I find that in the day and age where we use email and texting all the time, using the phone can be a daunting experience. Even worse if it’s in another language!

The first time I talked on the phone was to a possible WWOOF (volunteering on farms in exchange for food and lodging) host family. I had the possible phrases I would need written in front of me with my Japanese teacher on stand-by. I was so nervous I probably sounded awful and rude! But I’m sure they understood my Japanese wasn’t that great as a foreigner. Even so, it’s useful to know the basics of talking on the phone in Japanese if you ever go to Japan for work or when staying with a host family.

Just like in English you will always speak in polite Japanese on the telephone, so there’s lots of keigo used. (For other keigo posts see here.) But these phrases are still easy to learn because there’s only one context you’d be using them in – on the phone. These are used when calling both businesses and someone’s home.

There is also a list of essential vocabulary for beginners from the phrases at the bottom of this post.

Phone Numbers in Japanese

A quick note, Japanese phone numbers are made up of 3 parts which look like this (XX) XXXX-XXXX. The first is the area code (cities and areas within Japan have their own codes not country code), and the second and last part is the person’s number. The dash in the middle is said の “no” (so the phone number 1234-5678 would be いち、に、さん、よん、、ご、ろく、しち、はち)

Start of a Call

Hello? – もしもし (moshi moshi)

Who is this? – どなたですか? (donata desu ka?)

Is this the Tanaka residence? – たなかさんのおたくですか? (Tanaka-san no otaku desu ka?)

Yes, it is. – はい、そうです。(hai, sou desu)

Who is this please? – どちらさまですか?(dochira-sama desu ka?)

This is ____. – こちらは____です。(kochira wa ____ desu.)

May I talk to ____ please? – ____さんをおねがいします (___san wo onegaishimasu.)

Please wait a moment – ちょっとおまちください (chotto omachi kudasai)

I’m sorry to phone you so late at night. – やぶんおそくにすみません。(yabun osoku ni sumimasen)

End of a Call

Please excuse me – しつれいしました。 (shitsurei shimashita)

Thank you very much (please take care of it) – よろしくおねがいします。 (yoroshiku onegaishimasu)


They Are Out

I’m sorry but ___ is not here – すみませんが、___はここいません。 (sumimasen ga, ___ wa koko imasen)

___ is currently out – ___さんはいまでかけています。 (___-san wa ima dekakete imasu)

When will they be back? – いつもどってきますか? (itsu moddotte kimasu ka?)

They might be back about 4 – たぶん4じにはおかえりでしょう。 (tabun yo ji ni wa okaeri deshou)

Would you like to leave a message? – なんにかおことずけがありますか? (nani ka okotozuke ga arimasu ka?)

Do you have a message? – でんこんがありますか? (dengon ga arimasu ka?)

Can I leave a message? – でんごんをおねがいします。 (dengon o onegaishimasu.)

Call Again/Back

I will call again later – またあとででんわします。 (mata ato de denwa shimasu.)

Please call again later – すみませんが、もういちどかけてください。 (sumimasen ga mou ichido kakete kudasai.)
– またあとでかけてください。 (mata ato de kakete kudasai.)

Give me a call if there’s anything I can do for you. – なにかようがあったら、わたしにでんわをください。 (nani ka you ga attara, watashi ni denwa o kudasai.)

I will call you back – あとででんわします。 (ato de denwa shimasu.)

I will call you as soon as I arrive – とうちゃくしだい、でんわをかけます。 (touchaku shidai denwa o kakemasu.)

Please call me as soon as you arrive home – うちについたら、すぐでんわをください。 (uchi ni tsuitara, sugu denwa o kudasai.)

Call me tomorrow afternoon – あしたのごごでんわをください。 (ashita no gogo denwa o kudasai.)

