Whether it be helping a senior cross the road or volunteering to clean up a mess, any kind act will surely be appreciated by the Japanese. As such, a tourist can expect to receive a sincere “arigato” (thank you), to which a proper response must be given to avoid coming off as resentful.
Similar to the English language’s “you’re welcome”, “no problem”, and “my pleasure”, the Japanese language also offers multiple phrases and expressions that tourists should learn and use it to politely respond to any form of appreciation.
An Overview of Kanji, Hiragana, and Katakana
Although a tourist will most likely communicate with the locals through speech, there is no harm in being familiar with the three different alphabets used in the Japanese language. This may especially come in handy for foreign travelers who want to keep in touch with new-found friends upon coming back home from their pleasant travel experiences.
The primary alphabet used in Japan is known as kanji. This writing system consists of more than eight thousand characters, all of which are based on Chinese characters. Each character represents a certain object, phenomenon, or idea and can be combined with other kanji characters to form simple and complex statements.
Interestingly, kanji can be a bit tricky to understand given that a single character can have multiple meanings and pronunciations. A reader would have to rely on his familiarity with the Japanese language, grammar, and context to be able to properly interpret ambiguous words.
Hiragana and Katakana
The Japanese language also makes use of syllabic alphabets or kanamoji. These alphabets are known as hiragana and katakana, which each consists of forty-seven characters that represent different sounds essential to the language.
Some characters from both alphabets share the same appearance and sound but differ in usage. Hiragana is mainly used for the representation of Japanese words, while katakana is used to represent foreign words. As such, the use of katakana often indicates that a particular word has been borrowed from another language.
In addition, hiragana may be used in conjunction with kanji as a means to inform the reader of the proper pronunciation of the characters. This type of writing is done by placing hiragana characters on top of kanji characters. Hiragana used for this purpose is known as furigana.
An Overview of Romaji (Romanization of Japanese)
Japanese texts may also be written using another system known as romaji – the romanization of Japanese. This is used for the sake of non-Japanese speakers or readers who may not be familiar with kanji or kanamoji. Some examples that make use of romaji include street signs, passports, dictionaries, and textbooks aimed to guide foreign students.
The system makes use of vowel and consonant Roman letters and makes reading Japanese easier for native English speakers. As such, romaji is considered to be the most common method used in inputting Japanese words into computers and processors. It is also available on devices that are not able to support kanji or kanamoji characters.
The Romaji and Proper Pronunciation of "Douitashimashite"(Japanese Translation of “You’re Welcome”)
The politest Japanese expression a tourist can use to say “you’re welcome” in Japanese is written as どういたしまして. In Romaji, it is written as doitashimashite. The phrase can be broken down into the following syllables for non-Japanese speakers to be able to understand how to properly pronounce it: dou – i – ta – shi – ma – shi – te.
Other Ways to Say “You’re Welcome” in Japanese
Although dōitashimashite may be the first thing a foreigner will come across with when searching for the Japanese translation of “you’re welcome”, it is actually not frequently used by native Japanese speakers, especially when addressing friends or family.
As previously mentioned, the Japanese language offers plenty of options for tourists to choose from when it comes to responding to “arigato”. Some of the most common and more natural expressions that may be used for various situations are as follows:
When it comes to friends, a person can casually say “you’re welcome” by using various terms that range from a single syllable to a slight mouthful of words such as:
“Un” is often said with a significant amount of enthusiasm. When translated into English, it is similar to saying “yes!” but is understood in Japan to be a variation of “no problem” or “sure”.
“Wa-i" is similar to “un” in the sense that it implies that doing the favor was not a problem in any way. It carries the same casual tone as the former but is closer to “yeah” than “yes” when translated into English.
Tasuke ni narete yokatta (助たすけになれてよかった)
“Tasuke ni narete yokatta” means something along the lines of “I was happy to be your help” and “It's my pleasure”. Although its English translation may be a bit formal, the Japanese phrase is often used among friends, regardless of how close they are.
Ki ni shinaide (きにしないで)
“Ki ni shinaide” can be translated to mean “no worries” in English. Using it is a good way to let a person know that he does not have to worry about repaying the favor.
“I-yo” also means “no worries” in English and serves as a shorter version of “ki ni shinaide”. It can also be used to say “that’s ok” or simply “ok” during other situations.
When it comes to the workplace, responding to any form of gratitude and appreciation must be done with an adequate sense of politeness. Some common phrases used between coworkers to say “you’re welcome” can be used by tourists when conversing with acquaintances or strangers.
