Asking and Giving Directions in Japanese: A Basic Guide

Giving and understanding directions may just be the most underrated skill you need to survive in Japan.

I know, I know— gone are the days of printing out MapQuest directions— we all have Apple or Google Maps and can see traffic conditions in real time.

However, you’d be surprised how many traditional attractions are off the grid in Japan.  Or you might find yourself in a situation where Map apps can only get you so far, such as when you need to find a specific attraction in Disneyland or a store that isn’t on Maps.

That’s why we made this all-inclusive guide for giving or understanding directions in Japanese.  

We’ll cover everything below and more:

  • Basic directions like left, right, north, and west
  • Basic landmark names like the post office, bank, etc.
  • How to ask for directions.
  • Useful words and phrases such as “go back” and “turn left at the intersection.”

Stay tuned because there’ll also be a bonus section for intermediate learners on related time phrases you’ll need to give or understand directions smoothly!

Table of Contents

10 Basic Directions

First, let’s learn the cardinal directions and other basics like “left” and “right.” 

1. 上 (Ue): Up, Above

In addition to meaning up or above, 上 (ue) can also be used to say 上に行く (ue ni iku), which means “go up.” This phrase is used when taking an elevator or going to a higher floor in a building. However, there is a different word for “up” when used to mean “climb” or “go up a mountain.” We’ll learn these words later on in this guide.


(Ginkō no ue ni konbini ga aru yo.)
The convenient store is above the bank.

2. 下 (Shita): Down, Below

The opposite of 上 (ue), 下 (shita), describes the placement of something below another or the direction “down.” Similarly, you can say 下に行く (shita ni iku) to mean “go down.”


(Konbini no shita ni ginkō ga aru.) 
The bank is below the convenience store.

3. 右 (Migi): Right

右 (migi) is the word for the directional word “right.”  It is often used to say something is on the “right side” or to “turn right” when giving directions.  


(Tsugi no kado de migi ni itte ne.)
Go right at the next corner.

4. 左 (Hidari): Left

Similarly, 左 (hidari) means “left” and is used to describe position (it’s on the left) or direction (turn left). 


(Hidari ni magaru to sugu tsuku yo.)
You’ll arrive as soon as you turn left.

5. 前 (Mae): In Front

Often combined with other kanji or place names in the form of ~前 to denote “in front of ~ .”  

駅前 (ekimae) is a commonly used example of this to mean “in front of the train station.”

Of course, it can also be used on its own to describe where something is (see the example below).


(Konbini no mae ni gomibako ga aru.)
There’s a trashcan in front of the convenience store.

6. 後ろ(Ushiro): Behind

 後ろ (ushiro) means “behind.” However, unlike 前 (mae), ushiro is NOT combined with place names to describe something behind an object.  


(Yūbinkyoku no ushiro ni kōen ga aru.)
There’s a park behind the post office.

7. 北 (Kita): North

Getting into the cardinal directions, first, we have 北 (kita). When combined with other kanji, it can also be read as “hoku.”

You probably won’t often hear this when asking for directions in Japan. However, someone may tell you to go north, especially since train stations tend to label their exits with cardinal directions (north, south, east, west).

Northeast is 北東 (hokutō), and northwest is 北西 (hokusei)、but these come up even less often when you’re receiving directions (unless you are traveling from one prefecture to another one far away).  


1. シアトルはロスよりにある。
(Shiatoru wa rosu yori kita ni aru.)
Seattle is north of Los Angeles.

2.  北口で待ち合わせしよう。
(Kitaguchi de machiawase shiyō.) 
Let’s meet up at the north exit.

8. 南 (Minami): South

Minami denotes south, and when combined with other kanji, it can be read as “nan.”  

For example, Okinawa and warm, tropical southern islands or countries are called 南国 (nangoku) or “southern countries.”

Southwest is 南西(nansei), and southeast is 南東 (nantō).


(Kono mama minami ni iku to tsuku yo.)
You’ll arrive if you keep going south.

9. 西 (Nishi): West

Nishi is west in Japanese. When combined with other kanji, it can be read as “sei.”


(Arizona wa nishikaigan ni aru.)
Arizona is on the West Coast.

10. 東 (Higashi): East

Higashi means east. When combined with other kanji, it can be read as “.”


(Taiyō wa higashi kara noboru.)
The sun rises from the east.

