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60+ Useful Conversation Starters in Japanese

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Many people wonder how to start a conversation and what to talk about when meeting new people. Good communication skills are often expected and welcomed in society; indeed, it’s a useful and necessary skill to keep a fun conversation going and familiarize yourself with new people or the environment. 

Starting a conversation in Japanese, however, is a bit tricky. There are various patterns of speech in Japanese that express different levels of formality, politeness, intimacy, and friendliness. Even for honorific speech in Japanese, 敬語 Keigo, have different levels of politeness, ranging from casually polite to extremely respectful. Using the right choice of speech and how you talk is the key to starting a good conversation in Japanese, and it all depends on what situation you are in and whom you are talking to.

Whether you are at a bar or friend’s party, on your first day at school and work, or on a date with someone new, don’t worry! Here we will introduce you to useful conversation starters in Japanese by situations. Let’s start Japanese conversation practice at JapanesePod101.com!

A Woman and Man Are Talking at a Party

Log in to Download Your Free Cheat Sheet - Beginner Vocabulary in Japanese Table of Contents
  1. What is A Conversation Starter?
  2. Conversation Starters for Parties and Socializing
  3. Conversation Starters for First Day at School
  4. Conversation Starters for First Day at Work
  5. Conversation Starters for a First Date
  6. Conclusion

1. What is A Conversation Starter?

1. Open-ended Questions and Close-ended Questions

A conversation starter is a phrase or question that is used to enter into a conversation with another person(s). 

Good conversation starters, or as some might call them, conversation openers, are often considered effective with open-ended questions that require longer responses with further statements and opinions. They can naturally lead to other questions and comments to develop a conversation ( e.g. “What do you think of this party? Why do you think so?” “How did you learn the 3rd language?”).

Closed-ended questions, on the other hand, are regarded as questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no” or a very short response  (e.g. “Do you like this music?”, “What time do you usually get up?” ). Such questions could easily end a conversation after one responded with his/her answer, so balance and use both open-ended questions and closed-ended questions effectively to make your conversation going.

2. Good Topics and Tips

What are good topics to talk about with someone new? In general, in order to avoid getting awkward or offending others, the following topics are considered “safe” and easy to talk about: climate, recent news, food, entertainment (TV, movies, hobby, sports, etc.), travel and leisure, school, work, family, and etc. Too private matters and one’s physical characteristics should be avoided as they are regarded as rude and inappropriate.

“和 wa (“harmony”)” is one of the most important values of the Japanese culture, and avoiding conflicts with others is highly expected in Japanese society. Because of this, Japanese people may feel uncomfortable or feel they’re rejected when you express your opinion clearly if it is different from theirs. Telling your opinion is still a good thing, but just keep a few tips in mind when you talk with new people in Japan: 

   1. Talk about yourself first to familiarize yourself and then ask about them
   2. Find common points, such as background, experience, favorites, etc.
   3. Be interested in them, talk positive, and never deny (rather empathize)

In addition, using polite language is the norm and expected courtesy in Japan when talking to strangers or meeting new people unless they are very close friends of your best friend at a very casual occasion. Paying attention to honorific speech in Japanese (敬語 Keigo) will deepen your Japanese language learning and understanding of Japanese culture.

Two Girls Are Having a Conversation

2. Conversation Starters for Parties and Socializing

Whether you are at a bar, friend’s party, or social event, it’s likely that there are other people you don’t know. Here is the list of Japanese conversation starters useful for such fun and laid-back situations. Casual atmosphere, yet keeps in mind that you use polite language to talk to strangers.

  • このパーティー/イベントの主催者を知っていますか。
    Kono pātī / ibento no shusaisha o shitte imasu ka.
    (“Do you know the host of this party/event?”)

  • 主催者とどういう知り合いですか。 
    Shusaisha to dō iu shiriai desu ka.
    (“How did you know the host?”)

  • このイベントをどうやって知りましたか。
    Kono ibento o dō yatte shiri mashita ka.
    (“How did you know about this event?”)

  • [name] さんの友達ですか。
    [name]-san no tomodachi desu ka.
    (“Are you a friend of [name]?”)

