Shopping in Japan: Essential Words & Phrases


Who doesn’t love going shopping? I know I do! I especially love shopping when travelling because it’s like discovering a whole other universe full of never-before-seen shops and designs. What you can find in one country, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to find them in another. It’s kind of like getting a one-of-a-kind piece that no one else back home will have — only you.

Japan is one of the best countries to shop in, with various unique styles that originated from the country itself and thousands of local shops selling at affordable prices. In fact, it’s those underground, low-key ones that have the best bargains and stuff. But of course, not all good things are easy — don’t expect all the shopowners to be able to speak English. 

So why not pick up some Japanese phrases to help you snag that cute, one-of-a-kind coat? I’ve compiled a list of them along with essential words that’ll definitely help you get around Japan’s shopping universe!

~ wa arimasu ka? (〜はありますか?)

If you’ve read a couple of the other posts on the blog, you’d probably have come across this phrase before. That’s because “~wa arimasu ka?” (〜ありますか?) is extremely useful in every situation. This phrase translates to “Do you have …?” How many times have you asked a staff lady if they have something in a specific colour or size, or if they sell a specific product? I lost count for myself.

It cuts down a whole lot of time searching around by myself — I’ll just approach someone who knows the store better than I do. Don’t panic; this phrase is a yes or no question, so the replies could only be one of two ways: yes (はい) or no (いいえ).

If you want to know if they sell hats, simply add the word for “hat” at the front of the phrase: “boushi wa arimasu ka?” (帽子はありますか?). Same goes for asking for a different colour or size — just add the word for the colour or the size at the front: “aka wa arimasuka?” (赤はありますか?) means “Do you have it in red?” and “eru saizu arimasu ka?” (エルサイズありますか?) means “Do you have L size?”

Here are some words that you can use with this phrase:


Red — Aka ()

Blue — Ao ()

Green — Midori ()

Yellow —  kiiro (黄色)

Orange — orenji (オレンジ)

Purple — Murasaki ()

White — Howaito (ホワイト)

Black — Kuro ()

Pink — pinku (ピンク)


Dress — Wanpisu (ワンピス)

Fancy dress — Doresu (ドレス)

Watch — Tokei (時計)

Scarf — Sukaafu (スカーフ)

Shirt — Shatsu (シャツ)

Shoes — Kutsu ()

Pants — Zubon (ズボン)

Jacket — Jaketto (ジャケット)


S — esu (エス)

M — emu (エム)

L — eru (エル)

Big — ookii (大きい)

Small— chiisai (小さい)

Kono hen ni ~ arimasu ka? (この辺に〜ありますか?) 

Japan has a lot of stores lined up on a single street — it can get overwhelming and confusing. Where’s the nearest shopping mall? Where can I find the drugstore? I swear Google Maps said the bookstore is here…

All these questions, who to ask, and how? Easy, with this phrase: “kono hen ni … arimasu ka?” (この辺に〜ありますか?). This translates to “Is there a … around here?” I bet you noticed the phrase we used earlier — yup, I told you, it’s extremely flexible.

If you’re looking for a supermarket, simply add that in the gap: “kono hen ni suupaamaaketto arimasu ka?” (この辺にスーパーマーケットありますか?). Similarly, it’s a yes or no question, so expect a yes or no reply — with a twist; there will be directions given most of the time, but that’s a whole other article on its own.

Here are some words of places to help you with your direction-asking:

Shop — mise ()

Bookstore — honya (本屋)

Drug store — doraggusutoa (ドラッグストア)

Convenience store — konbini (コンビニ)

Department store — depaato (デパート)

~ sagashite imasu (〜探しています)

If you want a level up from asking if they have something or not, why not tell them what you’re looking for instead? To say “I’m looking for …”, say “~ sagashite imasu” (〜探しています).

For example, if you’re looking for a black shirt, combine the word for black and shirt with this phrase: “kuroi shatsu wo sagashite imasu” (黒いシャツ探しています). You can basically switch out anything you’re looking for and it’ll work just the same. You can even add “arimasu ka?” at the end to ask if they have what you’re looking for. 

Shichaku shitemo ii desu ka? (試着してもいいですか?)

When you’re in a store, it’s only natural to want to try something on to see if it’s your size and if it suits you. I mean, that’s the only difference between shopping in-store and online. So how do you ask the staff person if you can try it on? With this phrase: “shichaku shitemo ii desu ka?” (試着してもいいですか?) 

Unlike the others, this is a phrase on its on without the need to add any other words to it. It’s pretty straightforward — say it a few times and you’ll have it permanently locked in your brain.

~ sugimasu (〜すぎます)

So, after you’ve tried it on, it’s just not the right size. It may have been too big or too small — either way, you have no idea how to tell the staff person because you don’t know the words for it!

Don’t fret, this phrase is exactly that. “~ sugimasu” (〜すぎます) is like saying “it’s too…”, so to say something is too big, add the word for big before it: “ookisugimasu” (大きすぎます). If something is too small, add the word for small instead: “chisasugimasu” (小さすぎます).

And that’s all there is to it!

Nanji ~ aitemasu ka? (何時〜空いてますか? )

When you’re travelling, opening hours seem to be extra important — that extra hour in the morning or an extra half hour of nighttime shopping is the game we all play. Most of the time, the opening hours reflected on Google Maps are up-to-date, but some local shops won’t even be listed on Google Maps. How does one figure out the opening times then?Ask, of course. This phrase gets you the opening and closing times depending on what word you use in the gap: “Nanji ~ aitemasu ka?” (何時〜空いてますか?). This phrase basically translates to “ … what time does it open?”

To ask what time does it close, add the word “made” (まで) to mean “until” in the gap: “Nanji made aitemasu ka?” (何時まで空いてますか?) This translates to “until what time do you open?”

To ask what time does it open, use “kara” (から) to mean “from” instead: “Nanji kara aitemasu ka?” (何時から空いてますか?). This means “from what time do you open?”

Ikura desu ka? (いくらですか?)

Most of the time, the price tags are plastered on each garment and accessory, but on the off chance it’s not, you need to be able to ask, “How much is it?” This phrase is exactly that. Approach the staff lady, point to the item and ask, “ikura desu ka?” (いくらですか?)

Be sure to practice your numbers in Japanese! It can get quite confusing — hyaku (), sen () and man () do not exactly work the same way as hundreds and thousands.

~ onegaishimasu (〜お願いします )

So you figured out the price, found your size and colour, and you’re at the cash register. How are you going to pay? Cash or card? Do you want a bag? How are you going to convey all of that?

With “~ onegaishimasu” (〜お願いします) — duh! It’s like our first phrase where it’s pretty flexible and extremely useful. Want to pay by cash? Add the word for cash (現金, genkin) before that: “genkin onegaishimasu” (現金お願いします). How about card (クレジットカード, kurejitto kaado): “kurejitto kaado onegaishimasu” (クレジットカードカードお願いします).

Want a bag to put it all in? “Kaban onegaishimasu” (カバンお願いします) does the trick! 

The Wrap-up

And you’re all set for your shopping trip in Japan! You’re able to find your stuff, ask for the right colour and size, get the location and opening hours of the store you’re looking for, figure out the price and pay for it — that’s all the steps! Now get your shopping shoes on and grab that credit card, and get shopping!

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