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Nihongo For Dummies

May 7th, 2008 by

Japanese Alphabet TableSo you’re in Japan, but you don’t speak a word of Japanese. Fear not, here are a few essential phrases which will help you get by when you visit Japan. There are a lot of phrases that is useful to know. If you plan to go to Japan and you are not fluent, remember that it is also helpful to bring a Japanese-English dictionary to better understand what your Japanese counterparts are saying to you. One thing to remember is that the japanese have distinct ways of speaking, depending on who the speaker is addressing and the situation. Nihongo can either be formal or informal, such as when talking to friends or family the informal form is usually used. Most of the phrases here are in their informal form. When speaking in a formal event or to one’s elders, it is imperative to use the formal way of speaking.


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Good morning – Ohayou

Good evening – Kombanwa

Good day – Konnichiwa

Good night – Oyasumi

How do you do? – Ikaga desu ka?

Nice to meet you – Hajimemashite

I am very well – Genki desu

Thank you – Arigatou

Many thanks – Domo arigatou

Goodbye – Sayounara/ Ja ne

Best regards – Yoroshiku

By all means – Douzo


What is the fare? – Ryokin wa ikura desu ka

Are we almost there? – Mo sugu desu ka

Please stop – Tomete kudasai

Please hurry up – Isoide kudasai


Will you show me the way? – Michi o oshiete kudasai

What time does the bus pass? – Itsu bus ga koko o torimasu ka

Where do i have to get off? – Doko de orimasu ka

Is [name] in? – [name]-san wa uchi desu ka?

Will he return soon? – Sugu okaeri desho ka?


I want two rooms – Futaheya iri masu

How much is the room rate? – Kono heya nedan wa ikura desu ka?

Have you any rooms? – Heya ga arimasu ka?

Where is the bathroom? – Furo wa doko desu ka?

That room is too small – Kono heya wa semasugi masu

That room is too large – Ano heya wa okisugi masu

Give ma a quiet room – Shizuka na heya wo kudasai


When can I have breakfast/lunch/dinner? – Itsu asameshi/hirumeshi/yuushoku ga deki masu ka?

Give me some [food] – [food] o sukoshi kudasai

Let me look at the menu – Menu o misete kudasai

I want [food] – [food] ga hoshii


I want to buy [item] – [item] ga kakitai no desu

Let me try it on – Kabuttemasho

Please show me that – Are o misete kudasai

This is too small/large – Kore wa chiisai/ookii sugai masu

I will take this – Kore o moraimasho

I want some other color – Hoka no iro ga hoshii


One – Ichi

Two – Ni

Three – San

Four – Yon/shi

Five – Go

Six – Roku

Seven – Nana

Eight – Hachi

Nine – Kyuu

Ten – Juu

Hundred – Hyaku

Thousand – Sen

Remember that other numbers are based on the numbers above. For example:

Thirteen – Juu-san

Thirty-five – Sanjuu-go

One hundred eighty three – Hyaku hachi juu-san

Also, it would be helpful to learn about the Japanese way of writing. We shall discuss the Japanese way of writing in detail next time but in the mean time, why not start memorizing the Japanese alphabet table for both Hiragana and Katakana below:

Japanese Alphabet Table

15 Responses to “Nihongo For Dummies”

  1. kie Says:

    the one for shopping and for public transpo is reeeeeeally important

  2. Kitci Wong Says:

    Hmm, I think I’ll print this out and use it as a guide if and when I visit Japan … =D

  3. marge Says:


  4. Anonymous Says:

    This guide is horrible and on multiple counts.

    Why are you spelling it nihonggo and not nihongo? You did that twice. Also, maybe you should’ve mentioned that nihongo is Japanese for “The Japanese Language.”

    Second, why are you offering a phrasebook with no pronunciation guide? You realize that if people pronounce this with a normal American accent, probably no Japanese person is going to understand them, right?

    Third, if someone does understand the questions listed and replies in Japanese, someone using this phrasebook won’t understand the reply.

    Fourth, teaching kana syllabaries without teaching the appropriate stroke order? Come on.

    Fifth, don’t give people the false expectation that kana (those two alphabets, hiragana and katakana, listed here) is all they need to learn in order to be able to read/write Japanese. You should mention that most of the language is written in kanji complemented with kana, and literary fluency requires you to learn two thousand kanji in addition to all the kana. (You can sort of get by on just two hundred fifty, though.)

  5. EERON Says:

    I agree for someone who already knows japanese like myself this is quite rubish and plus you are leaving out quite a few characters on your kana and forgeting the kanji witch they use today. Kanji was adapted from the chinese language And han was made for the sole purpose of pronouncing foreign words

  6. wok choy Says:

    thats why it says its for dummies not people who already know the language

  7. austin kume Says:

    hey just a percaution to all those who go japan if you see some hard dude dont make eye contact with them most the time yakuza and other misc gangsters will leave you alone but you hold your head head up then the got something to beat down lol seen it happen here and there with russian tourists

    also be weary of your group when you go around at night personally shibuya can get pretty tuff at nights so i recommend roppongi and yeah there are drunkards that get on the trains mostly tipsy redfaced business men but every once in a while you get one

    oh yeah when on the train leave the forward upper left seats open for seniors not to serious but its just a mannerism to remember

    the reason i type this up was cuz when i was last in tokyo there some real jackoff tourists and it just bugged the shit out of me cuz im from america too but these people had no tact or style

    lol brings me to clothing blazers and dress shoes for dudes while traveling and modest formal wear for the girls so you dont stick out out on the shinkansen

    i hope that pointless rants help smooth your trip out and blend in a little

    ps most japanese ppl know english and if you know a little japanese you can deff get around plus jr tickets can be bough in english

    \(^o^)/ have fun all

  8. jili-dezu Says:

    hai!! nandayo! Kabuttemasho ja-pando…

    yes!! let me try on this japanese

  9. IamBaka Says:

    i don’t get it~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  10. Pikachu Boy Says:

    This is accurate and helpful…THANKS FOR POSTING THIS! :D

  11. Nabueh Says:

    This is traveler’s Japanese and it is good enough for someone who’s not exposed to Japanese. 15 years ago, I memorised 20 such phrases and later it got me interested in learning Japanese. Now I can read and write kana and kanji. Beisdes, it’s alright for a complete beginner to pronounce wrongly or say with an accent. There’s got to be a start somewhere and this list is a good start.

  12. Britt Says:

    I know quite alot of japanese..AND I’M 11!!

    this will help alot and who knows maybe there will be someone to teach japanese to people like us… yup.

    ^ ^
    (◔ヮ◔ )

  13. danilo orehuela Says:

    nice it is helpful to me since i have a japanese friend..

  14. Erin Vanessa Smith Says:

    this is helpfull I just started learning japanese in school and find it easy thanks to this!!!!

  15. Japanese learner Says:

    Wow this is extrememly helpful ,BUT EVEN MORE HELPFUL IF!…. you had the way it is writen in japanese too!

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