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Making Reservations in Japanese

Failsafe ways to book accommodations, tickets and dinners out in Japan.

By 6 min read

Nothing beats getting out of the house and traveling somewhere new in Japan — even if it’s just a one-night expedition.

Yet, unless you plan on staying up all night like it’s your first night out in Shibuya, you’re going to have to make proper overnight reservations. If you’re like me, this can be a daunting task even if you’re speaking English. Why can’t everything be automated? Outside of the impersonal digital connections, let’s go over how to make some reservations in Japanese so you can get out of the house and explore Japan to your heart’s content.

In Japan, you will also find you have a third lodging option outside of a hotel or a hostel: a ryokan.

Most places here take credit cards and Visa (or JCB or MasterCard) debit cards. I would still advise to err on the side of caution and bring cash with you to your destination — just in case. Especially if you plan on booking in more remote locations. In Japan, you will also find you have a third lodging option outside of a hotel or a hostel: a ryokan. A ryokan is a traditional Japanese-style inn that has tatami rooms, typically an onsen (communal bath) and your own personal yukata to shuffle around in.

Luckily, you can book most hostels here in English and can conveniently do so from Hostel World. Additionally, JapanICan lets you book ryokan and hotels in English as well. Let’s not forget that Airbnb also allows bookings in English if you’re seeking a more personal and lived in experience. For the remaining establishments that don’t support this service let’s go over a typical interaction.

Reservation dialogue

Speaker

Japanese

Romaji

English

Hotel staff: もしもし東京ホテルでございます。 Moshimoshi, Tokyo hoteru de gozaimasu. Hello, it’s Hotel Tokyo.
You: 予約お願いします。 Yoyaku onegai-shimasu. I would like to make a reservation.
Hotel staff: いつからお泊りになりますか? Itsukara otomari ni narimasu ka? From when will you be staying?
You: 来週の金曜日から3泊です。 Raishuu no kinyoubi kara san-haku desu. Three nights, starting Friday of next week.
Hotel staff: 何名様でございますか? Nan-mei-sama de gozaimasu ka? How many people will there be?
You: 二名です。 Ni-mei desu. It will be 2 people.
Hotel staff: ご一緒でございますか? Goissho de gozaimasu ka? Will this be one room?
You: いえ、別々のシングルをお願いします。 Ie, betsu betsu no singuru wo onegaishimasu. No, I’d like separate singles.
Hotel staff: お名前は? Onamae wa? What name will it be under?
You: メイソンと言います。いくらでか? Meison to iimasu. Ikura desu ka? Mason. How much will it be?
Hotel staff: メイソン様。では、18日の金曜日から2泊と言うことで、シングルを二部屋お取りして起きます34500円です。 Meison sama. De wa juu hati niti no kinyoubi kara, ni-haku to iu koto de,                    singuru o huta-heya otori-site okimasu. San

man yon sen go hyaku en desu.

Ms. Mason. OK, three nights, starting Friday the 18th. I’ll hold two single rooms. It will cost 34,500 yen.

Important counters (one to five):

Counting Nights of Stay

Counting Nights

Counting Rooms

1泊 ip-paku 1晩 hito-ban 1部屋 hito-heya
2泊 ni-haku 2晩 huta-ban 2部屋 huta-heya
3泊 san-paku 3晩 mi-ban 3部屋 mi-heya
4泊 yon-paku 4晩 yo-ban 4部屋 yo-heya
5泊 go-haku 5晩 go-ban 5部屋 itu-heya

 

How many nights of stay?

How many nights?

How many rooms?

何泊 nan-paku いく晩 iku-ban いく部屋 iku-heya

Reserve a room

Type of Room

Japanese

Romaji

Double room ダブル daburu
Room with twin beds ツイン tsuin
Western-style room 洋間 youma
Japanese-style room 和室 washitsu
Room with a bath バス付き basu tsuki

So you did it: you’ve booked your accommodation(s) and probably feel like you’re in the clear. You might want to think twice, though, if you didn’t reserve train tickets and you need to take a shinkansen (bullet train) to get to your destination. It would be wise to book those tickets in advance, too.

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Luckily, most shinkansen and regular transit ticket kiosks have English options, but if you make a mistake while booking your ticket you have to talk to an actual human and chances are they won’t know much English. With the SmartEx app on iOS (and on Android) you can book tickets for up to six people and if you make a mistake you can cancel or make changes at no additional cost.

Here is some railway vocabulary that may prove useful when getting seats for your travels.

Book a seat

Item

Japanese

Romaji

National railway 国鉄 kokutetsu
Ticket 切符 kippu
Ticket counter 切符売り場 kippu-uriba
Passenger ticket 乗車券 jousha-ken
Express ticket 急行券 kyuukou-ken
Special express ticket 特急券 tokkyuuken
Reserved seat 指定席 siteiseki
Unreserved seat 自由席 juuseki
Green car グリーン車 guriinsha
Regular train 普通 hutsuu

OK, so now you’ve made it to your location. You’ve taken the correct train, checked in to your hotel and have discovered how comfortable yukata really are.

… keep in mind the above can be used for booking restaurant reservations, as well. Make sure you know how to say the time, date, and how many people…

Out of nowhere, you realize how famished you are from all that traveling and via your rigorous pre-trip Googling you know there is an amazing soba restaurant nearby. How would you call to make reservations if the website or second-party sites don’t let you? Luckily, it’s very similar to booking a room — but you may want to review how to count people and be sure to be confident in your ability to tell time in Japanese.

Get a table

No. of People Japanese Romaji
One person 1人 hito-ri
Two people 2人 futa-ri
Three people 3人 san-nin
Four people 4人 yo-nin

For more than two people we always use nin and the common word for the associated number of people. Also keep in mind the above can be used for booking restaurant reservations, as well. Make sure you know how to say the time, date, and how many people you plan on attending before you make your reservation.

Traveling in Japan can feel intimidating, but luckily with today’s technology there are a lot of English-language options quite literally at our fingertips.

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Granted, I do sometimes love avoiding human interaction if I have the opportunity. It adds more depth and immersion to your travels if you try to use the local language. You’ll find that a lot of people are willing to help or will take their time trying to figure out what you want to say, so don’t let fear of potential failure limit you.

Now you’re ready to get out there, get lost and talk your way into almost any hotel, restaurant table, train seat or anything else you might need during your adventures. Of course, it’s sometimes fun to stay out all night and see where the wind — or Strong Zero chuuhai (shochu highball) — takes you, but for those trips where all you want is a pillow and the comfort of knowing you have a seat reserved at that restaurant you’ve heard so much about — you’ve got the tools to make it happen. Get out there!

Do you have any useful Japanese travel terms for making reservations for a trip? Let us know in the comments!

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