoto. So, when in doubt, simply ask "Toire wa doko desu ka?" (Where is the toilet?) or "Tokyo Tower wa doko desu ka?" (Where is the Tokyo Tower?). People might not give you an exact GPS location, but usually, they’ll at least point you in the right direction.


**4. 分かりません (Wakarimasen) - I don't understand**


Not understanding is okay. But staring blankly back isn't. The phrase "wakarimasen" will convey that you didn't quite catch what was said. And it's a much better alternative than nodding along while wondering if you just agreed to become the town's mayor.


**5. 英語を話せますか?(Eigo o hanasemasu ka?) - Can you speak English?**


There's no shame in resorting to your native tongue. Sometimes, using "Eigo o hanasemasu ka?" can be a real lifesaver, like when you're desperately trying to ask if a dish contains something you're allergic to, or you need to find the nearest Pokémon Center.


**6. これはいくらですか? (Kore wa ikura desu ka?) - How much is this?**


So, you've found yourself in Akihabara and you've just spotted a sweet piece of vintage Nintendo merch. Instead of playing a complex game of charades with the shopkeeper, confidently ask "Kore wa ikura desu ka?" to find out if it’s within your budget—or if you need to sell a kidney.


**7. 食べ物のアレルギーがあります (Tabemono no arerugī ga arimasu) - I have a food allergy**


Whether it's shellfish, gluten, or that sneaky peanut, knowing how to communicate your allergies is a must. Follow it up with the specific item like, "Tabemono no arerugī ga arimasu...Piinattsu" (I have a peanut allergy).


**8. これください (Kore kudasai) - Can I have this, please?**


When you're eyeballing the last onigiri at the convenience store or pointing at a delicious looking ramen in the restaurant's menu, "Kore kudasai" is your friend. It's simple, it's casual, and it gets the point across without making you sound like you've swallowed a textbook. Plus, it can make the difference between you going hungry or relishing that scrumptious meal you've been dreaming of all day!


**9. おなかがすいています (Onaka ga suite imasu) - I'm hungry**


Food is a universal language, but being able to express your hunger in Japanese will surely win you some points. Say "Onaka ga suite imasu," and you might end up getting recommendations for the best ramen spot in town, or better yet, an invite to a homemade sushi dinner!


**10. おつかれさまでした (Otsukaresama deshita) - Thank you for your hard work**


This phrase is often used in workplaces, but it's also a great way to show appreciation to anyone who has assisted you—like the staff at the hotel, your tour guide, or the friendly local who helped you navigate the Tokyo metro. It's a bit of a mouthful, sure, but your effort won't go unnoticed!


There you have it, my aspiring Nihongo speakers. You're now armed with the ten essential phrases to navigate the sushi bars, bullet trains, and bustling streets of Japan. And remember, even if you mess up a phrase or two, don't stress. The Japanese will appreciate your efforts, and who knows, your adorable blunders might just be the perfect ice-breaker!

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