  • ここへよく来るんですか。 私は月に1、2回来ます。  
    Koko e yoku kuru n desu ka. Watashi wa tsuki ni ichi, ni-kai kimasu.
    (“Do you come here often? I come here once or twice a month.”)

  • 前にどこかでお会いしたことありましたっけ?  
    Mae ni dokoka de o-ai shita koto arimashita kke?
    (“Did we meet somewhere before?”)

Cheers
  •  パーティは楽しいですか。私はここの音楽が好きです。 
    Pātī wa tanoshii desu ka. Watashi wa koko no ongaku ga suki desu.
    (“Are you enjoying the party? I like the music here.”)

  •  どんな音楽が好きですか。J-pop は好きですか。 
    Donna ongaku ga suki desu ka. Jei-poppu wa suki desu ka.
    (“What kind of music do you like? Do you like J-pop?”)

  • 何を食べて/飲んで いるんですか。 それはおいしいですか。  
    Nani o tabete / nonde iru n desu ka. Sore wa oishii desu ka.
    (“What are you eating/drinking? Is it good?”)

  • 何か食べ物/飲み物 を取ってきます。何かいかがですか。 
    Nani ka tabemono / nomimono o totte kimasu. Nani ka ikaga desu ka.
    (“I’m going to get some food/drink. Would you like something?”)

  • お名前は何ですか。私はOOOと言います。
    O-namae wa nan desu ka. Watashi wa OOO to iimasu.
    (“What is your name? I’m OOO.”)

  •  仕事は何をしていますか。 私はOOOをしています。 
    O-shigoto wa nani o shite imasu ka. Watashi wa OOO o shite imasu.
    (“What do you do for a living? I’m OOO.”)

      ➢ Put a name of your occupation in OOO, such as;
          会計士 kaikeishi  (“accountant”)
          ITプログラマー  ai tī puroguramā  (“IT programmer”)
          看護師 kangoshi  (“nurse”)
          デザイナー  dezainā  (“designer”)
          教師  kyōshi  (“teacher”)
          シェフ  shefu  (“chef”)

  • SNSは何か使っていますか。友達申請してもいいですか。  
    Esu enu es wa nani ka tsukatte imasu ka. Tomodachi shinsei shite mo ii desu ka.
    (“Do you use any Social Networking Services? Is it ok if I send you a friend request?”)

A Man in a Suit is Asking a Woman in a Red Dress for a Phone Number

When you see someone you already know, like close friends, you can start a conversation casually with informal language. Here are useful Japanese conversation starter phrases for friends.

  • 久しぶり! 最近どうしてた? 
    Hisashiburi ! Saikin dō shite ta?
    (“It’s been a while! How have you been?”)

  • 元気にしてた? 
    Genki ni shite ta?
    (“Are you doing well?”)

  • ここで会うなんて偶然だね!イベントの主催者を知ってるの? 
    Koko de au nante gūzen da ne! Ibento no shusaisha o shitte ru no?
    (“What a coincidence to meet you here! Do you know the event host?”)

  • [name] は今日一緒に来なかったの? 
    [name] wa kyō issho ni konakatta no?
    (“[Name] did not come with you today?”)

  • 今日ここに来るとは知らなかったよ。一緒に飲もう! 
    Kyō koko ni kuru to wa shiranakatta yo. Issho ni nomō!
    (“I didn’t know you come here today, let’s have a drink together!”)

  • 新しい彼氏 / 彼女と一緒に来たの?私に紹介してよ! 
    Atarashii kareshi / kanojo to issho ni kita no? Watashi ni shōkai shite yo!
    (“Did you come with your new boyfriend/girlfriend? Introduce him/her to me!”)

To learn about how to introduce yourself in Japanese, please check out How to Say “My Name is,” in Japanese + More!

3. Conversation Starters for First Day at School

The first day at school is exciting thinking about new friends and new school life, but as well as it’s a bit nervous and anxious about if you can get along with new friends or how well you can cope with studying, etc. But don’t worry, most people feel the same way as you. Just relax and become the first person to start a conversation with the phrases below in mind!

