Learn Japanese for Travel

Prepare for your next trip with Busuu’s Japanese Travel Course. Learn essential Japanese travel vocabulary and phrases to open new doors!

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By Emily Duncan · March 19, 2024 · 8 minute read

If you’re planning a trip to Japan, it’s smart to learn Japanese for travel. But where to start? It can be overwhelming to tackle a whole new language!

Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at why it’s important to learn basic Japanese for travel before you jet off to Tokyo, the best way to learn Japanese, and start to tackle some important Japanese words and phrases for travel.

How to learn Japanese for travel

Learning basic Japanese for travel is actually easier than you might think.

Sure, the language as a whole is considered one of the hardest languages for English speakers to learn, thanks to the three Japanese writing systems and the complexity of formal Japanese and honorifics. But if you’re simply heading to an onsen in Hokkaido for a week, you’re probably not looking to do business in Japanese or read entire novels.

Instead, you can focus on Japanese phrases for travelers and other elements of basic Japanese, which is not nearly as challenging.

Discover the best way to learn Japanese for your next trip

Learn Japanese for Travel with Busuu's Travel Course

Lessons on your schedule

Learn at your own pace with Busuu! Whether you have a free hour to study or just a few minutes, you can make progress toward your goals with bite-sized lessons designed by experts.

Learn Japanese for Travel with Busuu's Travel Course

Tackle basic Japanese for travel first

Start learning with Japanese basics in the Complete Japanese Course or focus on the Japanese travel vocabulary you’re most likely to need first with our Japanese Travel Course.

Learn Japanese for Travel with Busuu's Travel Course

Learn Japanese from anywhere

Study on the go with the Busuu app, and download lessons to learn offline! With Busuu Premium, you can keep learning even when your adventures take you out of WiFi range.

Why learn Japanese before you travel to Japan?

Before taking a closer look at how to learn basic Japanese, you might want to know why you should! After all, learning a language can be tough. You might be wondering what the benefits are of learning Japanese at all and whether it’s worth the bother.

Well, there are many excellent reasons to learn Japanese if you’re heading off to Japan! Learning a language makes your travel experiences so much better. Here are our top 5 reasons you should learn Japanese for travel.

1. Simplify your trip

When you take a Japanese Travel Course (like this one!), you’ll learn essential Japanese phrases for travel. The ability to ask for directions, buy train tickets, find a restroom, or order at a restaurant in the local language can make a huge difference in your experience of Japan. When you understand more, you can navigate new places and experiences more smoothly and with less stress.

2. Take roads less traveled

Another good reason to learn Japanese for travel? Many Japanese people simply don’t speak English. It’s not as common to learn English in Japan as it is in other countries that rely more heavily on tourism or that have had long relationships with English-speaking nations. If you don’t speak any Japanese, it may be hard to navigate the country unless you stick to more touristy locations. And what fun is that?

3. Connect with locals

In Japan, a little politeness can go a long way. Even if mastering advanced Japanese grammar isn’t in the cards for you, a few basic Japanese travel phrases – like learning to say yes and no in Japanese or understanding Japanese table manners – can help you better connect with the people you meet on your travels. Learning basic Japanese can help you learn to introduce yourself, ask other people basic questions about themselves, and so much more.

4. Understand more

If you’re heading off to Japan, one of the best things you can do to prepare is learn hiragana and katakana – two of the three Japanese writing systems. While the third system, kanji, can take years to master, hiragana and katakana alone can give you a huge boost when it comes to navigating around Japan. Reading these two syllabaries can help you sound out Japanese menus, signage, and product labels, which can be a huge help when it comes to getting around day-to-day.

5. Get a sense of accomplishment!

The simple truth is, learning to speak a new language and putting it to use can be fun!

Even if your Japanese isn’t perfect by the time the plane lands, it’s thrilling to buy a snack or check into a hotel in a new language and be understood.

Everyone needs a win sometimes! And the local Japanese folks you encounter will likely appreciate the effort you made in learning.

Pro tip: When you go into a store in Japan, you’re likely to hear someone call out, “Irasshaimase!” Find out what it means – along with 17 other Japanese greetings – right here.

In short? Learning to speak Japanese before traveling to Japan is sure to improve your experience!

There are tons of good reasons to learn a little Japanese before you go, and – since you can start learning with Busuu for free – it’s hard to find a reason not to.

Best of all? When you learn with Busuu, you can focus on learning the Japanese travel phrases you’ll need most, right from day one.

Learn Japanese phrases for travelers

Why not get started right now? Let’s take a look at some of the vocabulary and phrases you’ll learn in your first few lessons with Busuu’s Travel Course!

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Pro Tip: There are many different ways to say no in Japanese – learn which one to use and when right here.

10 Essential Japanese words for travel

English Romaji Hiragana
Good morning Ohayou おはよう
Hello / Good day Konnichiwa こんにちは
Good evening Konbanwa こんばんは
Excuse me Sumimasen すみません
Please Onegaishimasu おねがいします
Thank you Domo arigatou どもありがとう
Yes Hai はい
No Iie / Chotto いいえ / ちょっと
Delicious Oishii おいしい

Learn more Japanese for Travel with Busuu Premium

learn-japanese-travel busuu

With Busuu Premium, you can set goals with a Study Plan, connect with Japanese speakers through Conversations, and so much more. Premium makes learning to use Japanese travel vocabulary a breeze, so you’ll be saying, Konnichiwa / こんにちは– “Hello!” with confidence to the people you meet on your travels!

3 Basic Japanese phrases for travel


1. Hajimemashite

Hajimemashite (始めまして) is a Japanese greeting that means “Nice to meet you”. We say this phrase when we meet someone for the first time.


2. Itadakimasu

Taken literally, itadakimasu (いただきます) means, “I humbly receive.” It’s good manners to say this before you eat and is a way to say thank you for the whole preparation of the meal.

Onegai shimasu

3. Onegai shimasu

Onegai shimasu (お願いします) is a polite Japanese phrase that translates to "please" or "I humbly request." It is commonly used in various contexts to make a request or ask for a favor politely.

And now you’ve learned a few handy Japanese phrases to know when traveling!

Of course, you’ll need to learn a bit more Japanese before you can strike up a conversation in an izakaya or seamlessly order gyoza – but don’t worry, you’ll learn all that and more when you learn via Busuu’s Japanese Travel Course.

Start learning with Busuu

Don’t wait, start to learn Japanese for travel now and discover all the doors that learning Japanese can open for you.