The 100+ Most Important Japanese Words The minimum amount of Japanese you should learn before traveling to Japan.

    Say you're going to Japan. Then you realize that you don't know any Japanese words.

    Or, you're learning Japanese, and you want to make sure you know some of the most important words in the Japanese language.

    This is a list for you.

    These 100 Japanese words will get you through an untold number of situations, problems, and feelings. I'm not saying that there are not other important words out there, but I do think this list of 100 Japanese words will get you really, really far, if for some reason you are limiting yourself to a mere 100 words. If you want to go beyond that, then perhaps a resource like WaniKani is going to be a better long-term solution.

    Also, if you'd like to get the most out of this list (and your trip to Japan), I highly recommend that you learn hiragana and katakana, two of the Japanese "alphabets." We've made a free learn hiragana guide, and a free learn katakana guide just for such an occasion.

    Let's get started.

    Emergency

    A man stabbed with a sword

    First and foremost, let's learn the Japanese words that have to do with "emergency" situations. You don't want to be caught off guard in a foreign country. If you're in trouble, you need to be able to scream the correct words to ask for help, whether that involves finding a bathroom after you ate some bad tempura (speaking from experience here), or finding someone who can speak English (or whatever your native language is).

    • トイレ
    • toire

    トイレ (toire) = Toilet
    Everyone poops, as the saying goes. When you gotta go, you gotta be able to ask where it's at. This word sounds almost like "toilet" without the last "t."

    • 手洗い
    • tearai

    手洗い (tearai) = Bathroom
    Just like toilet, but a little more all-inclusive. You can feel free to use either of these in a pinch, though.

    • 助けて
    • tasukete

    助けて (tasukete) = HELP
    Just yell this out and (maybe) someone will come to your aid…

    • わかりません
    • wakarimasen

    わかりません (wakarimasen) = I don't understand
    Someone is speaking to you in Japanese, and they aren't using any of the hundred Japanese words you're learning now. Let them know you don't understand what they're saying with this word. Follow it up with another word on this list: "eigo!" Then they'll know you don't understand and you're asking for English.

    • やめて
    • yamete

    やめて! (yamete!) = Stop it!
    Maybe somebody is messing with you and you want them to stop (yakuza?). You could say this.

    • 英語
    • eigo

    英語 (eigo) = English
    Sometimes you just need someone who speaks some English. Even though all Japanese people learn English in school, very few Japanese people are any good at speaking it. Still, it doesn't hurt to try.

    • fuku

    服 (fuku) = Clothes
    Maybe you're at a hot springs and can't find your clothes. Hey, it's possible.

    • 死にそう
    • shini sou

    死にそう (shini sou) = Seems Like I'm Going To Die
    When things get really serious, you may need to pull out all the stops.

    • 警察
    • keisatsu

    警察 (keisatsu) = Police
    If something really bad happens, these are the people you want to ask for.

    • 危ない
    • abunai

    危ない (abunai) = Dangerous
    You'll see this on signs and stuff. If someone says "abunai" to you, you should probably be careful.

    • 危険
    • kiken

    危険 (kiken) = Peril, Hazard
    Basically, this is just another abunai. You'll see this on signs as well.


    Asking

    Asking broad general questions, then using body language to tell people the rest is a really fun way to get by in a country where you don't speak the language.

    • どうした
    • doushita

    どうした? (doushita?) = What Happened?
    Then again, you probably won't understand what the person responds with, but it's always nice to ask.

    • どうして
    • doushite

    どうして? (doushite?) = Why?
    You never know…

    • なに
    • nani

    なに? (nani) = What?
    What!? WHAT!?

    • 時間
    • jikan

    時間 (jikan) = Time
    Just ask this with an quizzical tone and people will get the drift. Point to your wrist while you're at it. You might want to learn some numbers (keep reading) to understand the answer.

    • 質問
    • shitsumon

    質問 (shitsumon) = Question
    Have a question? Let someone know. Couple this with "eigo! eigo!" and maybe someone who can speak some English will come to answer your shitsumon.

    • だれ
    • dare

    だれ (dare) = Who
    Great in case you need to know who someone's talking about.

    • いつ
    • itsu

    いつ (itsu) = When
    Pretty important if you're trying to time something. "I know we have to meet, but when are we meeting?"


    People

    People are a big part of life and vocabulary. Learning Japanese words that have to do with people can be very important.

    • 先生
    • sensei

    先生 (sensei) = Teacher
    If you're a student in Japan, this one comes in handy.

    • 学生
    • gakusei

    学生 (gakusei) = Student
    Goes with the previous Japanese word.

    • 会社員
    • kaishain

    会社員 (kaishain) = Employee
    If you go to Japan to work, this is probably what you'll become.