It would be ok to talk in a casual way (タメ口 tameguchi “casual language for talking like equal friends”) from the first day at school if it is obvious that a person you are talking to is the same age or younger and he/she seems very friendly. However, using polite language is safe for the first meeting, and you can change how you speak later as you get closer to your friends. Here are Japanese words and phrases for conversation starters at school. 

  • こんにちは、私はOOOです。どうぞよろしく。このクラスを取っているんですか。
    Kon’nichiwa, watashi wa OOO desu. Dōzo yoroshiku. Kono kurasu o totte iru n desu ka.
    (“Hello, I’m OOO, nice to meet you. Are you taking this class? “)

      よろしく yoroshiku” (casual), or “よろしくお願いします yoroshiku onegai shimasu” (polite) is one of the Japanese untranslatable words. It is literally translated as “suitable favor please”, but it can be used as “Nice to meet you,” “Best regards,” “Favorably please,” etc., depending on the situation. This is a very useful phrase used in various situations to express your humbleness and wish to have a good relationship from that point forward.


  • 何を専攻していますか。何の学部ですか。 
    Nani o senkō shite imasu ka. Nan no gakubu desu ka.
    (“What do you study? What department are you in?”)

  • この学校で誰か知り合いはいますか。
    Kono gakkō de dare ka shiriai wa imasu ka.
    (“Do you know anyone in this school?”)

  • すみません、私は新入生でこの辺りをよく知りません。研究室はどこにありますか。
    Sumimasen, watashi wa shinnyūsei de kono atari o yoku shirimasen. Kenkyūshitsu wa doko ni arimasu ka.
    (“Excuse me, I’m new, and I don’t really know my way around here. Where can I find the laboratory room?”)

  • 経済学のクラスはこの教室ですか。 
    Keizaigaku no kurasu wa kono kyōshitsu desu ka.
    (“Is this classroom for an economics class?”)

  • 図書館はどの建物ですか。
    Toshokan wa dono tatemono desu ka.
    (“Which building is the library in?”)

  • 私はここの新入生で、ダンスクラブに入るのを楽しみにしています。あなたは?
    Watashi wa koko no shinnyūsei de, dansu kurabu ni hairu no o tanoshimi ni shite imasu. Anata wa?
    (“I’m a freshman here, and I’m looking forward to joining the dance club. What about you?”)

  • 一緒にお昼を食べてもいいですか。
    Issho ni o-hiru o tabete mo ii desu ka.
    (“Can I join you for lunch?”)

  • この学食でおすすめのメニューは何ですか。
    Kono gakushoku de osusume no menyū wa nan desu ka.
    (“What is the recommended menu in this school cafeteria?”)

  • よかったら、連絡先を聞いてもいいですか。
    Yokattara, renrakusaki o kiite mo ii desu ka.
    (“Can I ask for your contact info if you don’t mind?”)

  • このクラスが終わったら、後で一緒にお茶しませんか。
    Kono kurasu ga owattara, ato de issho ni o-cha shimasen ka.
    (“Would you like to have tea later after finishing this class?”)

Here is the most useful list of Japanese question and answer phrases you need to know;  The 10 Most Useful Japanese Questions and Answers.

A Girl Student Holding a Pencil and Notebook

4. Conversation Starters for First Day at Work

Unlike at school, the first day at work is probably not as exciting or nervous because a workplace is not a place to find friends and what is expected from you is very clear.

Acting like a role-model business person would be safe for the first day at work in most cases in Japan, that is, being punctual, polite, and sincere to give a reliable and good impression. Show your humor and friendliness as you get used to the environment and people around you.

Here is a useful list of Japanese conversation starter examples for work.

  • 今日は私のここでの初日です。どうぞよろしくお願いします。 
    Kyō wa watashi no koko de no shonichi desu. Dōzo yoroshiku onegai shimasu.
    (“Today is my first day here. Nice to meet you.”)

  • 私はOOOと申します。営業部の新しい社員です。
    Watashi wa OOO to mōshimasu. Eigyōbu no atarashii shain desu.
    (“I am OOO, I’m a new employee of the sales department.”)