18 Useful Words and Phrases

Next, let’s look at some quintessential phrases you’ll hear when giving or asking directions, such as “turn right” or “go back.”

1. まっすぐ (Massugu): Straight

Usually paired with 行く in the phrase まっすぐに行く (massugu ni iku), which means “go straight.”

As a side note, this is also sometimes used to talk about people’s personalities if they are straightforward or honest.


(Massugu ni itte kudasai.)
Please go straight.

2. 曲がる (Magaru): Turn

 曲がる (magaru) is used to describe turning left or right.


1. 次の角で曲がってください。
(Tsugi no kado de magatte kudasai.)
Please turn at the next corner.

2. 右に曲がります
(Migi ni magarimasu.)
Turn right.

3. 上る (Noboru): Climb, Go Up

上る (noboru) is used when talking about going up hills or stairs and generally describes going up something diagonally.  

There are actually 3 different ways to write “noboru” using kanji.  They also all have a meaning of “going up.”  However, there is some differences in their nuance, as shown below:

  • 上る:  To go up, to walk up (stairs, a path, etc.)
  • 登る:  To ascend, to climb up (a mountain, a cliff, etc.)
  • 昇る:  To rise up (the sun rising, being promoted (“rising up in status), etc.) 


1. このエスカレーターを上るとお店があるよ。
(Kono esukarētā o noboru to omise ga aru yo.)
If you go up this escalator, you’ll find the restaurant.  

2. 坂を上ってください。
(Saka o nobotte kudasai.)
Please climb the hill.

4. 下る (Kudaru): Go Down (Diagonally)

The opposite of のぼる (noboru) is 下る(kudaru), which denotes climbing/going down something.  

Another way to say “get down” is 下りる (oriru): get off, get down).

Oriru can also be written as “降りる.”

下りる (oriru) is used for climbing down a ladder, descending stairs, etc.   

However, when getting off a vehicle (car, bus, train, plane, etc.)  降りる (oriru) is used.  

Oriru can’t be used to describe going down hills or mountains.


(Saka o kudattara, migigawa ni aru hazu.)
It should be on the right side when you go down this hill.

5. 歩く(Aruku): Walk

You may hear 歩く(aruku) when receiving directions telling you to walk in a specific direction.  

Depending on the situation, you may hear other similar words like:

  • 進む (susumu): to go forward
  • 行く (iku): to go
  • 向かう (mukau): head for, head to 


1. 10分歩けば着くよ。
(Juppun arukeba tsuku yo.)
You’ll arrive if you walk for 10 minutes.

2. この道をまっすぐ進めば着きますよ。
(Kono michi wo massugu susumeba tsukimasu yo.)
You’ll arrive if you go straight on this path.

3. 今、川に向かっています
(Ima, kawa ni mukatteimasu.)
I’m heading for the river right now.

6. 突き当たり(Tsukiatari): End of the Street/Hallway

Generally used to give directions to turn left or right at the end of a hall, street, or road, 突き当たり (tsukiatari) is different from “dead-end” because it implies that there is another path going elsewhere.


(Rōka no tsukiatari de hidari ni magatte.) 
Turn left at the end of the hall.

7. 行き止まり(Ikidomari): Dead End

Sometimes also called 行き詰まり (ikizumari), this describes a dead end that doesn’t lead anywhere.  


(Socchi wa ikidomari desu yo.)
That way is a dead end.

8. 後ろに回る (Ushiro Ni Mawaru): Go Around/Behind

You can say this when you want someone to go around behind a building. This expression will probably not come up as often as other words on this list, but it is still useful to know.  


Konbini no ushiro ni mawaru to chūshajō ga aru yo. 
If you go around the back of the convenience store, there’s a parking lot.4

9. 一周する (Isshū Suru): Circle, Take a Lap Around

一周する (isshū suru) is used to explain the action of going around something (around the block, around a building, etc.)  


(Gakkō o isshū shitemo aiteiru chūshajō ga nakatta.)
There wasn’t an open parking lot even after we took a lap around the school.

10. 戻る (Modoru): Go Back

戻る (modoru) is a very useful word that means “to return” or “to go back to ~.” It may come up often if you’re prone to taking wrong turns.


(Michi o machigaeteiru kara, ikkai modotte, shingō de migi ni magatte.)
You took a wrong turn, so go back and make a right at the traffic light.

11. 渡る (Wataru): To Cross

渡る (wataru) expresses going across something, like a street or river.


