When you come to Japan, odds are that the people around you are going to try and communicate with you in Japanese. Many people who aren’t comfortable with English may not even try to use the English words that they DO know with you (which, in my opinion, is a bit of a pity because they do know them)
Example: My brother was asking around for an “ATM” and an old man looked at him and said, “Ginkou?” (meaning, “bank?”). My brother had no idea what he was saying. The old man could have used the English word, “money?” or “machine?” to clarify what my brother was looking for. Instead, he did what most people so in the same situation, he kept speaking his own language in hopes it will somehow become understood.
Here are some phrases you might hear around you/get spoken to you.
Hai- “yes” or “affirmative.” Everyone will understand “yes” in English, but they might not think to use “yes” when trying to speak to you.
Irasshaimase!- Means “welcome” usually yelled at you when you enter a store or restaurant.
****THIS IS A SUPER USEFUL PHRASE FOR WHEN DINING****
Sumimasen- Means “excuse me” “sorry” or in some cases, “thank you.” Say it when you want a waiter, say it when you bump into someone, say it when someone goes out of their way for you.
****The reason why you need to speak up and say “sumimasen” is because Japanese servers do not come around often. They receive no tip and don’t have much incentive to check in on the customer****
Kitsuen/Kinen- “smoking” and “non-smoking.” The host will say it to you when you come into the restaurant. You don’t need to know the difference because you can usually hand motion a smoking sign or a I-don’t-smoke sign.
Dozo- “please,” or “go ahead.” Say it when you are offering something
Gochisousama (adding a “deshita” after makes it polite)- say it after you eat. Say it to someone if they treated you to a meal. It means “I ate well.”
Dame!– “No!” “Not allowed.” Japanese people usually pantomime a giant “x” with their arms for emphasis. Please stop what you are doing if you hear someone saying this.
Onegai shimasu- “please” or “I trust you to do OO.” People will say it if they want you to do something, or if they are saying a sentence to you very politely.
Kinshi- means “prohibited”…sometimes you will hear people say “Camera kinshi!” or “satsuei kinshi” (it is what the sign below says).