10 Handy Words For Your Japanese Snow Holiday

The ten most useful phrases for travelling in Japan is highly debatable but let’s face it. You’re not here for a conference or to meet the Emperor. Quite simply you’ll be sliding around on snow, eating and drinking your way around the Japanese Alps and buying stuff like lift passes or train tickets.

handy Japanese words

Keeping the theme of holiday frivolities let’s jump right in with 10 very handy phrases or words:

  1. SUMIMASEN (pronounced –  Sue- me-mar-sen)

Use often and genuinely sumimasen is the concept of “excuse me”, sorry for pushing in, sorry for bumping you, sorry for skiing into you, sorry for being too noisy and every other apology in between. No excuses necessary. Just a simple sumimasen will suffice.

Handy Japanese words

  1. ARIGATOU GOZAIMASU (pronounced ‘arry- gar-toe     gore-zai-mars)

“Thank you very much”. Use it often and sincerely and Japanese folk will be amazed and surprised and may even love you a little.

Handy Japanese words

  1.  O KUDASAI (pronounced oh – coo-dah-sigh)

The concept of “Please give me……”, except the say the THING YOU WANT before the O Kudasai. It’s the same as “Could I please have…..” You’re going to be asking for a lot of STUFF in Japan so let’s practice:

Kohi o kudasai – Please give me a coffee/ coffee please

Kippu o kudasai – Please give me a ticket / ticket please

Ramen o kudasai – Please give me some Ramen noodles / ramen noodles please

Hotto Chocoretto o kudasai – Please give me a hot chocolate / hot chocolate please

Handy Japanese words


(pronounced he-tot-sue,  fu-tat-sue      mit- su)

This is for counting stuff. One, Two, Three….how many will you need? It encompasses “one of them, two of them, three of them” and is slightly more sophisticated than your plain old kindergarten variety of ichi, ni, san.

You might even want to show off your fancy new Japanese skills and ask:

Hitotsu o kudasai – One please

Futatsu o kudasai  – Two please

Mitsu o kudasai  – Three please

Handy Japanese words


(pronounced wah…dock-o-desk-car)

This is asking “Where is it” but putting the thing you want to find at the beginning. Let’s be real, everything will be written in kanji characters in hotels or train stations….after you stack in the snow and become disoriented on the hill all the chairlifts might look the same…You are going to NEED to know how to ask “Where is it”. So let’s practice:

Hoteru wa doko desu ka?  – Where’s the hotel?

Tokyo eki wa doko desu ka?  – Where’s Tokyo Station?

Disneyland wa doko desu ka?  – Where’s Disneyland?

Bar wa doko desu ka? – Where’s the bar?

Shuttle bus wa doko desu ka? – Where’s the shuttle bus?

See? Handy Much!

Handy Japanese words

  1. OISHI

(pronounced oi-she)

The Japanese word for yummy and delicious. Use it after every meal and every delicious delight and watch the locals grin from ear to ear with happiness. 

Handy Japanese words


(pronounced key-ray  and car-wa-ee) 

The Japanese word for cute and pretty. You will reach easily for this word when you marvel at cute cartoon characters, rice moulded into shapes, gorgeous Japanese mountains and everything else in between.

Handy Japanese words


(pronounced he-tor-re, foo-tar-re, sarn-nin, yawn-nin, go-nin)

These are your counting numbers for people. How many are you travelling with? Learn the number in your group, say the appropriate number when you walk into a restaurant and watch the maitre-d google and gasp at your language prowess. Holding up the matching number on your fingers on your hand is also ok. It’s not rude.

Hitori  – one person

Futari – 2 people

San nin  – 3 people

Yon nin – 4 people

Go nin – 5 people

Handy Japanese words

  1. DESU KA?

(pronounced desk- car)

The ubiquitous question of “Is it?” . Snigger behind your hand now but remember this space when you’re gazing at something you have absolutely no idea what it is. A very common experience in Japan. Let’s learn:

Sculpture desu ka? – Is that a sculpture?

Rifto desu ka? Is that the chairlift?

Eki desu ka? Is that a train?

Onsen desu ka? Is this the Onsen? (hot springs)

Toire desu ka? (Is this the toilet)

Handy Japanese words


(pronounced air-go  wa-car-re-musk – ka)

When all else fails and you haven’t done your homework commit this one line to memory. It means “Do you understand English?” It’s a good one to have up the sleeve, especially making bookings over the phone. If the answer is NO, it may result in background scurrying around noises to find someone who speaks English, so ‘please hold’. 


* Grammatical note for the purists

The author of this article earned a degree majoring in Japanese Language from Sydney University. After years of adjectives, nouns, particles and possessive noun-wrangling she feels the best way for non-Japanese speakers to enjoy their Japanese snow holiday is to have a tiny smattering of FUNCTIONAL JAPANESE words and phrases. Thus the truncated Japanese language basics lesson was born.

If you need a writer for your business visit my website. This language specialist discovered translating English into accessible English was a ‘snap’ after studying foreign languages. For a great place to stay in Madarao on the main island visit Chalet Madarao. It’s a great location and the helpful staff speak English.

Good luck!


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