(Hashi o watattara tsukimasu.)
You’ll arrive when you cross the bridge.

12. ~の近くにある (~ No Chikaku Ni Aru): Nearby ~

This gives you an idea of what to look for nearby your destination. Alternatively, you could say ~から近いよ (~ kara chikai yo) to the same effect.


1. 駅はスーパーの近くにある
(Eki wa sūpā no chikaku ni aru.) 
The train station is near the supermarket.

2. 駅はスーパーから近いよ。
(Eki wa sūpā kara chikai yo.) 
The train station is close to the supermarket.

13. 現在地 (Genzaichi): Current Location

現在地 (genzaichi) is generally found on maps in malls or larger facilities. You might hear this in conversation while looking at a map with someone or from your car navigation system/app.  

If you wanted to ask where your current location was in conversation, it would be more natural to say: 

(Koko wa doko desu ka)
Where is this?


(Genzaichi ga koko dakara, ato go fun de tsuku yo.)
This is your current location, so you’ll arrive in 5 minutes.

14. 地図 (Chizu): Map

You can also use the transliteration of マップ (mappu) to express the same thing. Google Maps or Apple’s Maps are called 地図アプリ (chizu apuri) or マップアプリ (mappu apuri).


(Chizu kashite.)
Let me see the map.

15. 到着 (Tōchaku): Arrive

Many public transportation announcements use 到着 (tōchaku) as a more formal way of saying “arrive.”


(Ato juppun de Hakata ni tōchaku shimasu.)
We’ll arrive at Hakata in another 10 minutes.

16. 着く(Tsuku): To Arrive, Get There

着く(tsuku) is the more casual way to say you will arrive somewhere.


(Ato dore kurai de tsuku no?)
When will we get there?

17. 方向 (Hōkō): Direction

When you want to say, “walk in that direction,” you can say: 

そっちの方向に歩いて 。
(Socchi no hōkō ni aruite.)
Walk that way.  

方向 (hōkō) can also be used figuratively when speaking of “direction” in your life.


(Hōkōsei no nai jinsei wa iya da.)
I dislike living life with no direction.

18. 方面 (Hōmen): Direction, Area in the Direction of

A synonym for 方向 (hōkō), the biggest difference is 方面 (hōmen) indicates the area in a specific direction, which makes it more general than 方向 (hōkō).


(Tōkyō wa acchi hōmen da yo.)
Tokyo is in that direction.

7 Placement Words

1. 右側 (Migigawa): Right Side

This combines the 右 (migi), the word for “right,” and 側 (gawa), which means “side.” Together, 右側 (migigawa) means “right side” or “to the right.” Usually used to tell someone which side their destination will be on.


Famima no migigawa ni eki ga aru.
The station is on the right side of the Family Mart (a convenience store in Japan).

2. 左側 (Hidarigawa): Left Side

左側 (hidarigawa) follows the exact same formula as 右側 (migigawa) above but means “left side” or “to the left.”


(Ginkō wa famima no hidarigawa ni aru.)
The bank is on the left side of the Family Mart.

3. 向こう側 (Mukōgawa): The Other Side

Combining the words 向こう (mukō), meaning “opposite” and “side,” this word can be used when you’re on the wrong side of something or if you need to get to the opposite side. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a street. It can be used for buildings or other landmarks as well.


(Depāto wa eki no mukōgawa ni aru yo.)
The department store is on the other side of the train station.

4. 隣 (Tonari): Next To

Tonari is usually written with hiragana only.

The renowned Ghibli film, “My Neighbor Totoro,” is translated from the Japanese title, “Tonari no Totoro.”


(Kōen no tonari ni kawa ga aru.)
There’s a park next to the river.

5. 目の前 (Me No Mae): Directly in Front of

目の前 (me no mae) literally translates to “in front of (your) eyes,” but also means “directly in front of ~.” This expression is also used when pointing out something obvious or saying you’ve arrived somewhere.


Gakkō no me no mae ni baiten ga aru.
There’s a shop right in front of the school.

6. ~の手前 (~ No Temae): Just in Front of ~

手前 (temae) uses the kanji for “hand” and “before” and can be used to describe when your destination is right before/just in front of something/somewhere.  


(Kaisha wa daigaku no temae ni aru yo.)
The company is located just before the university.

