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17 May, 20192 minute read

A basic guide to Japanese

Throughout October, we’ve been answering your questions about Chinese and Japanese culture in our ‘Antidote to culture shock’ series. Last on the list is the basic guide to Japanese. Whether you’re off to Japan or just want to know a bit more about this fascinating language, we’ve pulled together the need-to-know phrases and a bit about what makes this language so unique. To make things easy, why not print it off and keep it in your back pocket as an on-trip cheat sheet.

Something to say about everything: The Japanese language has over 2000 different characters, making our Latin alphabet look rather lazy with a measly 26.

 Greetings:  Keep these basic greetings in your back pocket and bluff your way around Tokyo.

How do you do - Hajimenashite

Good morning – Ohayoo gozaimasu

Good afternoon - Konichiwa

Good evening – Konbanwa

Good night – Oyasumi nasai

Giving the British a run for their money: The Japanese are a very polite society and have over 20 different ways to say sorry. Over indulging in pleasantries is practically a national tic in Britain, so keep these phrases handy and then at least you can apologise in your host country’s language.

Please -  Kudasai

Thank you – Arrigato

Excuse me – Sumimasen

Sorry – Gomen nasai

Yes – Haii

No – Iie

 Counting: The Japanese language has different numbers depending on what you’re counting. These are the most basic and are usually understood anywhere.

1 – ichi

2 – ni

3 – san

4 – shi

5 – go

6 – roku

7 – schichi

8 – hachi

9 – kyuu

10 – juu

Pronunciation: Much like other Asian languages, words can have multiple meanings depending on pronunciation. The word, ‘ame’ can mean sweets or rain, so take your pick.

Tricky stuff: Japanese is a difficult language to learn, particularly for English native speakers because of the Yoda-esque reversed word order. In Japanese, the verb comes second, meaning that instead of saying, ‘I cycle in Japan’, in Japanese you would say, ‘In Japan I cycle’.

Think you're getting the hang of it? Why not test your knowledge with the locals on one of our tours to Japan?

Image of blog author Nicola James

Nicola considers herself very lucky to have had the opportunity to visit a number of places around the world and these experiences usually involve searching for as many kinds of wildlife as possible. Recent highlights include penguins in Antarctica, bears and whales in Canada and Alaska and sea otters in California - but there are always more animals to search for.

Nicola | About the author

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