Travel Guides & Tips

13 Japanese Phrases For Shopping Every Shopaholic Needs To Know To Score More Than An Issey Miyake Bao Bao

Japanese phrases for shopping

Image adapted from: Becca McHaffie

If you’ve ever confused a poor Japanese shop staff with your lack of language skills and excessive hand gestures, this guide is for you. After all, it’s easier and much more polite to ask “Tokyo Banana wa arimasuka?” (“Do you have Tokyo Banana?”), even if enthusiastic pointing does the trick. 

To give you a leg up, here are 13 useful Japanese phrases for shopping so you can impress the cashier when you’re paying for your Issey Miyake Bao Bao.

We’ve also included a breakdown on how to pronounce each phrase. Take note that these are not the standard romanisation of the Japanese language.

Download this infographic to refer to on your next trip to Japan.

– Basic phrases –

1. “Do you have __?” (__ wa arimasuka?)

Image adapted from:
Clem Onojeghuo

In Japanese: _はありますか?
How to pronounce: __ wah ah-ree-mahs-ka?

So you’ve been tasked with buying Japanese omiyage for your friends and family back home. Instead of rifling through an entire snack shop looking for boxes of matcha Kit Kats, go straight to a shop assistant and ask, “Matcha Kit Kat wa arimasuka?”

2. “May I touch this?” (Kore wo sawattemo ii desu ka?)

Image credit:
Luca Florio 

In Japanese: これを触ってもいいですか?
How to pronounce: Core-ray wo sa-wah-teh-moh ee-desk-ka?

Before touching fragile items, art pieces, and luxury items, ask for permission with this phrase. These items may require special handling from the staff, so it’s wise to get the green light from the shop assistant first.

3. “This one, please” (Kore wo onegaishimasu)

Image credit:
Jelleke Vanooteghem

 In Japanese: これをお願いします
How to pronounce: Core-ray wo oh-nay-gah-yee-she-mahs

Now that you’ve made up your mind on what to buy, let the shop staff know by saying Kore wo onegaishimasu. Don’t just stand there and point awkwardly in the hopes that the person serving you is telepathic.

4. “Excuse me, how much is this?” (Sumimasen, kore wa ikura desu ka?)

Image adapted from: Artem Beliaikin

In Japanese: すみません、これはいくらですか?
How to pronounce: Soo-me-mah-sen, core-ray wah yee-koo-rah-desk-ka?

Learn how to ask for the price tag so you can go from browsing to making an actual purchase without feeling flustered. 

Most shops do have prices displayed prominently, but that may not be the case at flea markets or roadside stalls. If you don’t see a price tag on the item you want, use this phrase to ask for the price.

Tip: Sumimasen” is used when you want to thank, apologise, or ask for something from someone. Adding sumimasen before a request racks up extra points for politeness. 

5. “Can I use a card (to pay)?” (Kaado wa tsukae masuka?)

In Japanese: カードは使えますか?
How to pronounce: Kaa-doh wah tsu-kah-eh-mahs-ka?

Japan is still mostly cash-reliant, so it’s best to double-check with the cashier if they accept cards for payment. The Japanese word for credit card is “kaado”, which sounds similar to the English word “card”.

Tip: At the cashier, you’ll usually find a sign with logos of accepted credit cards, so keep your eyes peeled. 

6. “Is this a duty-free shop?” (Koko wa menzei-ten desuka?)

Image adapted from: BBH Singapore

In Japanese: ここは免税店ですか?
How to pronounce: Ko-ko wah men-zeh-ten desk-ka?

One of the best parts of travelling is getting to shop tax-free. Shops that are popular with foreigners, such as Don Quijote and Loft, have dedicated tax-refund counters. Make sure to keep an eye out for “tax-free” or “duty-free” stickers pasted on storefronts too.

But if you still aren’t sure, put your Japanese to good use with Koko wa menzei-ten desuka?

Tip: When you’re claiming your tax refund, make sure to show your passport. Only purchases totalling more than ¥5,000 (before tax) qualify for tax exemption. For more details, check out this page.

7. “I would like a receipt, please.” (Reshiito onegaishimasu)

Image credit:

In Japanese: レシートお願いします
How to pronounce: Ray-she-toh oh-nay-gah-yee-she-mahs

After ticking off checkboxes on your omiyage (souvenir) checklist, remember to file your receipts if you need it for tax refunds. Receipts are a given in Japan, but in case there’s a hiccup during payment, use this line to gently remind the cashier.

8. “I would like to have an additional bag” (Fukuro mou ichi mai onegaishimasu)

Image credit: Charlotte Powell

In Japanese: 袋もう一枚お願いします
How to pronounce: Foo-koo-roh moh ee-chee mai oh-nay-gah-yee-she-mahs

Instead of struggling with gift wrappers, save yourself some grief and get an extra shopping bag to package your omiyage neatly. The cashier will place the additional bag together with your purchase so you can sort your omiyage once you’re back home. 

9. “What time are you open till?” (Nanji made aitemasuka?)

Image credit: Julie Fader

In Japanese: 何時まで開いてますか?
How to pronounce: Nun-gee mah-deh ai-teh mahs-ka?