7. ~の先 (~ No Saki): Past ~ / Ahead of ~

This is the opposite of 手前 (temae). It describes something being ahead or past a location (from your viewpoint). The nuance is similar to saying, “it’s a (little) past the ~” in English.  

For example, when asking where the school is, someone answers: 

(Konbini no saki ni aru.)
It’s (just) past the convenience store. / It’s (just) ahead of the convenience store.  


Daigaku wa kaisha no saki ni aru yo.
The university is ahead of the company.


Here are some useful terms if you need to ask for directions within a building.  

1. ~階 (~Kai): ~ Floor

You can add the word 階 (kai) to the end of any number to say express a specific floor.  

For example:

  • 2階 (nikai): Second floor
  • 4階 (yonkai): Fourth floor
  • 5階 (gokai): Fifth floor


The pronunciation of “kai” changes to “gai” when paired with any number with a three in it (3, 13, 23, etc.): 

  • 3階 (sangai): Third floor
  • 13階 (jūsangai): Thirteenth floor
  • 23階 (nijūsangai): Twenty-third floor

Also, when kai is paired with the numbers 1, 6, 8*, and 10, the pronunciation changes to “kkai.”

  • 1階 (ikkai): First floor
  • 6階 (rokkai): Sixth floor
  • 8階: (hakkai): Eighth floor
  • 10階: (jukkai): Tenth floor

*Note: There are two ways to pronounce 8階). You can either say “hakkai” or “hachikai.”


Uchi no kaisha wa kono biru no jukkai ni aru yo. 
Our company is on the 10th floor of this building.

2. 地下(Chika): Underground, Basement

As Japan has an excellent infrastructure of subways and tunnels, you may often hear the word 地下(chika). Many shopping malls are also underground or connected to train stations.


スーパーは駅の地下 1階にあるよ。
(Sūpā wa eki no chika ikkai ni aru yo.)
The supermarket is in the basement of the train station.

3. 地上 (Chijō): Above Ground

If you’re asking for directions in an underground location (like a subway station), you may be told to go above ground first using the word 地上 (chijō)


(Resutoran ni iku ni wa, mazu chijō ni modoranakya.)
To get to the restaurant, you first need to go back up to the ground floor.

17 Landmarks

In this next section, we’ll look at common landmark names you may hear when giving or asking for directions.

1. 交差点 (Kōsaten): Intersection

This term is probably used more when driving, but it also can be useful if navigating a big city on foot.  


(Tsugi no kōsaten de migi da yo.)
Take a right at the next intersection.

2. 信号 (Shingō): Traffic Lights, Pedestrian Crossing

信号 (shingō)can describe traffic lights for cars or pedestrian crossing traffic lights.


(Shingō watattara me no mae da yo.)
After you pass the traffic lights, it’ll be right in front of you.

3. 駅 (Eki): Train Station

駅 (eki) is the general name for a train station, but it is often combined with a name to specify which station it is, like this:


(Eki wa doko desu ka.) 
Where’s the station?

4. バス停 (Basutei): Bus Stop

Usually, most バス停 (basutei) in Japan are along the side of roads. Some bus stops have an enclosed sitting area, but many have a small sign that can be hard to spot. If you’re traveling to a far destination by bus, you’ll probably need to go to a バスターミナル (basu tāminaru) or a “bus terminal” to catch your bus.  


(Basutei wa kochira desu ka.)
Would the bus stop be this way?

5. 空港 (Kūkō): Airport

Just like with 駅 (eki) above, the name of a place is attached to 空港 (kūkō) to specify a specific airport:

  • 成田空港 (Narita Kūkō): Narita Airport
  • 神戸空港 (Kōbe Kūkō): Kobe Airport


(Kūkō wa dō ikeba ii desu ka?)
How should I get to the airport?

6. 銀行 (Ginkō): Bank

There are a lot of different banks in Japan. Different banks can also be located near one another, especially in bigger cities. So you may need to specify which 銀行 (ginkō) you are looking for.  


(Ginkō ni ikitai desu.)
I would like to go to the bank.

7. 交番 (Kōban): Police Box

If you’re wondering what a “police box” is, it is not a small booth or box you use to call the police. Instead, a 交番 (kōban) is a small neighborhood police station. The emphasis is on “small.” It can be a small building with maybe one or two officers there. Or it may even be a single room in a building. However, it’s nice to know they are there if you ever need their assistance.  


