When you go shopping in Japan, you will probably hear a lot of the same expressions repeated over and over again. When entering any kind of shop, be it a ramen shop, coffee shop, clothing store, or even a real estate agency, one of the first things you will probably hear is “Irashaimase!”
“Irashaimase” is basically a polite, or keigo way to say, “Welcome!” in Japanese.
The great thing for Japanese learners is that, as a shopper, you don’t really have to say anything in return. Smile if you want to, nod, or just go your way.
When shopping at supermarkets or convenience stores, the cashier will often read off the price of each
item individually as it scans. (This is a great time to practice listening to numbers.) At the end, they’ll
say the total price. When you hand over your money, they’ll say the amount followed by “o azukari
itashimasu”. This is just a polite way of saying that they’ve received and taken that amount from you.
Next they’ll say they the amount of change and announce that they are returning that amount with your
Until this point, there is still really no need to say anything.
Using English Loan Words in Japanese to Shop
If you need help from a clerk in the shop, you can benefit from the many foreign loan words that
find their way into Japanese. Size, large, medium, small, and many colors can be spoken with slight
pronunciation adjustments and work perfectly well to get your point across.
“Size” in Japanese can be pronounced “saizu”.
“Large” can be pronounced “Lah – ji”… sounding like La and the letter G.
“Medium” can be pronounced in Japanese by changing the “um” part to sound like the “om” part in
“Small” also sounds similar to the English word and can be said as “smolu” where the o is long.
Colors are also quite easy to say, and although Japanese has quite a few words to express different
colors, the main colors – black, white, blue, red, green, yellow, grey, pink, and even orange should all
be easily understandable when spoken slowly in English. The word for “color” in Japanese is “iro”, but
“color” pronounced as “kalah” should also be easily understandable.
It is also worth it to try the English word for things when you don’t know the Japanese words, and in
some cases the clerk will understand what you mean. In other cases, you can use the Japanese words for
“this” and “that” as described below.
Asking for Things in a Japanese Store
When requesting something, you can simply point and say “Kudasai”, which basically means please.
“This” can be spoken as “kore” (ko as in coat and re as in red) and “that” can be spoken as “sore” (so as
in soap and re as in red).
Putting those together, you can pretty much by whatever you want by pointing something out and
saying “Kore kudasai,” or “Sore kudasai.” This is absolutely perfect Japanese for “This please,” or “That
Kudasai can be used with almost any noun as a way of requesting something and is a word that anyone
learning Japanese or visiting Japan should be ready to use. It is polite and useful in any situation.
Saying Thank You in Japanese and Leaving the Store
Just after having read this article, people of any level of Japanese should be able to head out to the local
department store of mall and point to a nice necktie, dress, or plate of sushi, say “Kore kudasai,” and get
exactly what you came for.
The last thing to do is to pay for your purchase, say “thank you”, and enjoy. Thankfully, in Japan it is
common practice to make the price clearly visible on a cash register or calculator so that there is no
confusion even among native Japanese speakers.
Saying thank you is as simple as “Arigato” which is pretty widely known. Another short way to thank
someone is to say “Domo”, or to put them together as “Domo arigato” which is an especially polite way
to say it. To make it the most polite form possible, simply add “gozaimasu” to the end and say “Domo
arigato gozaimasu,” which is so polite that you will probably never hear a customer say it, but rather the
salesman would say it.
On your way out the door, do not be surprised to hear the clerk or cashier shout “Arigato gozaimashita”
(the polite way to say thank you) followed by the commonly used expression, “Mata okoshi
kudaisamase!” which means, of course, “Please come again!”