“Ie-ie”, read as i-ye i-ye, is a casual and somewhat humble way of declining any form of payment for a favor that has been done. It is similar to the English expression “no, no” and is one of the easiest ways a tourist can respond to “arigato”.
Accordingly, it may also be used to politely decline favors such as when a busboy offers to carry one’s bags or when another person offers to pay for the bill.
Kochira koso (こちらこそ)
“Kochira koso” translates to mean “likewise” in English. When used as a response to “arigato”, it is understood to be a way of saying something similar to “I should be the one thanking you”. As such, this phrase may only be applicable to certain scenarios beneficial to both parties involved.
Some examples where this phrase would be useful include two students helping each other study for an exam of two coworkers working on a company project.
Enri yoshinaide (えんりょしないで)
“Enri yoshinaide” is a casual but polite way of telling another person to not be so formal. It implies that there is no need for “thank you” and that doing the favor was not a problem in any way. This phrase is particularly appropriate for budding friendships.
Un, itsu demo koe kakete (ううん、いつでも声こえかけて)
“Un, itsu demo koe kakete” lets a person know that doing the favor was not a problem and that he should not hesitate to approach the other whenever he needs some help. Its English translation goes something like “no problem, feel free to let me know if I can help you out”.
In cases where a person is being thanked by a superior or a significantly older person, it is best to respond with polite expressions and phrases such as
“Kyoshukudesu” is a respectful way for a person to say that there is no need for person to be thanked because doing the task was our responsibility. Using the phrase is applicable in business settings but may be a bit too formal in situations such as helping the elderly with their bags or errands.
O-yaku ni tatete yokattadesu (お役やくに立たててよかったです)
“O-yaku ni tatete yokattadesu” shows politeness in addressing any form of gratitude while also offering a subtle sense of appreciation back to the other person. When translated into English, it means “I am happy that I was able to give you a hand” or “I am glad I could help you out”.
Tondemo arimasen (とんでもありません)
“Tondemo arimasen” is the Japanese equivalent of the English language’s “don’t mention it”. Although the English translation is considered to be an informal one, Japan’s version can be used when talking to bosses, superiors, professionals, and other people with a relatively higher social standing.
Hoka ni mo nanika otetsudai dekiru koto wa arimasen ka? (ほかにもなにかおてつだいできることはありませんか ?)
“Hoka ni mo nanika otetsu dai dekiru koto wa arimasen ka?” is a polite sentence that a person can use to ask another individual if there is anything else that he can help with. It is a bit of a mouthful but can be quite useful for tourists who want to leave a nice impression on the locals or spend their day being a good Samaritan.
Other Useful Japanese Phrases for Tourists
Foreign travelers may also want to familiarize themselves with other basic Japanese phrases to use for their trip. Some of the most common and easy ones include:
Ohayou Gozaimasu (Good Morning)
“Ohayou gozaimasu” is a formal and respectful way of greeting someone “good morning”. For a more casual tone, the phrase can be shortened to “ohayou”.
The Japanese community has a fascinating way of using this phrase in the sense that they say it to each other even when it is already past noon. Saying “ohayou” is acceptable during the afternoon and evening as long as it is directed towards someone who the speaker has not yet greeted throughout the day.
Jaa Mata (See You)
“Jaa mata” serves as a casual way of saying goodbye. It closely resembles the English expression “see you” and implies a subtle sense of friendliness. Other versions of this phrase include “jaa mata ashita ne” (see you tomorrow) and “jaa ne” (see ya). For a politer tone, “dewa mata” should be used, instead.
O Genki De (Take Care)
“O genki de” can also be used instead of “jaa mata”. It is still considered to be a casual way of saying a quick goodbye but carries a slightly politer tone. When translated into English, it means “take care”, “good luck”, or “stay healthy”.
Sumimasen (Excuse Me)
“Sumimasen” is one of the most versatile Japanese expressions that a tourist can use for various situations. It is primarily used to say “excuse me” in Japanese but can also be used to say “sorry” in the case that a person accidentally bumps into someone while walking.
Furthermore, it can also be used to express gratitude during situations that may be troublesome to the other person. For example, a tourist can use “sumimasen” when getting into a cab as a way of telling the driver “thank you for stopping for me”.
Gomennasai (I’m Sorry)
“Gomennasai” is a casual way of saying “I’m sorry”. This phrase can be used when apologizing to close friends and family and rarely to superiors.