(Kōban o sugitara mō sugu tsuku yo.) 
You’ll arrive soon after you pass the police box.

8. 病院 (Byōin): Hospital

This is a good word to know not only for getting directions but also in case you need to see a doctor.  

However, the word “hospital” is slightly different in Japanese. In many Western countries, a hospital is usually a large facility you go to if your health is in a serious condition or if you need special treatment. 

Hospitals in Japan are the same. However, the biggest difference is that the word 病院 (byōin) can also mean a small doctor’s office. Many doctors in Japan run their own clinics (with just them and one or more assistants). These private clinics are also called 病院 (byōin) in Japanese.  


(Byōin yori saki ni aru.) 
It’s past the hospital.

9. 学校 (Gakkō): School

While there are many types of schools in Japan, saying the word 学校 (gakkō) usually implies elementary, junior high, or high school:

  • 小学校 (shōgakkō): Elementary school
  • 中学校 (chūgakkō): Junior high school
  • 高等学校 (kōtōgakkō): High school
  • 高校(kōkō):  High school (short version of 高等学校)


(Konbini wa gakkō no temae ni aru.)
The convenience store is right in front of the school.

10. 建物 (Tatemono): Building, Structure

建物 (tatemono) is a general term to refer to any big or small building. This includes anything from high-rise buildings to traditional Japanese things like temples, pagodas, etc. Any of these structures can be referred to as 建物 (tatemono).


(Murasaki no tatemono ga mietara tsuku yo.)
You’ll arrive once you see the purple building.

11. ビル (Biru): Building

While ビル (biru) also means “building” in Japanese, it is more specific than tatemono (explained above). A ビル (biru) refers to large buildings like businesses, hotels, or high-rise buildings. It can also refer to smaller buildings that make up a bigger establishment. For example, the different buildings in a school (building A, the science building, etc.).  

In Japanese, ビル is NOT used to refer to things like pagodas, temples, or shrines (whereas 建物 (tatemono) can be used to describe all of these things).  


(Ano takai biru no gokai ni aru.)
It’s on the 5th floor of the tall building.

12. 郵便局 (Yūbinkyoku): Post Office

There are often small post offices in Japan that are often not on major streets. Some are located in smaller backstreets or residential areas, making them useful landmarks for giving directions in big cities or smaller towns. 


(Kono chikaku ni yūbinkyoku wa arimasu ka?)
Is there a post office near here?

13. コンビニ (Konbini): Convenience Store

If there’s one word to remember in Japanese, コンビニ (konbini) just might be it. In most cities in Japan, you find コンビニ (konbini), or convenience stores all over the place. You may even find different convenience stores located next to each other. Going to a konbini is a must-do for any traveler to Japan. You can get your standard toiletries, umbrellas, and other necessities, but the highlight is all of their delicious food. 


(Konbini o sagashiteimasu.)
I’m looking for a convenience store.

14. 公園 (Kōen): Park

There are some major and huge parks in Japan, like the Shinjuku Gyo-En Park in Tokyo and Daisetsuzan National Park in Hokkaido. However, 公園 (kōen) can also describe a public park or playground found in many neighborhoods in Japan. These public parks are often small. In fact, homeowners in some Western countries have bigger yards than some parks in Japan.  


(Kōen no mannaka ni hakubutsukan ga aru.)
There’s a museum in the middle of the park.

15. ビジネスホテル (Bijinesu Hoteru): Business Hotel

You’ll find ビジネスホテル (bijinesu hoteru) all over cities in Japan. These are hotels that cater to business travelers. In other words, the rooms at these hotels are just that…rooms. No thrills, no frills. It’s just a room and usually a bathroom with both a toilet and shower in it.  

Expect the size of the room and bathroom to be small…very small. Some single rooms in business hotels have a bed, with very little room for anything else. You might also struggle to take a shower if you are tall or on the big side.  

However, these hotels are usually cheap and convenient, and some offer great breakfasts.  


(Bijinesu hoteru nara acchi ni aru yo.)
If you’re looking for business hotels, there’s one over there.

16. 旅館 (Ryokan): Traditional Japanese Inn

If you’re looking to stay somewhere to experience true Japanese hospitality, a 旅館 (ryokan) is just what you need. The price of staying at a ryokan varies greatly. Some luxury or well-known ryokan can charge upwards of 50,000 to 100,000 yen per person.  

