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I already know some things, like 「最初{さいしょ}の道{みち}を右{みぎ}に曲{ま}がって」 and the like. However, unless one knows the exact moment to shout 「止{と}めて!」 then one would need to know how to say things like "it's the third building on the right" or "stop at the building with the sign on it" or something. Those were vague examples, but can someone help me with giving directions, like to a cab driver or a guest?

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Err.. can you be more specific? For instance, can you say things like "it's near the convenience store?" or are we talking about how to do it if you know just a few phrases? –  virmaior Jul 9 at 2:17
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Let's try making the question about how to describe where your house is. How would you describe it in English, and what would be your best guess for the Japanese? –  ssb Jul 9 at 2:48
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@ssb My Japanese is horrible, please don't get mad- I guess 右の3つ目の家。 赤い家近くにいます。Third house on the right. Near the red house. –  Pei Pei Jul 9 at 2:54
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Don't worry, nobody's mad. We're just trying to help you get the best answers! –  ssb Jul 9 at 2:55
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Here is what to say and what not to say to your cab driver. 1:25-2:20 youtube.com/watch?v=hbt0jAYDVOw –  非回答者 Jul 9 at 3:15

3 Answers 3

When I was barely talking Japanese riding taxi was one of the easiest tasks.

The basic algorithm is as follows:

  • Immediately after getting into taxi tell //some landmark next to your place// までお願いします。Taxi drivers know all landmarks around and rarely ask for directions to there.
  • If a driver asks which way is preferred, it is easier to just answer 速い方 - which is "the fastest way" or, for example, 安い方 - the cheapest way, which will not be necessarily the fastest one.
  • When you get closer to your place, operate using words: 右です, 左です, まっすぐ.
  • When you feel like it's time to stop, just tell: こちらです or こちらでお願いします.

Do not say 止めて because it is plain rude, at least without ください word.

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I usually use clearly visible markers and don't worry too much about keigo:

赤い車の後ろの[辺]{へん}でいいですよ。

[角]{かど}の自動販売機でお願いします。

Something like that. Basically I give the same directions as cab drivers anywhere. I don't assume they know how to count^ so I try to avoid counters. :-)

^ i.e., while it's easy for you as the passenger to count the "fifth house from the corner," it's tough for the driver to do this while not crashing into the housewife on a mamachari with 2 kids on it.

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Giving directions「道順、みちじゅん」 to a taxi driver in Japan is not as complex as it is in other countries. The custom in Japan is to suggest the nearest bus or train station that is within walking distance from your destination.

Below there are two informative examples for accessing common places and a third example of thorough directions personally given to me. In the example note for words like in front「前」, from「から」, by foot「徒歩」, 10 minutes「10分」, either by A or B「A または B」;

Senso temple in Asakusa:

東武スカイツリーライン:浅草駅より徒歩5分

東京メトロ銀座線:浅草駅より徒歩5分

つくばエクスプレス:浅草駅より徒歩5分

都営地下鉄浅草線:浅草駅A4出口より徒歩5分

Kyoto Botanical Garden:

JR京都駅(近鉄「京都駅」、阪急「烏丸駅」)から京都市営地下鉄「北山駅」下車3番出口すぐ、又は「北大路駅」下車3番出口を東へ徒歩約10分

京阪「出町柳駅」から市バス1系統または京都バス「静原」「市原」行きバス停「植物園前」下車徒歩5分

名神高速道路京都南ICから車で京都市内北山方面へ約45分

Yamada’s house:

池ノ上駅:左、4軒(左前郵便局)左

右 小学校(50メートル先のオレンジ色のフラメンコ教室)

4軒目 右

5軒 右 10メートル BMWの車

世田谷区代沢 9-99-99

However, It could be that you travel with an older person, carry luggage, or it’s raining and it’s important to get off at the door of your destination. In that situation and with an appropriate timing you could let the driver known you’re close by saying we’ll be there soon 「もうすぐです」 please drop me off by the next corner 「次の[角]{かど}で降ろして下さい」。If it’s troublesome giving details like next building/house/street to tell precisely where to stop you could use please stop over there 「あそこに止めて下さい」 and considering enough anticipation.

Playing RPG games on the other hand is a great resource for exposing yourself to the Japanese used in following directions and guidance. I find The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass「ゼルダの伝説 夢幻の砂時計」 for the Nintendo DS extremely helpful since it has interactive furigana in every dialog.

To spot a taxi the vacant sign 「空車」 is shown (not necessarily appears in green light) while an occupied cab shows the sign 「賃走」。 However, spotting a taxi sometimes has to be done at the taxi central or by phone. Be aware there’s a flat fee when riding a taxi cab in Japan, it should be shown on the windows, as well as a night fare after 11 PM.

Once you're in the taxi cab the driver will first greet you and then ask you where do you want to go 「どちらまでお送りいたしますか?」。

Know in advance that some taxi drivers can’t read romaji and it’s convenient if you write the address in chinese characters and hand it to the driver.

Further resources:

-- 美輝タクシーPR動画 本編 In this video you could watch the interaction between a taxi driver and a passenger http://youtu.be/5V0zTxMTzQ8?t=4m23s

-- Japanese site showing the common phrases a taxi driver uses. These are exactly the same as used in the video above. Each driver memorizes them and uses them as a formality. http://www.kokusan-j.co.jp/safety/shouwa.html

-- Yahoo!路線情報 Directions, fares and routes for commuting in Japan http://transit.loco.yahoo.co.jp/

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ほとんどのタクシーの運ちゃんは「どちらまで?」しか言いません。 –  Choko Jul 22 at 9:23
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「~~よりX分」 is written language; No one says that to a taxi driver. –  非回答者 Jul 22 at 10:13
    
@Choko, the site I cite kokusan-j.co.jp/safety/shouwa.html is exactly the same as the taxi driver says in the video cited above that reference. I've been asked the same questions by a taxi driver in Tokyo central area near Ueno and in Osaka. Maybe. 非回答者, it is clear that those including the minutes apart were "informative" examples of how Japanese give directions as mentioned. It's shocking that I took my time to write an answer based on my experience and it got downvoted merciless. Honestly I feel discouraged. –  Andru Jul 22 at 11:43
    
@非回答者 実際、こんな 丁寧なタクシー、いるんですか。東京や名古屋にはいるんですか。関西にはこんなのいないです。近年は、MKが言葉遣い直そうってちょっと頑張ってますけど(←会社がですけ‌​ど)、ここまで丁寧なのに出会ったことないです。 –  Choko Jul 22 at 14:39
    
ダウンボートしたの私じゃないです。それから、私もHさんも、改善できる点を指摘するためにコメントしてるのであって、ダウンボートの理由探しをしているのではないと思い‌​ます。 –  Choko Jul 22 at 14:41

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