When shopping abroad, you’re bound to ask for things. So, today I’m going to teach you how to say please in Japanese. There are actually many ways to say please in Japanese, but the most gracious and polite ways are really complicated. So, today I’d like to show you the two best ways to say please in Japanese.
Kudasai – please give me
|Please give me _____|
You can use this when ordering food, but it’s most useful in shops and restaurants. When you see the item you like, just point and say what you want plus kudasai. Even if you don’t know the Japanese name for the item, the context should be obvious.
Luckily for you, this is really easy to use with menus. In Japan, shops traditionally had realistic mockups of all the dishes in the front window. These days, those have been replaced with high color print menus with photos of all or most of the dishes. Just point at the picture and say kudasai and the waiter will understand exactly what you want.
Pro-Tip: Remember, this isn’t the same as “please” in English. It’s “please give me.” So, you can say o-mizu kudasai “give me water, please.” Or, biiru kudasai “give me a beer, please.” But if you hop in a taxi, you can’t say Kōkyo kudasai “the Imperial Palace, please.” Only the emperor can give you that.
I just learned how to say “please” in Japanese. I can’t wait for my trip to #Japan!Tweet
Try to say “please give me” in Japanese with these nouns:
- mizu (water)
- biiru (beer)
- kore (this)
O-negai shimasu – please (all-purpose)
|Please (do something for me)|
I know this looks like a really long way to say please at first. But trust me. This is far more useful that kudasai.
First, let’s break down into its basic components:
o-negai = “wish,” “desire,” or “request”
shimasu = “do”
Combined, o-negai shimasu is more like an all-purpose “please.” It literally means or “I beseech thee” or “I hope/wish.” Just like kudasai, you can point at things you want and say o-negai shimasu. The context will be clear. Also, unlike kudasai (which is actually a command), this is softer and can be used in all situations. Even if it seems like a mouthful at first, this is probably a much better way to say “please.” And it’s truly all-purpose.
Remember my example in the taxi? Now you can say Kōkyo, o-negai shimasu “Imperial Palace, please!” And Richmond Hotel Asakusa, o-negai shimasu will get you home… or just substitute the name of your hotel.
You can also use this when someone offers to help you. For example, when your waiter says “let me show you your table,” you can say o-negai shimasu to be extra polite. It’s not necessary, but good manners will take you far in Japan.
Pro-Tip: The final u is very slight, so just drop it and pronounce the phrase o-negai shimas’ to sound more natural.
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Try to say “please” in Japanese with these nouns:
- Nihon-shu (saké)
- (your hotel name)
- Meiji Jingu (Meiji Shrine)
Now that you know how to say please in Japanese, you can ask for things polite. Hopefully, you can remember both of these phrases. But if you think you can only remember one of them, I highly recommend o-negai shimasu as the one you keep in your back pocket at all times because of its versatility. That said, if you do tell the taxi driver to kudasai you a train station or something, it won’t be the end of the world. They will understand what you’re trying to say.
Lastly, this is part of an ongoing series where I teach travelers Japanese Survival Phrases. You can print these out to study on the long flight over or to review in your hotel room. If you’d like to keep up with my future articles, be sure to follow JapanThis.Tours.