When living the cheapo life, the final thing you want to do is get lost and be forced into a costly taxi ride. Building on final month’s guide to transport Japanese, in this post we’ll cover the basics of giving and receiving directions in Japanese so you can usually find your way to your location, with out paying for the privilege.


|credit| Photo by Alex

Asking for Directions

Let’s begin off with the most fundamental question that you can use for all occasions:

English (E): Excuse me. Exactly where is …?
Japanese (J): Sumimasen. … wa doko desu ka?

If you want to be a bit a lot more fancy and specifically ask an individual how to get to a particular spot, you could say anything like this:

E: Excuse me. How do I get to …?
J: Sumimasen. … ni wa dōyatte ikimasu ka?

Police boxes are always a good place to ask for directions.

Police boxes are always great places to ask for directions. Photo by Chad employed under CC

Providing and Receiving Directions

In answer to the above queries, there are any quantity of different feasible expressions that a person may possibly use, but a couple of key phrases and sentence patterns will cover you in most situations. Let’s commence with a couple of fundamental sentences:

E: Please go straight (till …)
J: (… made) massugu itte kudasai

E: Please turn appropriate at …
J: … de migi ni magatte kudasai

E: Please turn left at …
J: … de hidari ni magatte kudasai

The most essential words to know here are “massugu”, which means “straight”, and “migi” and “hidari”, which mean “right” and “left”, respectively. It will also be beneficial to bear in mind the verbs “ikimasu” for “go”, and “magarimasu” for “turn”.

In each and every of the above sentences, nonetheless, these verbs are expressed in what is known as the te-kind. The te-form is especially relevant when giving or getting directions because not only is it the verb kind employed for commands and requests, but it is also utilized to join a number of phrases collectively in a sequence.

You or somebody else would do this by simply removing “kudasai” (the word for “please”) from every single of the above sentences, and then saying them 1 right after the other. By then re-inserting “kudasai” at the finish, the whole sentence becomes a polite command, significantly like a similar English sentence with “please” added at the beginning. The result might be some thing like this:

E: Please go straight, then turn left at the traffic lights
J: Massugu itte, shingō de hidari ni magatte kudasai

Notice that the parts in bold have been copied directly from the examples from earlier.

It is feasible to string with each other as numerous phrases as you like in this way, as long as the verb at the end of every single phrase is expressed in the te-form.

Now let’s appear at a couple of more fundamental phrases that we may well hear along the way:

E: (Please) leave through this exit
J: Kono deguchi wo dete (kudasai)

E: (Please) enter the station
J: Eki ni haitte (kudasai)

E: (Please) cross the road
J: Dōro wo watatte (kudasai)

We now have everything we require to know to understand all kinds of multi-step directions, like this one particular:

E: Please leave through this exit, turn correct, go straight till the intersection, cross the road, enter the station and turn left.
J: Kono deguchi wo dete, migi ni magatte, kōsaten produced massugu itte, dōro wo watatte, eki ni haitte, hidari ni magatte kudasai.

Road signs pic via Shutterstock.

Road indicators pic through Shutterstock.

Counting Landmarks

Although the above phrases cover the essential fundamentals, in most cases, the directions to a certain place will not simply involve turning at the very first landmark, like an intersection, but rather demand turning at some other intersection additional down the road.

Intersections and other landmarks are generally counter making use of the “banme” counter. When “banme” seems soon after a number in its raw kind, the number becomes an ordinal quantity, so the quantity one particular becomes “first”, two becomes “second”, and so on. This is then connected to a location or object employing the particle “no”, like so:

E: The very first intersection
J: Ichi banme no kōsaten

E: The second set of visitors lights
J: Ni banme no shingō

E: The third corner
J: San banme no kado

When used in a sentence, these are just slotted into any of our phrases from earlier, such as in the following examples:

E: Please turn left at the fourth intersection
J: Yon banme no kōsaten de hidari ni magatte kudasai

E: Please go straight, then turn correct at the fifth set of visitors lights
J: Massugu itte, go banme no shingō de migi ni magatte kudasai


|credit| Photo by Carlos Mejia Greene utilised under CC

When they speak also rapidly …

Whether you are relatively new to the Japanese language or have been speaking it for years, there are constantly instances when you can not really adhere to the particular person answering your inquiries. In such conditions, the following phrases are lifesavers:

E: Sorry, would you please speak a little slower?
J: Sumimasen, mō chotto yukkuri hanashite kudasai

E: Sorry, would you repeat that please?
J: Sumimasen, mō ichi do onegaishimasu


|credit| Photo by Nemo’s great uncle utilised beneath CC

And there you have it – don’t forget these handful of phrases and you’ll never ever get lost again! Properly, maybe not quite, but at the very least you will be able to find your way back at some point.

Stay tuned next month for one more fundamental Japanese language guide. If you have any topics in distinct that you’d like us to cover, please let us know in the comments.

Satisfied navigating!

Tokyo Cheapo