Travelling to Japan: Tips and Useful Vocabulary

Travelling to Japan: Tips and Useful Vocabulary

Japan is one of the most relevant countries in the international scene. It is one of the most populated nations on the planet and it is always in the first positions in the top economies’ rankings. If to this we add its incredibly rich culture, no wonder it is one of the most visited places in the world. Travelling to Japan means embarking on a journey between tradition and modernity, two concepts that are typically opposite but that in Japan coexist in perfect harmony.

If you are planning to visit Japan, either for business or leisure, we recommend you to get information about the country beforehand. Japanese society has strong values and ancient customs which might be very different from your home country. Being aware of them and follow them as much as possible which is very important, especially if you are planning to establish business relationships there. In this article, we aim to give you some basic tips for travelling to Japan – some of them you might have already heard of – and we also teach you some basic Japanese.


Japan travel tips

  • Wearing a mask
    Japanese are known for being respectful and reliable. One of the things that surprises visitors is seeing so many people around the street wearing dental masks. The reason for this is not to protect themselves from viruses, but actually to avoid spreading them. If a Japanese person has a cold, it is rare that they just decide to call in sick and do not go to work. They would rather put on a mask to avoid spreading the virus in public places and to their colleagues instead. So in case you have a cold while visiting Japan, please try your best not to sneeze or cough in public and consider the idea of getting a mask yourself.
  • Let’s NOT get loud
    As you could already guess by the previous piece of advice, Japanese society tends to emphasise the wellbeing of the group above the desires of the individuals. That is why they avoid activities such as eating in public and especially talking in a loud voice in public places. When you travel to Japan, more so if you do in a group, try your best to keep the volume down and respect the peace and the private space of Japanese citizens. Avoid speaking on the phone whilst you walk around the streets or having lively conversations in the underground.
  • Take off your shoes
    Same as in many Asian countries, in Japan it is customary to take off your shoes when you are at home. If you are invited to a Japanese home during your trip to Japan, please respect this tradition even if they do not ask you to do so. Japanese people might be overly polite and do not comment on the fact, but they will not be happy if you walk around their clean houses with your trekking boots.
  • Do not point at things
    This one is typical for many countries, but very important in Japan. Pointing at people or things is considered very rude and disrespectful. Whenever you are in a business meeting, in a restaurant or visiting a museum, try your best to avoid pointing at things with your finger. Instead, use your outstretched hand. Also, if you want to call someone’s attention, never tap them on their shoulder. Japanese are not used to unwanted physical contact, unlike it would happen, for example, in Latin American countries, and neither will you see openly public displays of affection between couples or families.


Useful vocabulary in Japanese for tourists

When it comes to your holidays in Japan, even if you do not need to learn Japanese to be able to communicate, it is important to learn some basics to be able to understand simple instructions and being able to say “thank you”. In the big cities you won’t have any problems getting by with English, but things might be different if you intend to travel to less touristic areas.

If you already have some knowledge of Japanese and want to practice a little bit before going to Japan, why not give HelloTalk a try? Thanks to this App you are able to practice with the help of native speakers. This is one of the many innovative ways in which new technologies can help you learn a language. The increasing globalisation has resulted in a greater need for learning different languages, and now you can do so in an easier way thanks also to online language schools like Lingoda. Here you cannot learn Japanese just yet, but you can learn some of the most important languages in the world: English, French, German and Spanish.

Below we include a brief list of the most important Japanese phrases and words. If you want to find out more and listen to their pronunciation you can check, for example, this site.


English Japanese Pronunciation
Thank you (formal) ありがとうございます Arigatō gozaimasu
Thank you (standard) ありがとう Arigatō
Please (request) お願いします Onegai shimasu
Please (offer) どうぞ Dōzo
You’re welcome どういたしまして Dō itashimashite
Yes はい hai
No いいえ iie
Excuse me すみません Sumimasen
I’m sorry ごめんなさい Gomen nasai
Goodbye さようなら Sayōnara
Goodbye (informal) じゃね Ja ne
Do you speak English? 英語が話せますか? Eigo ga hanasemasu ka?
Is there someone here who speaks English? 誰か英語が話せますか? Dareka eigo ga hanasemasu ka?
Good morning お早うございます Ohayō gozaimasu
Good afternoon こんにちは Konnichiwa
Good evening こんばんは Konbanwa
How much? いくら? Ikura?
Where is the toilet? お手洗い・トイレはどこですか? Otearai/toire wa doko desu ka?


Make the most of your trip to Japan

Getting to know the Japanese traditions and trying to embrace the Japanese culture during your time in the country will help you experience it at its best. Many say that is what differentiates a tourist from a traveler. Whilst the tourist will just visit the city and take as many photos as possible of the main sightseeing spots, the traveler will aim to learn everything he can and make his holidays an enlightening experience. If you go to Japan, do not be afraid to leave your comfort zone. You will not regret it!



This article has been written in collaboration with the team of Lingoda, an online language school that offers English, German, French and Spanish lessons with qualified native teachers. Their aim is to provide students with the opportunity to learn a new language anytime and anywhere. Students can organise their courses in a way that best fits their lifestyle and make the most of their time and money with this innovative learning method.

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