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  • May 16, 2017

Common courtesies has no language barrier in Japan

With the recent news of what is going on with a certain well-known airline company : :cough cough:: United ::cough cough::, it’s hard to watch the lack of human decency shown to customers back home. Fortunately, that is never the case with Japanese airlines. Not only are there people that willingly give up their seats, airlines here aren’t rude or violently forceful about it.

With complete confidence, I can say that Japanese customer service is basically the best in the world. Just about every aspect of the customer service industry in Japan can wipe the floor with just about any country’s service industry. There is also no tipping in this country. Staff just do it because it is only a natural part of their culture.

Many visitors to Japan often asked me what is an appropriate response. Honestly, with the Tokyo 2020 Olympics approaching, a lot of Japanese are striving to make the city more English-friendly for anyone visiting.

Although if you sincerely want to show your appreciation in Japanese, I have some useful phrases and tips that can make your stay in Japan feel more natural:


When a store or restaurant staff greets you with, ‘Irasshaimase’ (welcome).

Absolutely nothing. Just part of the culture to greet customers this way. Just carry on.


When you are ready to pay your bill and leaving the restaurant:

Say ‘Gochisousamadseshita’ (go-chee-sou-sah-mah-desh-tah). This basically indicates you are thankful for your meal, which lets that staff knows you are done.

It can also indirectly hint that you would like the bill. Feel free to keep on saying it to each staff member as you make your way out.

But if you want to be more direct about getting your bill, just simply say, ‘Okaikei Onegaiashimasu’ (Oh-kai-kay-oh-neh-gai-she-mah-su).


Saying ‘Sorry’ or ‘Excuse me’.

Sumimasen (soo-mee-ma-sen)


Telling people you need to get off the train or elevator

Orimasu (oh-ree-mah-su)


Thank you very much

Arigatou Gozaimashita (ah-ri-ga-toh goh-zai-mashi-tah)


Can I get a ….., please?

[name of item you want] onegaishimasu (oh-neh-gai-she-mah-su)

This is very useful whenever you want something to request something from a staff member. Useful examples include:

Tissue Onegaishimasu -Can I have a tissue (If the shop staff really doesn’t speak any English, use this word instead of napkin to get what you want)?

Shibori Onegaishimasu (shee-boh-ree oh-neh-gai-shee-mah-su)- Can I have a wet napkin/towel?

Mizu Onegaishimasu (mee-zoo oh-neh-gai-shee-mah-su)-Can I have some water?

Ohashi Onegaishimasu (oh-hah-shee oh-neh-gai-shee-mah-su)-Can I have a pair of chopsticks?

Ocha Onegaishimasu (oh-cha-oh-ne-gai-she-mah-su)-Can I have some green tea?


Overall, there’s really not much pressure to speak Japanese if you don’t want to. Whether you want to express yourself in English or Japanese, sincerity goes a long way regardless of language.


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