  • 何のお仕事をされていますか。私は新しいプログラマーです。
    Nan no o-shigoto o sarete imasu ka. Watashi wa atarashii puroguramā desu.
    (“What kind of work do you do? I’m a new programmer.”)

  • ここでどの位働いていますか。
    Koko de dono kurai hataraite imasu ka.
    (“How long have you been working here?”)

  • この部署のキーパーソンはどなたですか。
    Kono busho no kī pāson wa donata desu ka.
    (“Who is the key person in this department?”)

  • すみません、コピー機はどこにありますか。
    Sumimasen, kopīki wa doko ni arimasu ka.
    (“Excuse me, where can I find a copy machine?”)

  • コンピューターの社内システムについては誰に聞けばいいですか。
    Konpyūtā no shanai shisutemu ni tsuite wa dare ni kikeba ii desu ka.
    (“Whom should I ask about the intra-computer system?”)

  • コーヒーマシンの使い方を教えていただけますか。
    Kōhī mashin no tsukaikata o oshiete itadakemasu ka.
    (“Would you mind showing me how to use the coffee machine, please?”)

  • ランチをご一緒してもいいですか。
    Ranchi o go-issho shite mo ii desu ka.
    (“Would you mind if I join you for lunch?”)

  • ここは社員の懇親会はよくありますか。
    Koko wa shain no konshinkai wa yoku arimasu ka.
    (“Are there social gatherings for employees here often?”)

To learn more about useful phrases for business situations, please see Essential Business Japanese: Learn the Most Useful Phrases and The Most Useful Japanese Phone Phrases.

Employees Are Working in the Office

5. Conversation Starters for a First Date

A first date can be awkward and uncomfortable when you really don’t know the other person and conversation develops in the wrong direction. A conversation is, as it is often expressed, a catch-ball. You throw a ball, and the other catches it and passes it back to you. Especially for dating, where the primary purpose is to get to know each other better, the conversation should be mutual communication. 

Avoid continuously talking about yourself or asking too many questions to the other person without telling about yourself. A tip for making a natural catch-call is to effectively use “and you?” phrases to ask the other person’s opinion after mentioning your story.  

Break the ice and have a fun date conversation with the following Japanese conversation starter phrases. 

  • 今日は来てくれてありがとうございます。お会いするのを楽しみにしていました。 
    Kyō wa kite kurete arigatō gozaimasu. O-ai suru no o tanoshimi ni shite imashita.
    (“Thank you for coming today. I’ve been looking forward to meeting you.”)

  • 素敵ですね!とてもお洒落ですね。
    Suteki desu ne! Totemo oshare desu ne.
    (“You look great! You have a very nice sense of fashion.”)

  • 何の香水をつけてますか。とても良い香りですね。
    Nan no kōsui o tsukete masu ka. Totemo ii kaori desu ne.
    (“What perfume are you wearing? It’s a very nice smell.”)

  • 今日はこのレストランでよかったですか。ここの30階からの景色はとても綺麗なんです。
    Kyō wa kono resutoran de yokatta desu ka. Koko no san-jukkai kara no keshiki wa totemo kirei nan desu.
    (“Do you like this restaurant today? They have a very beautiful view from the 30th floor.”)

  • 私はイタリア料理が大好きです。[name] さんはどんな料理が好きですか。
    Watashi wa Itaria ryōri ga daisuki desu. [name]-san wa donna ryōri ga suki desu ka.
    (“I love Italian cuisines. What kind of food do you like, [name]?”)

  • お酒を飲むのは好きですか。私はお酒が強くないので、ワイン1、2杯で十分です。
    O-sake o nomu no wa suki desu ka. Watashi wa o-sake ga tsuyokunai node, wain ichi, ni-hai de jūbun desu.
    (“Do you like drinking? I’m not a strong [alcohol] drinker, so one or two glasses of wine is enough for me.”)

  • 私は OOOで働いています。何のお仕事をしていますか。
    Watashi wa OOO de hataraite imasu. Nan no o-shigoto o shite imasu ka.
    (“I work for OOO. What do you do for work?”)

