How to Lose Something in Fluent Japanese

  • March 5, 2018 / Lily Cernak

During the course of any trip, at least one person will probably lose at least one thing. I lose minor possessions while doing errands on a regular basis too. So every time I have taken a major trip (domestic or international), I or someone I was traveling with, have lost at least one major possession.

Lost something in Japan? Don’t fret!

The good news is that Japan is one of the best countries to lose things in! This is partially because of Japan’s famously low crime rates. Also, people in Japan (ordinary citizens, as well as police officers and attendants at stores or train stations) are, generally speaking, quite selfless when it comes to helping a foreign traveler locate something they have lost.

Also, if you remember where you lost an item, it is entirely possible that you may go back and find the item simply sitting at or near where you dropped it. Unlike in countries such as America, where lost items are usually either picked up and pocketed, or picked up by a good Samaritan and turned in to a lost-and-found within minutes of being dropped or left behind, in Japan lost items are sometimes left completely alone (or moved only slightly, for example from a sidewalk to the top of a wall or fence).

The first time I traveled to Japan, my family and I accidentally left our digital camera (this was before smartphones) in an outdoor shopping mall. When we came despondently to the mall the next morning, thinking to file a missing item report with the local police but assuming our camera was gone forever, we found the camera…still sitting next to a bench, where we had left it the previous evening.

All this being said, my experience losing and so easily regaining a digital camera was something of a stroke of random luck. On other occasions, my family and acquaintances and I have lost suitcases, cell phones, and hats, and have needed to speak with various people in order to find (or attempt to find) the missing item or items.

This article will teach you everything you need to know to ask about and search for missing possessions in Japan.

(By the way – if you are planning to visit Japan soon, you can also read our “How to…in Fluent Japanese” article on restaurant phrases here).

Lost item in Japan: what to do

If you are planning to visit Japan soon, here’s what you should do before your flight:

1. Take Photos

If you speak only a little Japanese, it might be a good precaution to take photos of important items such as cameras, suitcases, and purses and then email those photos to yourself before you leave your home country. That way, you can show a photo of a missing item to someone instead of having to describe the item.

2. Print your contact details

Something else that you may want to do before leaving your country is to print out a piece of paper that has a physical address, e-mail address, and phone number for every location you will be staying in Japan. (Include also your home address in your own country).

Write each address once in ro-maji/English and once in kana/kanji. Keep this paper with you (put it in a pocket – not a purse or backpack), even if you aren’t going far from your hotel. It will make it easier to tell someone where to contact you or mail a lost item at need.

3. Remember these Japanese phrases

a. To tell someone you have lost an item, simply say:


[Item] o nakushi mashita

I lost [item].

b. If you want to specify where you lost the item, simply add [location] で at the beginning of the same sentence:


[Location] de [item] o nakushi mashita

I lost [item] at [place].

c. If you want to specify when you lost the item, simply add the appropriate word (yesterday, today, a little while ago, 1:00, etc) at the beginning of the same sentence (with or without the location):


Sakki, saifu o nakushi mashita

A little while ago, I lost my wallet.



Sakki, myu-jiamu de saifu o nakushi mashita

A little while ago, I lost my wallet at the museum.


You can switch out the verb in these sentences if you want to say specifically that you dropped or forgot the item instead of just that you lost it:


Myu-jiamu de saifu o otoshi mashita

I dropped my wallet at the museum.



Densha de saifu o wasure mashita

I forgot my wallet on the train.

D. If you lost the item on a train, you will want to explain which train you were riding:


Shinagawa iki no tsuukin densha de wasure mashita

I forgot it on the commuter train to Shinagawa.


Note: The verb “nakushi masu” (to lose) should not be used when telling someone that you are looking for a person. Similarly to English, [Person]をなくしました ([Person] o nakushi mashita) implies that the person is “lost” as in “passed away,” as opposed to “lost” as in “lost their way” or “cannot find them.” To tell someone that you are looking for a particular person, say:  


[Person] o sagashite imasu

I am looking for [person].

Finding a Police Officer

If you lose an item in a public place, you may want to speak to a local police officer.

1.To find a local police officer, ask someone:


Ichiban chikai kouban wa doko desu ka?

Where is the closest police box?


A police box, which is a type of very small police station, is probably the easiest place to find a police officer in a non-emergency situation.

To tell someone such as a police officer where you are staying, you can get out your aforementioned printed paper, point to a relevant address, and say:


Koko ni juu go nichi made tomatte imasu

I am staying here until the 15th.

2. state date

To say a particular day of the month, you can simply say the number of the day followed by the word “nichi” (day) unless it is the 1st through the 10th, the 14th, 20th, or 24th.

These days have special words (a quick Google search will give you a full list of words). Since this number system is a bit confusing, we recommend simply memorizing the words for particular days (for example, if you are leaving Kyoto and staying in Tokyo starting on the 5th, and leaving Japan on the 20th, memorize how to say those days only).

You can also add:


Amerika kara kimashita

I came from America.


To give them additional information.

Lastly, to avoid unnecessary steps, you can tell them:


[Location] de sagashi mashita. Demo, mitsuke masen deshita

I looked at [location]. But, I did not find it.

3. take note of these phrases for other instances

This phrase may also come in handy if you are at an airport and your checked luggage does not appear in the baggage claim area.

Once you have established that you have already looked for your item, you can ask:


Dou sureba ii desu ka?

What should I do?


Or ask:


[Item] ga mitsuke tara, watashi ni renraku shite itadake masu ka?

If you find [item], can you contact me?

Stolen Item

Compared with many other countries, the likelihood that someone will steal from you while you are in Japan is low. That being said, the crime rate is not zero; and being prepared for such an occurrence is not a bad idea (particularly if you will be spending part of your trip to Japan in a metropolitan place such as Osaka or Tokyo).

1.To tell someone that an item of yours has been stolen, you can say:


[Item] o nusu mare mashita

My [item] was stolen.

2. If you were not physically robbed but think your item may have been taken,

You can combine several phrases from this article to create a complete narrative:


San ji goro, kouen de saifu o otoshi mashita

Around 3:00, I dropped my wallet at the park.



Kouen de sagashi mashita. Demo, mitsuke masen deshita

I looked at the park. But, I did not find it.



Nusu mareta kamo shire masen

It may have been stolen.


That’s the end of our lost possession phrases for now! if you ever lost an item in Japan, you will know what to do. 

Have you ever lost something while in Japan? Are there any words or phrases you used in order to find it that we did not cover in this article? Leave us a comment and share your stories!

And, as always, if you have any questions or if there are any future articles you would like to request, please do let us know!



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