When preparing for the Shikoku pilgrimage (and earlier, when hiking the Kumano Kodo) I stumbled upon a gap in my personal development: I never thoroughly studied local culture, let alone learned some Japanese words. I learned some along the trail and added some more words on the list, reading the amazing “Tales of a summer henro” by Craig McLachlan. So here are some essential Japanese words for hiking in Japan.

Arigato gozaimas Thank you very much
Atsu desu ne Hot, isn’t it (perfect conversation starter)
Dogyo ninin “We go together” (mantra for the Shikoku trail – pretty much like Liverpool’s “you never walk alone”)
Kirei Great/beautiful
Fuda Paper name slip, used on the Shikoku trail
Gaijin Foreigner
Gambatte Keep going!
Henro Pilgrim (with henro michi being pilgrim trail – mostly applicable to Shikoku, not so much Kumano Kodo)
Irrasshaimase Welcome
Kobito Dwarf
Kampai Cheers
Konjo Guts, perseverance
Konnichi wa Hello
Minshuku A small inn or pension
Namu Daishi Henjo Kongo Homage to the Saint (Kobodashi, the Buddhist monk founder of the trail) – to be chanted in the temples
Nojuku Sleeping outside (in contrast to in a minshuku or ryokan)
Nokyo Temple seal as collected in an album (nokyocho) by henro, signed in a special temple office (nokyojo)
Ohao gozaimasu Good morning
Sento Public bathhouse
Shokudo Restaurant
Shukubo Temple lodging house
Tsurai Hard, painful
Settai An offering to henro, often in the form of food, drinks or even money. People often offer settai when they can not do the pilgrimage themselves.
Onsen Hot spring
Ryokan Japanese-style inn

Please let me know if you have other Japanese words to add.


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