    • hito

    人 (hito) = Person
    The general word for "person."

    • watashi

    私 (watashi) = I
    For when you need to refer to yourself.

    • あなた
    • anata

    あなた (anata) = You
    For when you need to refer to someone else.


    Locations

    Finding your way around can be pretty important. Here are some Japanese words that will help you do that and keep you from getting lost.

    • ホテル
    • hoteru

    ホテル (hoteru) = Hotel
    You'll need to be able to find this if you're traveling in Japan.

    • どこ
    • doko

    どこ (doko) = Where
    Don't know where something is? Ask where it is with this word. Doko? Doko?

    • 空港
    • kuukou

    空港 (kuukou) = Airport
    Combine this with the previous word, doko, and you have kuukou doko? (Where's the airport?)

    • eki
    • eki

    駅 (eki) = Station
    Trains are a huge part of traveling in Japan. Just put the name of the station before eki and you have the train station's name. For example, Tokyo Eki is "Tokyo Station."

    • 日本
    • nihon
    • 日本
    • nippon

    日本 (nihon/nippon) = Japan
    This is the country you are going to, Japan!

    • 大学
    • daigaku

    大学 (daigaku) = College
    If you're going to Japan to study in college, this Japanese word is pretty darn important.

    • 本屋
    • honya

    本屋 (honya) = Bookstore
    Some bookstores are pretty sketchy, be careful!

    • まんが喫茶
    • manga kissa

    まんが喫茶 (manga kissa) = Manga Cafe
    These are places with computers, internet, manga, and most importantly a place to rest. These are much cheaper than hotels, and good places to stay in a pinch… that being said, they are often smoky and uncomfortable. You can usually get free fountain drinks, though!

    • タクシー
    • takushi

    タクシー (takushi) = Taxi
    Expensive, but you can find them everywhere.

    • ie
    • uchi

    家 (ie/uchi) = Home
    There's no place like it.


    Food

    You can't find much better food than the food you can find in Japan. Even McDonalds somehow tastes better in Japan, not to mention Japanese food.

    • おなかすいた
    • onaka suita
    • はらへった
    • hara hetta

    おなかすいた (onaka suita) / はらへった (hara hetta) = Hungry
    Two ways to say this one. First one is more neutral, second is more casual.

    • 食べます
    • tabemasu

    食べます (tabemasu) = To Eat
    Do you eat this? Yes I eat this. Combine it with another word, like sushi. Sushi tabemasu, with the right context, would mean "I eat sushi."

    • 食べません
    • tabemasen

    食べません (tabemasen) = To Not Eat
    Do you eat this? No I don't. Like tabemasu, you can combine it with another food word. Sushi tabemasen, in the right context, would mean "I do not eat sushi." Or, combine it with niku to say niku tabemasen ("I don't eat meat"). Be warned, a lot of Japanese people think fish is not meat… and it seems like almost everything has fish.

    • 飲みます
    • nomimasu

    飲みます (nomimasu) = To Drink
    Glug Glug.

    • 飲みません
    • nomimasen

    飲みません (nomimasen) = To Not Drink
    Beer nomimasen. I don't drink beer.

    • mizu

    水 (mizu) = Water
    I drink water, instead, because that's how I roll. Mizu nomimasu.

    • 飲み物
    • nomimono

    飲み物 (nomimono) = Drink
    Not the verb, but the noun. Please get me a drink.

    • 食べ物
    • tabemono

    食べ物 (tabemono) = Food
    Need food? Any food? There's a ton of it in Japan.

    • 美味しい
    • oishii

    美味しい (oishii) = Good Tasting. Tasty.
    If something tastes nice (or if you want to be nice), you'd say this.

    • 不味い
    • mazui

    不味い (mazui) = Bad Tasting
    I wouldn't ever say this to someone's face, though.

    • レストラン
    • resutoran

    レストラン (resutoran) = Restaurant
    Now you need to figure out which one. There will be plenty of choices.

    • コンビニ
    • konbini

    コンビニ (konbini) = Convenience Store
    Great place to buy small things and food. Convenience Store food in Japan is pretty awesome. You could eat at convenience stores for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week and always find something new and delicious.

    • スーパー
    • suupaa

    スーパー (suupaa) = Super Market
    If you need something a convenience store can't give you.


    Being Polite

    You don't want to piss people off when you're in their country. When in Tokyo, as they say.

    • ありがとうございます
    • arigatougozaimasu

    ありがとうございます (arigatougozaimasu) = Thank You
    Say it, a lot.

    • すみません
    • sumimasen

    すみません (sumimasen) = Excuse Me
    The streets can be busy, it's nice to say excuse me when you walk through people, bump into them, or need to get by.

