A comprehensive guide of survival Japanese

Survival Japanese

You do not need to be fluent in Japanese in order to get along in Japan. More and more places are bi-lingual and transportation systems are nowadays are designed to also suit foreigners. However, as everywhere in the world things are easier when you make a small effort and learn some basics. This guide of survival Japanese teaches you the essentials to get along in key situations, find your way whilst traveling and get what you want in Japanese restaurants.

Not all articles are yet published. We will add the missing ones step by step but wanted to start sharing contents as soon as possible.

Self introduction

Japanese greetings






Survival Japanese for travelers

Using the train

Useful signs

Using the taxi









Survival Japanese at the restaurant





Survival Japanese – at the Ramen restaurant


Ramen (ラーメン) is a Japanese noodle soup dish which is very popular amongst Japanese as well as foreigners. It consists of Chinese style noodles in a broth with toppings such as sliced pork, green onions and many more. This article explains the different types of Ramen as well as vocabulary and phrases that will be useful to eat at almost any Ramen restaurant.




1) The 4 basic types of ramen soup

There are four basic types of broth for Ramen:

  • Shouyu Ramen (醤油ラーメン)with soy souce
  • Shio Ramen (塩ラーメン) – vegetable broth
  • Miso Ramen (味噌ラーメン) with miso paste
  • Tonkotsu Ramen (豚骨ラーメン) – a pork broth

On top of these four basic ramen soup you will also find many variations and combination driven by regional preferences or the restaurants trying to create unique dishes.


Shoyu Ramen

Shio Ramen

Miso Ramen

Tonkotsu Ramen






2. The toppings

Each ramen restaurant offers different toppings for ramen. Some toppings are fixed part of the dish whereas other toppings can be ordered as options. This is a list of the most common toppings:

  • Nori (海苔) – seawead
  • Negi (ネギ) – green onions
  • Moyashi (もやし) – soy sprouts
  • Tamago (卵) – boiled egg
  • Chaashuu (チャーシュー) grilled pork slices
  • Goma (ごま) – sesame
  • Koon (コーン) – corn
  • Battaa (バッター) – butter
  • Menma (メンマ) – fermented bamboo shoots

























3. Side dishes

Almost every Ramen restaurant offers a set of typical side dishes. The most popular side dishes are:

  • gyouza (餃子) – dumplings
  • chaahan (チャーハン) – fried rice








4. Vocabulary & sentences

Here are a few words and patterns that will help you to get what you want at any Ramen restaurant.

English Romaji Furigana
big portion oumori おうもり おうもり
more please okawari kudasai おかわりください おかわり下さい
please help tasukete kudasai たすけてください 助けて下さい
the bill please okaikei おかいけい お会計
water please omizu kudasai おみずください お水下さい

What is YOUR favorite Ramen. Please share your best Ramen experiences in the comment section.

Survival Japanese – using the train

Trains are the most economic and fastest way to move around in Japan. Nowadays many signs are bi-lingual but it still can be a little bit confusing to find the right platform and train.Here are a couple of useful expressions which will help you to find your way by train.


Kanji 「東京駅」に行きたいですが。
Furigana 「とうきょうえき」にいきたいですが。
Romaji [toukyou eki] ni ikitai desu ga.
English I want to go to  [Tokyo station].

Kanji 「山の手線」はどこですか?
Furigana 「やまのてせん」はどこですか?
Romaji [yamanote sen] wa doko desu ka?
English Where is the [yamanote line]?

Kanji この電車は「東京駅」行きですか?
Furigana このでんしゃは「とうきょうえき」ゆきですか?
Romaji kono densha wa [toukyou eki] yuki desuka?
English Is this train going to [Tokyo station]?

Kanji 「中央線」のホームはどこですか?
Furigana 「ちゅうおうせん」のホームはどこですか?
Romaji [chuuou sen] no hoomu wa doko desu ka?
English Where is the platform for the [chuo line]?


English Romaji Furigana
change train norikae のりかえ 乗り換え
last train shuuden しゅうでん 終電
station eki えき
ticket kippu きっぷ 切符
ticket barrier kaisatsuguchi かいさつぐち 改札口
track number hoomu ホーム ホーム
train densha でんしゃ 電車

Survival Japanese – good to know kanji and kana

Here is a collection of Japanese characters useful for surviving in Japan without speaking Japanese. Knowing these will help you for orientation even when English signs are not available. Click on the pick if you want to know more about the word.

deguchi - exit

iriguchi - entrance

otearai - toilet

toire - toilet

uketsuke - reception

ginkou - bank

Did we miss something? Just let us know and share it in the comment section below!

Survival Japanese – using the taxi

Although trains are the most convenient way to travel in Japan, it sometimes is better or faster to use the taxi. Taxi drivers in Japan generally do not speak any English, so that it is useful if you now a few words and phrases to communicate with the driver. You can also print this page and show the sentences to the driver.

Giving directions

Kanji 「東京駅」お願いします。
Furigana 「とうきょうえき」おねがいします。
Romaji [toukyou eki] onegai shimasu.
English To [Tokyo station], please.

Kanji 地図を持っています。
Furigana ちずをもっています。
Romaji chizu o motte imasu.
English I have a map.

It is most useful to have a map IN JAPANESE LANGUAGE of the place you want to go. Since the system of Japanese addresses is complicated almost every place has a map on how to get there. Ask someone in your hotel or the person whom you visit to get you a map for the taxi driver.

Kanji 「右」お願いします。
Furigana 「みぎ」おねがいします。
Romaji [migi] onegai shimasu.
English Turn [right].
  • 左 – ひだり – hidari – left
  • 真直ぐ – まっすぐ – massugu – straight ahead

Kanji ここです。
Furigana ここです。
Romaji koko desu.
English Stop here.

Money / taxi fare

Kanji いくらですか?
Furigana いくらですか?
Romaji ikura desu ka?
English How much is the fare?

Kanji レシートお願いします。
Furigana レシートおねがいします。
Romaji reshiito onegai shimasu.
English A receipt, please.

Kanji カードで良いですか?
Furigana カードでいいですか?
Romaji kaado de ii desu ka?
English Can I pay by credit card?

Please be aware that it is not common to tip the taxi driver – they will decline it in most cases. If you want to pay by credit card, you should ask the driver in any case before using the taxi. Many taxis accept Japanese but no foreign cards, so that the stickers with the logos of the credit cards on the windows of the taxi can be misleading.