  • 職場はどんなところですか。仕事は楽しいですか。
    Shokuba wa donna tokoro desu ka. Shigoto wa tanoshii desu ka.
    (“What is your workplace like? Do you enjoy working?”)

  • 時間のある時は何をするのが好きですか。趣味はありますか。
    Jikan no aru toki wa nani o suru no ga suki desu ka. Shumi wa arimasu ka.
    (“What do you like to do in your free time? Do you have any hobbies?”)

  • 一番好きな映画 /音楽のジャンルは何ですか。
    Ichi-ban suki na eiga / ongaku no janru wa nan desu ka.
    (“What is your favorite movie/music genre?”)

  • 週末は何をしていますか。私はよくサイクリングやハイキングに行きます。
    Shūmatsu wa nani o shite imasu ka. Watashi wa yoku saikuringu ya haikingu ni ikimasu.
    (“What do you do on weekends? I often go cycling and go hiking.”)

  • 旅行は好きですか。私は海外旅行が好きで、今まで20カ国行ったことがあります。
    Ryokō wa suki desu ka. Watashi wa kaigai ryokō ga suki de, ima made ni-jukkakoku itta koto ga arimasu.
    (“Do you like travelling? I love traveling abroad, and I have been to 20 countries so far.”)

  • 地元はどこですか。私は北海道出身です。
    Jimoto wa doko desu ka. Watashi wa Hokkaidō shusshin desu.
    (“Where is your hometown? I’m from Hokkaido.”)

  • 私には姉と弟がいます。兄弟はいますか。
    Watashi ni wa ane to otōto ga imasu. Kyōdai wa imasu ka.
    (“I have an older sister and younger brother. Do you have brothers and sisters?”)

  • 私は友達からOOOと呼ばれています。ニックネームはありますか。
    Watashi wa tomodachi kara OOO to yobarete imasu. Nikku nēmu wa arimasu ka.
    (“I’m called OOO by my friends. Do you have a nickname?”)

  • もっとあなたのことを教えて。
    Motto anata no koto o oshiete.
    (“Tell me more about you.”)

  • 自分を一番表現する5つの言葉は何ですか。
    Jibun o ichi-ban hyōgen suru itsutsu no kotoba wa nan desu ka.
    (“What are five words that describe you the most?”)

  • 人生で一番面白くて笑った経験は何でしたか。
    Jinsei de ichi-ban omoshirokute waratta keiken wa nan deshita ka.
    (“What was the funniest and most laughing experience in your life?”)

  • もし何でも願いが叶うとしたら、何をお願いしますか。
    Moshi nan demo negai ga kanau to shitara, nani o onegai shimasu ka.
    (“If any wish would come true, what would you do?”)

  • 最も大事な3つの価値観は何ですか。私の場合は、正直で思いやりがあって勇敢であることです。
    Mottomo daiji na mittsu no kachikan wa nan desu ka. Watashi no bāi wa, shōjiki de omoiyari ga atte yūkan de aru koto desu.
    (“What are the three most important values to you? For me, it’s being honest, caring, and brave.”)

To get closer to someone special, check out Say “I Love You” in Japanese with These Love Phrases.

A Man Is Showing His Phone to a Woman and Having a Conversation

6. Conclusion

In this article, we introduced 60+ Useful Conversation Starters in Japanese for various situations, such as at parties and social events, on the first day at school and work, and on the first date, together with the tips for conversation starters in Japanese. You will never get lost on where and how to start a conversation in Japanese once you master our guide!

You’ll find a lot of useful content on JapanesePod101.com when you would like to learn more about the Japanese language and practical Japanese phrases for different situations. We provide a variety of free lessons designed to help improve your Japanese language skills. 

These articles are also very useful for making a good conversation, please check out: 

Also, if you need to brush up on your Japanese grammar, please review:

And there’s so much more! Learn faster and enjoy studying Japanese online at JapanesePod101.com!

Before you go, let us know in the comments if there’s a topic you’d like us to cover in a future article. What words, phrases, or cultural topics would you like to learn more about? We’d be glad to help, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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