Japanese isn't exactly known for being an easy language to master. With three separate alphabets and a syntax that's vastly different from English, anyone trying to even learn the basics isn't exactly going to be taking a walk in the park. But thankfully for all you travelers heading to Japan, we have an better solution for you: we've got all the essential phrases right here, from asking for the coolest sights to the yummiest foods. And pronunciation is included as well, albeit in a more accessible format than the IPA–so take it with a grain of salt. Close that Intro to Japanese workbook and read on below:
What is the wifi password?
Phonetic pronunciation: Wai-fai no an-sho bango o oshi-e-te-ku-da-sai.
Definitely one of the first questions you'll want to have answered as soon as you land. How else will you update Facebook with a 'checked into Japan' status? Both paid and free wireless hotspots are available everywhere in this high-tech country, so connect and share away.
Hi, i'm trying to find my ryokan. Here's the address:
Phonetic pronunciation: Ko-no ryo-kan ma-de, do yat-te ike-ba ee-de-su ka.
Even after gaining internet access, Google Maps might not do the job in finding your hotel–the streets of Japan are notoriously hard to navigate and are filled with meandering alleys around every corner, so your best bet is to ask a local who knows the lay of the land.
Where can I find the freshest sushi?
Phonetic pronunciation: Yoo-me-i-na o-sushi-ya-san o oshi-ete-ku-da-sai.
Because what's a trip to Japan without trying their most famous dish? Becoming an itamae sushi chef is such an important distinction in the country that it requires 5 years of training before an apprentice is allowed to make just the sushi rice.
I suck at Japanese, can you speak English?
Phonetic pronunciation: Nihon-go wa sha-be-re-ma-sen-node, e-i-go de sha-bet-te mo-ra-e-ma-su ka.
Despite the awesomeness of this short language guide, there are sure to be other questions you'll need to ask while you're in Japan. Thankfully, most locals understand basic English, so keep this phrase in particular on standby–it can come in extra handy.
Where is the best place for karaoke?
Phonetic pronunciation: Karaoke ni iki-ta-ide-su-ga, dokka ni ari-ma-sen ka.
If singing was an international sport, the Japanese would be regular top contenders. Few countries love karaoke at this level of intensity, and young students and office workers alike enjoy singing their hearts out in the many 'karaoke rooms' all over the country. Often decked out with disco lights and tambourines, make sure you have a mental song list and a big of alcohol in the system before you head over.
Can you recommend a cool bar near this area?
Phonetic pronunciation: Kono hen ni oi-shi izakaya wa ari-ma-sen ka.
Because what's traveling without drinking at a bar and mingling with the locals? Cocktails, Asahi, Sapporo, sake, plum wine, or chuhai–carbonated fruity drinks à la Palm Bay–are all up on offer in the many hip underground bars.
Where is the best district in Tokyo for shopping?
Phonetic pronunciation: Shoppin-gu de ichi-ban yoo-me-i-na ba-sho wa doko-desu ka.
From the high end boutiques of Roppongi to the Harajuku fashions in the Takeshita-dori strip, there's no doubt that Tokyo is shopping heaven. If you want a local's take on their favorite fashion haunt, this is a good question to pose any stylish urbanite you meet on the street.
Could you take a photo of me, please?
Phonetic pronunciation: Su-mi-ma-sen ga, sha-shin o tot-te mo-rat-te mo ide-su ka.
Get some help with those selfies in front of Senso-ji temple or the floating torii gate of Miyajima. After all, selfies sticks aren't exactly hip in any part of the world.
Where are the most beautiful temples in Kyoto?
Phonetic pronunciation: Kyo-to de ichi-ban yoo-mei-na o-te-ra wa do-ko-de-su ka.
With over 1600 Buddhist temples and many more Zen gardens, Kyoto is a must-see destination if you're looking to experience the more traditional side of Japan. Narrow stone streets of old wooden houses and monks in flowing robes add to the otherworldly charm of this previous capital city, and nothing is more refreshing than biking from stunning temple to stunning temple.
Where should I go for the tastiest ramen?
Phonetic pronunciation: Yoo-mei-na rah-men-ya o oshi-ete-koo-dasai.
Nothing beats a bowl of steaming flavorful ramen when you've worked up an appetite. Typically served with gyoza, fried rice and beer, ramen in Japan takes on many different styles depending on the region you're in. From butter corn ramen in Hokkaido to dipping zaru ramen in summertime, this is another must-try for your foodie list.
Where can I catch the bullet train from?
Phonetic pronunciation: Shin-kan-sen wa doko de no-reba ee-de-su ka.
Home to the fastest bullet trains in the world, the Shinkansen high-speed railway lines can reach close to 200 miles an hour. This makes travel between the island nation's biggest cities a breeze. Look for the JR Rail booths in the major transit stations, or use this handy dandy phrase to get there faster.
A glass of sake, please.
Phonetic pronunciation: Sake o ip-pai ku-da-sai.
We recommend ending each night with this phrase, and you'll be guaranteed to have the trip of your life.
Have you recently been somewhere cool and took some awesome videos? Submit them to #VIVAStories for the chance to win a $10,000 trip! Watch the video below for more deets, and enter now.