    • ごめんなさい
    • gomennasai

    ごめんなさい (gomennasai) = Sorry
    If you bump into someone while trying to get by, you can say this.

    • いただきます
    • itadakimasu

    いただきます (itadakimasu) = Bon Apetite!
    Actually, I don't know if that's the best translation, but it's close enough. You say this before you're about to eat, to kind of give thanks for the food you're about to devour.

    • ごちそうさまでした
    • gochisousama deshita

    ごちそうさまでした (gochisousama deshita) = Thanks for the food
    Another bad translation! But, there isn't really a good one. You say this after you eat, to say thanks for the food.


    Greetings

    Hopefully you meet some nice people in your travels. Say hello (and then goodbye!) to them.

    • おはようございます
    • ohayougozaimasu

    おはようございます (ohayougozaimasu) = Good Morning
    A greeting for morning.

    • こんにちは
    • konnichiwa

    こんにちは (konnichiwa) = Good Afternoon
    You can use this around noonish on to the early evening.

    • こんばんは
    • konbanwa

    こんばんは (konbanwa) = Good Evening
    Like the other ones, but for evenings.

    • ではまた
    • dewamata

    ではまた (dewamata) = See You Later
    For when you might see the other person again.

    • また明日
    • mata ashita

    また明日 (mata ashita) = See You Tomorrow
    For when you'll almost certainly see them the next day.

    • さようなら
    • sayounara

    さようなら (sayounara) = Good bye
    Probably won't see them for a while :(

    • おやすみなさい
    • oyasuminasai

    おやすみなさい (oyasuminasai) = Good Night
    Time for sleepy time. Good night!


    Basic Verbs

    Verbs will get you a long ways. You don't have to know much else as long as you know verbs, because verbs help you to get things done. Even if you don't know the grammatical particles that go with the verbs, you can still communicate.

    • 行きます
    • ikimasu

    行きます (ikimasu) = To Go
    Where are you going? "Tokyo Eki. Ikimasu.," you could say, and people would understand.

    • 帰ります
    • kaerimasu

    帰ります (kaerimasu) = To Return (home)
    If you need to someone you're coming back. Will you come back to this hotel to pay your bill? Yes. Kaerimasu.

    • 食べます
    • tabemasu

    食べます (tabemasu) = To Eat
    Nom nom nom. (whoops, you already learned this one)

    • します
    • shimasu

    します (shimasu) = To Do
    This is the best verb ever. It can be used with anything. Stick it on a noun for all I care, people will understand. "Tennis shimasu," you could say. That means "do tennis" or "I do tennis."

    • 見ます
    • mimasu

    見ます (mimasu) = To See
    What is it you want to see?

    • 買います
    • kaimasu

    買います (kaimasu) = To Buy
    For all of you who like shopping.

    • 待ちます
    • machimasu

    待ちます (machimasu) = To Wait
    "I'd like you to go in there for me. I'll machimasu."

    • 書きます
    • kakimasu

    書きます (kakimasu) = To Write
    Have people write the directions down!

    • 止まります
    • tomarimasu

    止まります (tomarimasu) = To Stop
    Or, if you're driving, look out for the 止 symbol on a red triangle sign. That's a stop sign.

    • 教えます
    • oshiemasu

    教えます (oshiemasu) = To Teach
    If you're a teacher in Japan, this will come in handy. "Eigo. Oshiemasu!"

    • 話します
    • hanashimasu

    話します (hanashimasu) To Speak
    Combine this with eigo (English). "Eigo. Hanashimasu?" People will know that you're asking if someone speaks English.


    Basic Adjectives

    Adjectives, while not as awesome as verbs, are also very useful. They help you describe things.

    • 新しい
    • atarashii

    新しい (atarashii) = New
    No, I don't want used clothes. I want atarashii clothes.

    • 嬉しい
    • ureshii

    嬉しい (ureshii) = Happy
    For when you eat that awesome meal… ahhh, I am so ureshii.

    • 大丈夫
    • daijoubu

    大丈夫 (daijoubu) = Okay
    Say you fall down and hit your knee. You're okay, so you can say "daijoubu!" That way people know that you're okay.

    • すごい
    • sugoi

    すごい (sugoi) = Amazing
    For the sight seeing. Listen for it in cool sightseeing spots. All the cool kids are saying it. In fact, everyone is saying it.

    • 高い
    • takai

    高い (takai) = Expensive / Tall
    If you're in a store and something costs a lot, you can say takai to mean "expensive." If you're talking about a building (and not planning on buying it) this word will mean "tall." It's all about context.

    • 大きい
    • ookii

    大きい (ookii) = Big, Large
    You want the big portion of food? Ookii should work.

    • 小さい
    • chiisai

    小さい (chiisai) = Small
    Or, perhaps you're not a big eater, get a chiisai portion instead.