With so many things to look out for, it’s easy for itineraries to go off-track. You may end up skipping one or two places, or only pop by a shop near its closing hours. When that happens, ask the shop staff for their opening hours instead of overstaying your welcome. Reschedule your itinerary and come back on another day.

– Shopping for Japanese snacks –

10. “Is it better if I leave it in the fridge?” (Reizouko ni oita houga ii desu ka?)

Image credit:
Jelleke Vanooteghem 

In Japanese: 冷蔵庫に置いたほうがいいですか?
How to pronounce: Reh-zoh-ko nee oh-ee-tah ho-ga ee desk-ka?

Most Japanese street snacks are packaged by hand, so you may find little or no information about its shelf life. Make sure to do a quick check with the vendor to avoid an upset stomach.

Tip: Avoid asking for the expiration date as it may come off as accusatory – the street vendors might think you’re accusing them of selling expired food. 

– Shopping for clothes –

11. “Do you have this in another colour?” (Betsu no iro wa arimasuka?)

Image adapted from:

In Japanese: 別の色はありますか?
How to pronounce: Beh-tsu noh ee-roh wah ah-ree-mahs-ka?

Orange may be the new black, but not everyone suits the flamboyant shade. Put your newfound Japanese skills to the test by asking for another colour instead.

If you’re confident, take your linguistic skills up a notch by specifying the exact colour you’re looking for. 

White Shiro (She-roh)
Black Kuro (Koo-roh)
Brown Chairo (Cha-ee-roh)
Gray Haiiro (Ha-ee-roh)
Red Aka (Ah-ka)
Pink Pinku (Pink-koo)
Blue Ao (Ah-oh)
Green Midori (Mee-doh-ree)
Yellow Kiiro (Key-ee-roh)
Orange Orenji (Oh-ren-jee)

12. “Do you have a bigger size?” (Motto ōkī na saizu wa arimasuka?)

Image adapted from:

In Japanese: もっと大きなサイズはありますか?
How to pronounce: Moh-toh oh-key nah sah-ee-zu wah ah-ree-mahs-ka?

There’s nothing quite like the thrill of retail therapy – until you find the perfect piece of apparel in the wrong size. 

But don’t let that get in the way. Use ōkī’”, which means “big”, to ask for a bigger size. Alternatively, swap that out for “chiisai (small) to ask for a smaller size.

In Japanese: ワンサイズ
How to pronounce: One-sah-ee-zu

Unfortunately, Japanese clothing tends to come in just one size, better known as “free size”. If that is the case, make sure to try the clothes out before making your purchase. This brings us to the next point.

13. “May I try this on?” (Shichaku shitemo ii desu ka?)

Image adapted from: Becca McHaffie

In Japanese: 試着してもいいですか?
How to pronounce: She-cha-koo she-teh-moh ee desk-ka?

A note of caution for impulsive buyers – most retail stores follow a no-return policy. Unless you have the cash to splash, take advantage of the fitting room to check the fit of the clothing before purchase.

– Commonly-heard phrases –

Here are 4 phrases you will repeatedly hear while you’re out shopping in Japan. It might be hard to catch on at first, but you’ll get the hang of it in no time.

Image credit: Jezael Melgoza

  1. “Welcome” (Irasshaimase)

In Japanese: いらっしゃいませ
How to pronounce: Ee-rah-sha-ee-mah-seh

Irasshaimaseis most likely the first word you’ll hear the moment you enter a shop. You don’t have to respond, but you can smile in acknowledgement so you don’t come off as ill-mannered.

  1. “Please wait for a moment” (Sho sho omachi kudasai)

In Japanese: 少々お待ちください
How to pronounce: Shou-shou oh-mah-chee koo-dah-sai

If the server or a staff assistant has to step aside for a while, he or she will saysho sho omachi kudasai”.

  1. “Thank you for waiting” (Omatase itashimashita)

In Japanese: お待たせいたしました
How to pronounce: Oh-mah-tah-seh ee-tah-she-mah-she-tah

To express their appreciation for your patience, this phrase is used when the server or staff assistant has returned to the register. 

  1. “Do you have a point (membership) card?”

In Japanese: ポイントカードはお持ちですか?
How to pronounce: Poh-in-toh kaa-doh wah oh-moh-chee-desk-ka?

A point card is a type of membership card that allows patrons to collate points with every ¥100 (~USD0.98) or ¥200 (~USD1.96) spent. Unless you’re staying in Japan for a long period of time, you won’t require the membership card. Instead, you can decline by shaking your head.

Tip: This line can be quite a mouthful, so listen out for the word ‘poh-in-toh’, which refers to ‘point card’.

Shop like a local with these Japanese phrases

These 13 essential phrases are all you need for a smooth shopping experience. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself adept at speaking basic Japanese phrases by the end of your trip. After all, practice makes perfect.

Tip: Make sure to send your travel mates a copy of this guide to essential Japanese phrases so you won’t be the only spokesperson of the group while shopping.

Check out these articles before heading to Japan:

Audrey Ng

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