EVERYTHING was going so well. Then, you somehow got separated from your mate on the mountain, inexplicably forgot how to get to the meeting place, and now you’ve just realized that the bus you’re sitting on doesn’t seem to be going in the direction of your hotel. Crikey. The night’s superb line-up of an onsen and a few nama beers looks dangerously as if it’s about to crumble. If only you knew how to ask the bus driver where the bus was headed! Well, you’ve turned to the right page – in today’s lesson you’ll learn some useful Japanese for when you’re trying to get somewhere.
1. Kono basu Hirafu iki desu ka? – Is this bus going to Hirafu?
One of the things that seems to confuse tourists in Niseko is the fact that the village at the bottom of the Grand Hirafu ski field is called Hirafu, not Niseko. Niseko is the name of the whole area – which includes several ski fields and villages. So, if you’re in Annupuri, heading to Hirafu, asking the bus driver if they’re headed to Niseko is like getting on a bus in the middle of Sydney and asking if the bus is going to Australia. There is actually a town called Niseko – a very nice little town indeed – but there’s no ski field there and it’s possibly not where your hotel is. If you want to check if the bus is going to Hirafu, ask: Kono basu Hirafu iki desu ka? (Is this bus going to Hirafu?)
2. Doko? – Where?
This is probably the most important word to remember in order to find something. Then you can at least point to the name of the thing you’re looking for and ask doko? These phrases may be useful too: Naito Go basu tei wa doko desu ka? (Where is the Night Go bus stop?) Banana Hotel wa doko desu ka? (Where is the Banana Hotel?)
3. Tooi? – Is it far?
Before you decide how you’re going to get from your lodge to the restaurant, you might want to find out how far it is. Tooi? (Is it far?) Chikai? (Is it close?) You might get an answer like this: Sonna ni tookunai (It’s not that far). Or: Totemo chikai (It’s really close). Maybe you’d like to try a more specific question: Aruite dore gurai kakaru? (How long does it take to walk?) Or: Aruite ikeru? (Can we walk there?)
4. Jyuppun kakaru – It takes ten minutes.
Kakaru means to take, as in how long it takes to do something or get somewhere. Numbers for time in Japanese aren’t too tricky. Try starting by remembering the ones you’re most likely to use, such as: go hun (five minutes), jyuppun (ten minutes), san jyuppun (thirty minutes), ichi ji kan (one hour), ni ji kan (two hours).
5. Tsugi no bin wa nanji desu ka? – When are you next leaving?
There’s a shuttle bus sitting outside your lodge with a driver inside. You know this bus will take you to the gondola, but you’re not sure when. Ask the driver: Tsugi no bin wa nanji desuka? (When are you next leaving?) They might go just for you, in which case they’ll answer: Itsu demo ii desu yo (I can go when you’re ready). Or they might tell you when they’re leaving: Sugu demasu yo (I’m leaving now), Mou sugu demasu yo (I’m leaving soon), Ato jyuppun gurai (In about ten minutes).
6. Shuppatsu – departure
Sadly, you’re leaving Niseko tomorrow morning, so you have to take the bus back to the kuukou (airport) to catch the hikouki (plane). You’d better double check times of shuppatsu (departure) and touchaku (arrival). Ashita no asa no basu wa hachi ji ni shuppatsu desu ne? (The bus leaves at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning, doesn’t it?) These words may come in handy: asa (morning), gozenchu (late morning), gogo (afternoon), yuugata (evening), yoru (night).
7. Mou hitori kimasu! – There’s one more person coming!
You’re getting on the bus and the driver looks like he’s about to leave – but your husband’s still in the waiting room getting his boots on. He was being a pain in the arse when you were packing this morning, but still, you can’t leave him in Japan! Tell the driver there’s one more person coming: Mou hitori kimasu! Then apologise profusely for keeping the driver waiting by repeating: sumimasen.
8. Futari – two people
If you’ve already had the shock of discovering that the three Japanese numbers you know – ichi, ni, san – don’t actually cover all the bases in Japan, you won’t be surprised to hear that you need special words when counting people. If you’re travelling in a couple, try to remember this word: futari (two people). If you want to pay for your girlfriend’s bus ticket too, when you’re handing the money over, say: Futari desu (This is for two people).
9. Onegaishimasu – please
What do you say to the driver when you get on the bus? You can say ohayou gozaimasu (good morning), konnichi wa (hello), konban wa (good evening). Or you can try this: onegaishimasu. It literally means please – but it’s a very natural thing to say to a bus driver in Japanese.
10. Orimasu! – I’m getting off!
You’re sitting half way back on a crowded bus and seem to be the only person who wants to get off at this stop – how do you make the driver wait without stammering something in English and looking like another clueless tourist? Shouting one word will do the trick: Orimasu! (I’m getting off!). The other tourists will be impressed with your Japanese and the bus driver will patiently wait while you get off. As you’re pushing past people to get off, say: sumimasen (excuse me/sorry/get out of my way). Then choose between many ways of thanking the driver, such as: doumo, arigatou, arigatou gozaimasu.
Pronunciation guide: Since this magazine can’t talk, your best bet is to find a Japanese person and ask them to say the words and repeat after them. Then buy them a beer
studio tdes produces a daily online English language show, based in Kutchan: www.thedailyenglishshow.com