Hello there! This column will include useful Japanese phrases that cover a variety of topics.
Konnichiwa, Mina-san! (Hello, everyone!). Last time I talked about Japanese New Year’s greetings and New Year’s culture in Japan. In this column, I’m going to teach you how to ask how much something costs when shopping. Those who have travelled to Japan in the past probably already know this, but when you go shopping in Japan it’s relatively easy to understand how things work. The prices are printed neatly on the items and if you go to a Japanese convenience store chain the cash register will also display the price to the customer, so even if you don’t know how to say the numbers in Japanese, you’re completely fine. However, if you go to some more traditional downtown shopping areas or to the countryside, sometimes items won’t have a price written on them and it’s hard to know how much they cost. So today I’ll teach you what to say and some tricks should you find yourself in that situation.
Please imagine that you are currently in a Japanese souvenir shop. There are lots of cute and interesting Japanese goods lined up on display. This shop seems like it’s been around for years and some of the items don’t have price labels. (S=Staff, C=Customer)
C: Sumimasen, Kore ikura desuka?
(Excuse me, how much is this?)
S: Sanzen nihyakuen desu.
(That’s three thousand two hundred yen)
C: (Sanzen nihyakuen desu?????, Omg, I don’t understand at all…Oh! I could ask her to write
(Excuse me, how much is this?)
(Could you write it down for me?)
Now, there are three parts of this conversation I would like to explain in detail. Firstly “kore”. “Kore” means “this” and you use it when you’re describing something close to you and far away from the person you’re talking to. There are two other similar words to “kore”: “sore” and “are”. “Sore” you use to talk about something that is far away from you but close to the person you’re talking to. “Are” you use to talk about something that is far away both from you and the person you are talking to. So when you ask a question using “kore”, why not point at the object you’re referring? Next, I’ll talk about “ikura desu ka”. This means “how much?” “Kore ikura desu ka?” means “how much is this?” Make sure to use raised intonation on the final “ka”. Finally, even when you have successfully asked the price of something, it can be hard to understand the shopkeeper’s response sometimes. When that happens, you can ask the shopkeeper to write the price down for you (or maybe you could even ask them to use a smartphone to type out the numbers for you). To ask for them to write or type the numbers down, you say “kaite kudasai” (“Could you write it down for me?”). If they write out the numbers, then your problem is solved! This phrase is also useful dealing with other problems (for example, asking people to write down hotel addresses or taxi numbers), so try to remember it! Next week: shopping part two. I’ll teach you how to talk about your opinions regarding what you have bought. Maybe if you think something is a little expensive, if you ask the shopkeeper you could even get a discount…!
Sayoonara, Jaa mata!
(Goodbye, see you!)
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