These expensive ryokan usually are built next to an onsen (natural hot spring), so you can relax by bathing in the hot waters. You’ll also be provided with amazing food, some of which might be better than any restaurant you go to in Japan. Some ryokan will serve you your meal in your room, so you completely relax without having to move a muscle.  


(Ryokan o sagashiteiru no?)
Are you looking for a traditional Japanese inn?

17. 川 (Kawa): River

When the character 川 is combined with other kanji, the reading of “kawa” sometimes becomes “gawa.”


(Sumidagawa o watareba, oishī omise ga takusan aru yo.) 
After you cross the Sumida River, there are a lot of good restaurants.

5 Ways to Ask for Directions in Japanese

Now that you know some vocabulary, let’s look at how to use them to ask for directions.  

Here are some basic sentence patterns and related words you can use when asking or giving directions.

1. すみません、~はどこですか? (Sumimasen, ~ Wa Doko Desu Ka): Excuse me, where is ~?

This is the most straightforward and frequently used pattern for asking for directions in Japan.

Replace the “~” with any landmark you wish to look for.


ジェイン: すみません、図書館はどこですか?
Jane: (Sumimasen, toshokan wa doko desu ka?)
Jane: Excuse me, where is the library?

クリス: この道をまっすぐ進むと5分ほどで着きますよ。
Chris:  (Kono michi o massugu susumu to go-fun hodo de tsukimasu yo.) 
Chris: If you go straight on this path, you’ll get there in about 5 minutes.

2. 迷子です (Maigo Desu): I’m Lost

This can sound very straightforward, so depending on the situation, you may want to add a すみません (sumimasen) in front of it to sound more polite.

You can also replace です (desu) with になりました (ni narimashita) to say, “I’ve become lost.”


クリス: すみません、迷子になりました。助けてください。
Chris: (Sumimasen, maigo ni narimashita. Tasukete kudasai.) 
Chris: Excuse me, I’ve become lost. Please help.

ジェイン: いいですよ。
Jane: (Ii desu yo.)
Jane: Sure.

3. 道に迷いました (Michi Ni Mayoimashita): I’ve Lost My Way

The difference between 道に迷いました (michi ni mayoimashita) and 迷子です (maigo desu) is that 道に迷いました sounds more formal. It implies you were on your way somewhere when you took a wrong turn or got lost. 迷子です is more general and means, “I’m lost”— no more, no less. 


(Ojōsan, michi ni mayoimashita ka?)
Miss, have you lost your way?

4. ~道を教えてください (~Michi O Oshiete Kudasai): Please Tell Me the Way To ~

This translates to, “Please teach me the way.” This is a polite but direct request for directions. It can be used on its own, or you can add a location in front of it to be specific.  This pattern is usually used when you are near to your destination (within walking distance).  

Example:  Looking for the Tokyo Dome (When You Are Nearby)

(Tōkyō Dōmu e no michi o oshiete kudasai.)
Please tell me how to get to Tokyo Dome.  

5.  ~への行き方を教えてください (~E No Ikikata O Oshiete Kudasai):  Please Tell Me How to Get To ~

This expression is very similar to #4 above (~道を教えてください).  The difference is that using 

~への行き方を教えてください (~e no ikikata o oshiete kudasai) implies that you are far away from your destination, or you have no idea how far away you are. 

That’s why this expression is good to use when you are in a different part of town or at a train station away from your destination.  It’s particularly useful when asking train station employees, as they will usually help you find the best way to get to where you want to go.  

Example: Looking for the Tokyo Dome (When You Are Far Away)

(Tōkyō Dōmu e no ikikata o oshiete kudasai.)
Please tell me how to get to Tokyo Dome.  

6. ~を探しています。(~ O Sagashiteimasu): I’m Looking For ~

This pattern can be used to say you are searching for a place, person, or thing. Today, we’ll use it exclusively with place names or landmarks like in the example below.


(Sumimasen, arīna o sagashiteimasu ga, michi o oshiete kudasai.)
Excuse me.  I’m looking for the arena. Could you please tell me how to get there?

Bonus Section: 5 Connecting Words

These words help to make giving directions sound natural by connecting them in a logical order.  

1. まず (Mazu): First

Used at the beginning of a sentence, まず (mazu) is useful for starting a sequence of directions.


(Mazu, tsugi no kado de magatte kudasai.)
First, please turn at the next corner.