Mistakes and Unclear Lines

Please excuse me – しつれいしました。 (shitsurei shimashita)

Pardon? (Please say that again) – もういちどいってください。 (mou ichido itte kudasai)

I can’t hear you clearly – よくきこえません。 (yoku kikoe masen)

Please speak a little louder – もうすこしおおきなこえおねがいします。 (mou sukoshi ookina koe onegai shimasu)

I got the wrong number – かけまちがえました。 (kake machigae mashita)
ばんごうがちがいます。 (bangou ga chigaimasu)

No, you’re mistaken – いいえ、ちがえます。(iie, chigaimasu.)

Please wait a minuet – そのままおまちくだいさい。 (sono mama omachi kudasai)

Automatic Messages etc

Hold the line please – でんわをきらずにおいてください。 (denwa o kirazu ni oite kudasai.)
– でんわをきらないで、そのまままっていてください。(denwa o kiranai de sono mama matte ite kudasai.)
– でんわをきらないでおまちください。 (denwa o kiranaide omachi kudasai.)

The line is busy – おはなしちゅうです。 (ohanashi chuu desu.)

The line is disconnected – でんわがつながりません。 (denwa ga tsunagarimasen)

Telling Someone In Person About Calls

The phone for ____ (you) – ___さんにでんわです。 (___san ni denwa desu)

The phone’s wringing – でんわがまっています。 (denwa ga matteimasu)

Please answer the phone – でんわにでてください。 (denwa ni dete kudasai)

There was a call from ___ earlier – ___さんからでんわがかかってきましたよ。 (___san kara denwa ga kakatte kimashita yo)
– さきほど、___さんからでんわがありました。(sakihodo, ___-san kara denwa ga arimashita)

There is a call for you from ___ – ___さんからでんわです。 (___-san kara denwa desu.)

Asking People for Numbers

Please tell me your (house) telephone number – あなたのうちのでんわばんごうをおしえてください。 (anato no uchi no denwa bangou o oshiete kudasa.)– でんわばんごうはなんばんですか? (denwa bangou wa nan ban desu ka?)

Do you know ____’s number? -___さんのでんわばんごうがわかりますか? (____-san no denwa bangou ga wakarimasu ka?)

Can you call this number for me? – このばんごうにでんわをしていただけますか? (kono bangou ni denwa o shite itadakemasu ka?)

I (accidentally) forgot my new number – あたらしいでんわばんごうをわすれてしまいました。 (atarashii denwa bangou o wasurete shimaimashita.)

Using an Operator

This is the operator – こうかんだいです。 (koukandai desu.)

I would like a long-distance call to Japan please – にほんへでんわをかけたいのですが。 (nihon e denwa o kake tai no desu ga)

Tokyo, XXX-XXXX please. – とうきょう、XXXのXXXXにおねがいします。 (toukyou, XXX no XXXX ni onegai shimasu.)

Extension 27, please. – ないせんの XXにおねがいします。(naisen no XX ni onegai shimasu.)

An overseas call. – こくさいでんわです。 (kokusai denwa desu)

A collect call. – りょうきんさきばらいでんわ。 (ryoukin saki-barai denwa)

How much is the charge of this telephone call now? – いまをつうわはいくらですか? (ima wo tsuuwa wa ikura desu ka?)

Essential Vocabulary for Beginners:

でんわ (denwa) – phone
でんわばんごう (denwa bango) – phone number
でんわします / かけます (denwa shimasu / kakemasu) – to call
でんごん (dengon) – message

ください  (kudasai) – please
いただけないでしょうか (itadakenai deshouka) – please (very polite)
すみません (sumimasenn) – excuse me
しつれいしました (shitureishimashita) – excuse me (very polite)

どなた (donata) – who
どちらさま (dochirasama) – who (very polite)

おたく (otaku) – residence
いいえ (iie) – home

まちます (machimasu) – to wait
おまちください (omachikudasai) – please wait (very polite)
かえります (kaerimasu) – to return (home)
もどります (modorimasu) – to return (to a place)
もどってきます (modottekimasu) – to return (to a place)

ちがえます (chigamasu) – that’s wrong (no)
まちがえます (machigaemasu) – to make a mistake

そのまま (sonomama) – as you are

Telephone Calls in Japanese