    • 近い
    • chikai

    近い (chikai) = Near
    I'm looking for landmark XYZ. Is it chikai?

    • 遠い
    • tooi

    遠い (tooi) = Far
    Or, is XYZ landmark tooi?

    • 悪い
    • warui

    悪い (warui) = Bad
    How do you feel? Warui. Is he a good person? No, he's warui. This word is a little bit flexible.

    • いい
    • ii

    いい (ii) = Good
    There will be a lot of opportunity to use this word. Why? Because there are a lot of good things in Japan.

    • 面白い
    • omoshiroi

    面白い (omoshiroi) = Interesting
    There are a lot of interesting things in Japan. You'll be able to use this word a lot!

    • 楽しい
    • tanoshii

    楽しい (tanoshii) = Fun
    And, a bunch of fun things too. Japanese rollercoasters are really tanoshii, by the way.

    • 熱い
    • atsui

    熱い (atsui) = Hot
    In the summer, Japan gets this way. If it's humid, you can say mushi atsui.

    • 寒い
    • samui

    寒い (samui) = Cold
    In the winter, especially up north in Hokkaido, things get really samui.

    • 上手
    • jouzu

    上手 (jouzu) = Good At
    When you use your 100 Japanese words, people will tell you how jouzu your Japanese is, even though it's probably not that good.

    • 下手
    • heta

    下手 (heta) = Bad At
    Nobody will tell you how heta you are at Japanese.

    • aka

    赤 (aka) = Red
    Colors are good for landmarks. Doko. Aka hoteru?

    • ao

    青 (ao) = Blue
    Trees, traffic lights, and many other "green" things are considered ao in Japanese. Just a little tidbit of knowledge that might come in handy.

    • kuro

    黒 (kuro) = Black
    The color of Japanese salaryman clothes.

    • midori

    緑 (midori) = Green
    For all the green things that aren't blue.

    • 黄色
    • kiiro

    黄色 (kiiro) = Yellow
    I'm running out of things to say about Japanese color words.

    • shiro

    白 (shiro) = White
    Now I'm really running out of things to say about Japanese color words.

    • 馬鹿
    • baka

    馬鹿 (baka) = Stupid!
    I bet you already knew this one. Baka!


    Numbers

    Numbers will be helpful in many situations. There are many different counters in Japanese, which are basically different ways to count different things, but basic numbers like these will work in a pinch.

    • ichi

    一 (ichi) = One
    One ticket.

    • ni

    二 (ni) = Two
    Two people.

    • san

    三 (san) = Three
    Three o'clock.

    • shi
    • yon

    四 (shi/yon) = Four
    Kind of an unlucky number. Might be missing from building floors. Also, you shouldn't give gifts in sets of four.

    • go

    五 (go) = Five
    Good way to remember the first five numbers: "Itchy knee! Son, She go!" Imagine that playing out…

    • roku

    六 (roku) = Six
    Just another number. Think of "six rocks" (roku).

    • nana
    • shichi

    七 (nana/shichi) = Seven
    Also kinda unlucky, because it also contains "shi." 死, or shi means "death."

    • hachi

    八 (hachi) = Eight
    The "hatch" (hachi) you have to open has a big number "eight" on it.

    • ku
    • kyuu

    九 (ku/kyuu) = Nine
    It was said that "Kublai Khan" (Ku) could only count to nine.

    • juu

    十 (juu) = Ten
    Finally, we reach ten.

    • hyaku

    百 (hyaku) = 100
    Jumping up an interval, the most useful coin is the 100 yen coin, aka the hyaku en coin.

    • sen

    千 (sen) = 1,000
    The first paper bill in the Japanese monetary system. These are worth about $10. There are also 2,000 and 5,000 yen bills, too.

    • man

    万 (man) = 10,000
    Ten thousand yen bills are worth about $100.

    • en

    円 (en) = Yen.
    Not really a number, but goes nicely with the numbers when you're talking amounts of money. ichi en, hyaku en, ichi man en, ni man en, etc.


    What other important words do you think should be on this list? Let us know on Twitter.

    I hope this list was helpful for you! As I mentioned before, this is just the tip of the iceberg. It's fun to go through and try to learn individual Japanese words, but you're not learning the meaning behind the meaning. You don't understand why a word is what it is, and to do that you need to study and build up a foundation for your Japanese. You also need to study the grammar behind the words, too. Greetings, in particular, are riddled with grammar. Learning the sounds of the greetings without learning the mechanics is like going skydiving without a parachute… doesn't make sense.

    I hope you decide to dig a little deeper in your Japanese! The first step is to learn the phonetic-ish alphabets of Japanese, hiragana and katakana. Good luck!