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Shinjuku Guide Editors’ Choice! 6 Helpful Japanese Phrases for Travelers【Transportation Edition】

May 28, 2021

While it’s true that when visiting Tokyo you can get around without too much trouble using only English, communicating with locals with a little bit of Japanese can enrich your vacation experience, and help you dive deeper into the vibrant culture of Japan!

Trains and busses are an essential for travel in Japan but they can also be one of the most frustrating things to navigate when you don’t speak the native language. Making sense of Tokyo’s expansive train and subway systems can be a pain, from hard to find platforms to complicated transfers. At SG our editors have collected a few Japanese phrases we think will help you have a smoother more enjoyable trip when using public transportation.

But First! An Easy Guide to Japanese Pronunciation

All Japanese words include what English speakers recognize as a vowel. Unlike English, where “a” can be pronounced in a variety of ways (such as “aah” as in “apple” or “ay” as in “cake”), Japanese vowel sounds are the same in every word.

Japanese vowel pronunciation (American English Examples): 
A – Ah (as in “Awful”)
E – Eh (as in “Yes”)
I – EE (as in “Easy”)
O – Oh (as in “No”)
U – Ooh (as in “Food”)

It can difficult to convey pronunciation with text, so check out this cute song on Youtube to listen for yourself!

Hint! The “ka” at the end of a sentence indicates a question. It’s OK to raise your inflection as you would when asking a question in English.

Now let’s get on to the phrases!

Japanese Phrases to Use on Busses and Trains

Editor M:Sumimasen.(すみません。)
Excuse me.

You can use this phrase this to get someone’s attention or before asking a question.

Editor C:○○ni ikitai desu.(○○に行きたいです。)
I want go to ○○.

Put a destination in place of ○○ to let someone know where you are trying to go.

Example:Enoshima shi kyandoru ni ikitai desu.
I want to go to Enoshima Sea Candle.

Editor K:○○ wa doko desu ka?(○○はどこですか?)
Where is ○○?

Replace ○○ with the person/place/or thing you are searching for.
For example you can put「電車/バス乗り場(densha/basu noriba)train/bus stop」、「改札(kaisatsu) ticket gate」、「チケット売り場(chiketo uriba) ticket counter」、 or「トイレ(toire)bathroom」in place of the ○○.

kaisatsu wa doko desu ka?(改札はどこですか。)
Where is the ticket gate?

Editor S:○○made no chiketto/furi pasu wo kaitai desu. Ikura desu ka?(○○までのチケット/フリーパスを買いたいです。いくらですか?)
I would like to buy a ticket/free pass to ○○. How much is it?

You can use this phrase when buying a ticket or free pass at a ticket counter. Replace ○○ with your destination。When asking the price of something you can use、「いくらですか(ikura desuka) How much is it?」。

Example 1:
Hakone furi pasu wo kaitai desu. Ikura desu ka?(箱根フリーパスを買いたいです。いくらですか?)
I would like to buy a Hakone Free Pass. How much is it?

Example 2:
Honatsugi made no chiketto wo kaitai desu. Ikura desu ka?(本厚木までのチケットを買いたいです。いくらです?)
I would like to buy a ticket to Honatsugi. How much is it?

Editor Y: Kono densha/basu wa ○○eki ni tomarimasu ka?(この電車/バスは○○駅に止まりますか?)
Does this train/bus stop at ○○ station?

You can use this phrase when you want to check if the train or bus you are on, or about to get on stops at a specified station. Replace ○○ with the station you want to ask about.

Example:Kono densha wa Machida eki ni tomarimasu ka?(この電車は町田駅に止まりますか?)
Does this train stop at Machida station?

Editor A:Norikae wa hitsuyou desu ka?(乗り換えは必要ですか?)
Will I need to change trains?

You can use this phrase when you aren’t sure if you need to change trains or not.
In Tokyo there are many places where different train systems share tracks and provide service across lines. This can be very confusing if you are only looking at a map (even for locals!) so if you aren’t sure it’s a good idea to ask!


Many of these phrases can be used beyond the context of transportation. We hope these phrases can make things smoother and more enjoyable during your travels in Japan!