Japanese Essentials: How to ask if a place is nearby

Asking for directions in Japanese is very easy and a good way to meet the locals. Follow our handy vocabulary guide to learning how to ask if a place is nearby.

Posted by on July 28, 2017 – Japanese Study

You should never shy away from asking people for directions in Japan. Even if your Japanese is very basic, the Japanese people will usually do their very best to help you. One person that you can always rely on for direction is the local police officer. You can usually find them in the closest 交番こうばん, small local police station which are located all over Japan.

Let’s learn a key sentence to ask someone if a place you’d like to go to is nearby or not.

Sample sentence: このへんに、ATM(は)ありますか。
(Is there an ATM around here?)

このへんに means ‘around here’. この is a Japanese demonstrative translating in «this», «these». へん stands for area or vicinity. に is a particle indicating location or direction. あります means ‘to exist’ and is used to refer to inanimate objects – a building, a book, a concept etc.

Once again, we notice Japanese people tend to skip the topic marker は.

Sample dialogue:

Bob: すみません、このへんにATM (は)ありますか。(Excuse-me, is there an ATM around here?)
Sato: ええ、あそこにありますよ。(Yes, it’s over there.)
Bob: ありがとうございます。(Thank you very much.)
Sato: どういたしまして。(You’re welcome.)

Jim: すみません、このへんにスーパーありますか。(Excuse-me, is there a supermarket around here?)
Megumi: さあ、ちょっとわかりません。(Hmm, I’m not sure (if there is one).)
Jim: じゃ、いいです。ありがとうございます。(That’s alright, thank you.)

The little word ちょっと has many meanings but in this context,  ちょっと softens the verb わかりません, the negative form of わかります, ‘to understand’, ‘to know’. Japanese people dislike saying ‘no’ and being too direct, so instead of saying they ‘don’t know’, they’ll prefer to say ‘they’re not sure’.

Sample Vocabulary:

  • えき – Station
  • バスてい – Bus stop
  • 駐車場ちゅうしゃじょう – Parking lot
  • コンビニ – Convenience store
  • インターネットカフェ – Internet Cafe
  • 郵便局ゆうびんきょく – Post office
  • 100円ショップ – 100 yen shop
  • 薬屋くすりや – Drugstore
  • ええ – Yes
  • あそこ – Japanese demonstrative translating in ‘over there’, a place physically distant from both speaker and listener.
  • ありがとうございます – Polite ‘thank you’
  • どういたしまして – You’re welcome

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