2. それから (Sorekara): From There On, Then

それから (sorekara) is used to connect one part of a sequence or list to the next part. それから can also be replaced with 次に (tsugi ni) or 次は (tsugi wa)、both of which mean “next.”


(Sorekara, shingō wo watatte sonomama massugu itte kudasai.)
After that, please cross the road and go straight.

3. しばらくしたら (Shibaraku Shitara): After a While

Though not directly used as a connecting word, しばらくしたら (shibaraku shitara) is nonetheless commonly used when giving directions. It describes when you want someone to continue on the same path for some time.


(Shibaraku shitara, ōkii tawā ga miete kuru hazu.)
After a while, you should see a large tower.

4. ~と (~To): If, Then

The と (to) conditional is used for many things. When giving directions, it’s generally placed in the middle of the sentence to convey a conditional. For example, if you do X, then Y will happen.

The phrase placed directly before と (to) is the “if,” and what comes after is the result.


(Tawā no temae no kōsaten de migi ni magaru to mokutekichi ni tsuku hazu.)
If you turn right at the intersection right before the tower, you should arrive at your destination.

5. ~はず (~ Hazu): Should Be

はず (hazu) is also commonly used when giving directions. It comes at the end of a sentence and is often paired with あるはず (aru hazu), which means “there should be ~.” or 着くはず (tsuku hazu), which means “should arrive.”

はず is used when someone is not 100% sure of something. However, it also softens your tone to make you sound more indirect and polite.


(Mōru no naka ni yūbinkyoku ga aru hazu desu.) 
There should be a post office in the mall.

Putting it All Together

Let’s look at an example conversation using the words and expressions in this guide.  

Example Dialogue: 

Chris: すみません、ちょっと迷子になりました。道を教えてください。
Chris: (Sumimasen, chotto maigo ni narimashita.  Michi o oshiete kudasai.)
Chris: Excuse me, I’ve become a bit lost. Please give me directions.

Jane: いいですよ。どこに向かっていますか。
Jane: (Ii desu yo. Doko ni mukatte imasu ka?)
Jane: Okay, where are you headed to?

Chris: ライブに行くので、幕張メッセを探しています。
Chris: (Raibu ni iku no de, Makuhari Messe o sagashiteimasu.) 
Chris: I’m going to a concert, so I’m looking for Makuhari Messe (a convention center in Japan).

Jane: なるほど!幕張メッセは、あっちの方向ですよ。
Jane: (Naruhodo, Makuhari messe wa, acchi no hōkō desu yo.) 
Jane: I see! Makuhari Messe is in that direction.

Jane: まず、この道を戻って、信号まで行ったら右に曲がってください。
Jane: (Mazu, kono michi o modotte, shingō made ittara migi ni magatte kudasai.)
Jane: First, go back up this street, and when you get to the traffic lights, turn right.

Chris: はい。
Chris: (Hai.)
Chris: Okay.

Jane: そしたら、海浜幕張駅が目の前にあるはずです。
Jane: Soshitara, Kaihinmakuhari Eki ga me no mae ni aru hazu desu.
Jane: Then, you should see Kaihin Makuhari Station right in front of you.

Chris: はい。
Chris: (Hai.)
Chris: Okay.

Jane: 駅を過ぎたら、そのまままっすぐ歩いてください。5分したら郵便局が見えてくるはずです。郵便局の手前の階段を登ると、アリーナが目の前にあります。
Jane: (Eki o sugitara, sonomama massugu aruite kudasai. Go-fun shitara yūbinkyoku ga miete kuru hazu desu. Yūbinkyoku no temae no kaidan o noboru to, arīna ga me no mae ni arimasu.) 
Jane: After you pass the station, go straight. After 5 minutes, you should see a post office. If you go up the stairs right in front of the post office, the arena will be right in front of you.

Chris: 分かりました、ありがとうございます!
Chris: (Wakarimashita, arigatō gozaimasu!)
Chris: I understand. Thank you!


Now that we’ve covered cardinal directions, placement words, and patterns to ask for directions in Japanese, you should be all set to go on the trip of a lifetime to Japan! Or if you already live in Japan, getting around will be easier for you if you master the material in this guide.  

Be sure to practice!

Photo of author

Sonya S

An Arizonan living in Tokyo, Sonya is in love with all things nature, art, and food, and--in pursuit of all three--moved to Japan right after college. She works full time in translation and medical assistance in order to put food on the table for her rescue cat.

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