Practical Japanese in the supermarket

Let's suppose that one day you have to buy groceries in Japan. If you happen to be on the countryside I bet nobody will speak any English so you will be required to speak Japanese.

Booths are common in shopping malls in Japan


At first I found it quiet strange that sellers used the same structures when starting or finishing the conversation. So what does this actually mean?

You can find both domestic and imported meat products in Japan

I have already mentioned in one of my previous articles, that it is very important the way we position ourselves in a given situation when speaking Japanese. Obviously, when you use a specific service, or purchase something you are the buyer and the partner is the seller.

These does not only mean that when the buyer says: “a loaf of bread please!” or the seller is requesting money they all use the same phrases, but most of the actions have desired expressions and they can hardly be changed. As a result the form of the conversation is very strict.

It might sound a little bit difficult for beginners, but the good thing is that as a buyer, we are not required to pay attention to the way we speak. For me the best method is to tell what I want to buy as quick as possible. This usually makes the process very fast and smooth.

All right let's see I sort dialogue that we can often hear in Japan. You can find many supermarkets or shopping malls in Japan where sellers sell their products in a booth, so you don't have to actually go into their stores.

It is advised to use Japanese when buying groceries

Japanese language is based on three alphabets, or strictly speaking three types of characters. Katakana and hiragana alphabets are advised to study in the beginning. If you still have problems reading these, I strongly recommend you to use my site and master them as soon as possible.

  • 店員(てんいん)さん:いらっしゃいませ!
  • Seller: Welcome!
  • お客様(きゃくさま)さん:生(なま)ハム欲(ほ)しいんですが。。。
  • Buyer: I want to buy some ham.
  • 店員さん:はい、かしこまりました。こちらはスペイン産(さん)で、こちらはイタリア産でございます。
  • Seller: Alright, this is Spanish, this is Italian.
  • お客様さん:えーとね、スペイン産の100グラム下さい!
  • Buyer: Great, I need 100g from the Spanish.
  • 店員さん:かしこまりました、少々(しょうしょう)おまちください!
  • Seller: OK. Give me a second.
  • 店員さん:はい、では、お会計(かいけい)1390円(えん)になります。
  • Seller: It is 1390 yen.
  • 店員さん:とうぞー、お待(ま)たせいたしました。
  • Seller: There you go!
  • 店員さん:ありがとうございました!
  • Seller: Thank you very much!
  • お客様さん:ありがとう!
  • Buyer: Thank you!

Vocabulary of the dialogue:

  • 生 ー raw 『in this case』
  • ハム ー ham
  • 欲しい ー to want, to need
  • 産 ー make [like Japanese made, Made in China etc...]
  • 少々 ー for a while, a bit
  • 会計 ー total amount, bill
  • 円 ー Japanese yen
  • 待たせる ー to make somebody wait

I think the length difference between the sellers and the buyers speech is quite clear. The first sentence which means “welcome” is used in a strange way. Sellers usually invite people to have a look at their articles by saying this sentence. This might have different form:

  • いかがでしょうか?(How about this? [I have no proper translation though])
  • ごゆっくりどうぞー!(Take it easy)
  • お立ち寄りくださいませ!(Get in! Have a look!)
  • ご覧くださいませ!( Have a look!)

Before saying “goodbye” you might have further requirements let's see some of these:

  • これ袋(ふくろ)に入(い)れてもらっていい?
  • Could you put it in a bag for me please?
  • 袋もらっていい?
  • Could you give me a bag please?
  • 袋も一枚(いちまい)もらっていい?
  • Could you give me one more bag please?
  • レシートはいりません。
  • I don't need the receipt.
  • 袋はいらないです。
  • I don't need bag.

I use the last one almost every day because in Japan they like to wrap your article and put it in a plastic bag which will result in a full garbage bin very quickly.

Now let's see "How to buy train tickets in Japan in Japanese"



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