Important Words to Know When Asking Directions in Japanese

When you're visiting someplace for the first time, you're liable to get lost or might have trouble finding your destination. Here are some words and phrases that will be useful if that happens! As long as you know these words, you'll be understood, so please try to remember them.


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Here is a more detailed explanation of the phrases used in the video, especially the specific words you should commit to memory. Please feel free to reference this before or during your trip when you need!

"Toire wa doko desuka?" "Where is the bathroom?"


Excuse me, where is the bathroom?


Over there.


Thank you.

When you're traveling and you need a bathroom but can't find one, it's a big pain! If that happens, please ask someone in Japanese. If you're in a train station or a store you can ask an employee, or if you're walking down the street, you can ask someone who's also walking by.

すみません/Sumimasen/"Excuse me."

If add "sumimasen" before your sentence, it becomes politer than just asking out of nowhere. You can use this phrase in various ways. For example, you can use it as an apology if you run into someone, or in stores if you need the attention of a shop employee. 


Literally the Japanese pronunciation for "toilet." You can also say "te-arai," if you'd like.


You can also say "dochira," but "doko" works best. If you just say "doko" it can seem kind of rude and pushy, so if you're talking to strangers, please add "desu ka?" to the end of it, as in "doko desu ka?"

あっち/Acchi/Over there

You can use this word while pointing to where you mean.

ありがとうございます/Arigatou gozaimasu/"Thank you."

"Arigatou" alone is enough for your meaning to come across, but if you're thanking a stranger, then add "gozaimasu" to the end of it to be polite, as in "arigatou gozaimasu."

渋谷駅はどこですか? "Where is Shibuya Station?"


Excuse me, where is Shibuya Station?


If you go straight down this street, you'll see it.


Thank you.

Even if you double- and triple-check it on your cell phone, you'll likely get lost in a place you've never visited before. Stations are especially confusing. This situation uses Shibuya Station, but if you replace the word "Shibuya" for any other station you're looking for (such as "Suidobashi" or "Harajuku"), you can use this question as-is, so please try to remember this phrase!



You might also see the word "dori," which is closer to avenue or boulevard, but "michi" will be understood either way.



行く/Iku/To Go

This is the verb for "to go," but you might hear other verbs such as "aruku" (to walk), "aruite iku" (go walk), "susumu" (to go forward), "susunde iku" (go forward), but they all generally mean the same.

あります/Arimasu/To have

This is the polite form of "aru," the verb for "to have," and you might hear people say just "aru" instead. 

ハチ公はどこですか? "Where is Hachiko Plaza?"


Excuse me, where is Hachiko Plaza?


If you take a right over there, you'll find it.


Thank you.

Hachiko (Plaza) is a famous meeting space in Shibuya, and it's right by the famous scramble crossing that many tourists flock to. These sentences are getting longer, but as long as you know the keywords, you'll be fine!

ハチ公/Hachiko/Hachiko Plaza

The statue of Hachiko was erected in honor of a loyal dog named Hachiko that waited for its owner at Shibuya Station to come home for 10 years after its owner's death. However, it's become very famous as a meeting spot, so it's often very crowded. 

あそこ/Asoko/Over there

Just like "acchi," this word is used when pointing fingers. "Acchi" is often used to point in directions, while "asoko" is used to point to a specific place.


Left is "hidari."

曲がる/Magaru/To turn

You might hear other conjugations of this verb, such as "magareba" (if you turn) or "magarimasu" (polite form).

一番近いコンビニはどこですか?"Where is the nearest convenience store?"


Excuse me, where is the nearest convenience store?


Take a left at that intersection, and then keep going until you see one.


Thank you.

Many Japanese convenience stores are open 24 hours a day, so they're very helpful for travelers. The point is to ask for the nearest one. You can use different words in place of convenience store, such as bathroom or bank ("ginko") to suit your needs.

一番近い/Ichiban chikai/Nearest

"Ichiban" and "chikai" are actually separate words, with "ichiban" having a variety of meanings such as "first" and "best," but in this case it works as the "-est" in "nearest." "Chikai" on its own means "near."

コンビニ/Konbini/Convenience Store

Most convenience stores are open 24 hours a day, but that's not always true in the countryside, so please be aware.


"Sono" and "asoko" are similar, but "sono" is for places closer than "asoko." 



What's the opposite of this? "Migi," of course! You are almost certainly going to use these words a lot, so please remember them! 

曲がって/Magatte/To turn

This is just a conjugation of the verb "magaru." You might also hear phrases like "magatte kudasai" (please turn), but usually it will be used like this.

進む/Susumu/To go forward

You might also hear "susunde iku" (go forward), "aruku" (to walk), "aruite iku" (go walk), but they all mean the same thing.


Japanese seems to be a difficult language, but honestly as long as you know the important keywords for what you want to ask, you will be understood! Of course, these phrases are all from a situation if you are a pedestrian. If you're driving, then you won't come across words like "aruku" (to walk) or "aruite iku" (go walk), so please be aware.


Title Image: PR Image Factory / Shutterstock

The information in this article is accurate at the time of publication.

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