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  • Writer's pictureMarc Pulisci

When in Japan, Learn These Four Phrases

The following is an article “When in Japan, Learn These Four Phrases” by Marc Pulisci.

Japan is currently enjoying an influx of tourists from all over the world, with over 30 million visitors in 2018, having steadily increased after the Great East Japan earthquake of 2011. With its many tourist attractions, career opportunities, and fascinating culture, small wonder why people flock to the Land of the Rising Sun for both business and pleasure.

Traveling to Japan tips

If you are planning to go on holiday in Japan soon, you’d better learn a few basic phrases that will help you talk to native speakers. Nihongo can be quite difficult but these ones can at least help you appreciate the language and Japanese culture before you visit.

Otsukaresama deshita.

This phrase simply means “you’ve worked hard” and is one of the most used phrases in Japan. Many Japanese words have no direct English counterparts so this phrase can even be shortened to otsukare, which connotes the same meaning. Use this as a common greeting when meeting your Japanese colleagues and friends, just as much as you would other words like kanpai or “cheers” in English. It is formed with the use of the verb tsukarenu, which means “to be tired”. For its present tense, say otsukaresama desu. Most Japanese are very keen in expressing their respect and appreciation to co-workers and friends because Japanese culture is influenced by Buddhist philosophies. Another word you can use to show respect is arigatou, which means “thank you”.

Ojama shimasu.

When a host welcomes you into his home, you can use this phrase to express your appreciation. It’s English meaning which is “I’m sorry for bothering” can be quite apologetic but this Japanese phrase is usually taken as a common greeting from visitors. The noun jama means intrusion while shimasu is the formal verb form of ‘to do’. Your host might welcome you with duozo oagari kudasai, or “please come in”, and you reply with ojama shimasu. Another thing to remember before entering the homes of the Japanese is to take your shoes off at the genkan. It is considered disrespectful to enter a house with your shoes on as it is believed that you bring dirt into the household. After your stay, say ojama shimashita being the past tense of the phrase.

Yoroshiku onegai shimasu.

This phrase has many translations but mainly, it means “nice to meet you”. It is commonly used in introductions. You may say it in its shortened form yoroshiku duirng less formal introductions but when being introduced in more formal situations such as business meetings or social gatherings, say the full phrase as its meaning transforms into “I’m looking forward to working with you”, or “please take care of me”. Use it according to the situation you’re currently in especially when you are requesting for some help with something. The phrase can be used in a variety of context and cannot be translated directly into English, so pick the proper setting when to say it.


Say this when you want to excuse yourself from a formal meeting and head to the restroom, or when you’re leaving the cinema before the movie ends. But if you happen to step on someone’s foot as you make your way to the aisle, you’d have to say gomen nasai instead which means “I’m sorry”. Deliver this line while continuously bowing your head to show your sincerity then follow it up by asking daijoubu desu ka? or “are you all right?” Sumisamen is a polite way to thank someone who hands you a gift and can also be integrated with arigatou by saying doumo sumimasen, arigatougozaimasu which means “thank you very much”. If you’re in a business setting, saying thank you in Japanese also takes on a different form. Say osoreirimasu to your colleagues for their trouble of helping you out with work.

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