How to Survive in Japan With No Japanese Language Skills

  • HOW TO
  • Are you going to travel to Japan but you don’t know a single word of Japanese Language? Not a problem. Japanese people are very kind and helpful. They will definitely help if you are in trouble. I was once approached by one old lady, trying to show me the way to go to the train station, just because I look troubled. I did not even ask for help! Now, let’s see what you can do, so that when you are in trouble, someone will help you out!

    List the address of the places you want to go

    This is very important if you have a place that you definitely want to go, such as a restaurant or specific shrine. Research the places that you want to go, and write down the name of the place, and the address. It is even better if you can print out the address in Japanese too. This is because many Japanese people don’t speak perfect English, but they really want to lend a hand. So, when you are lost, you can just ask the passerby for directions.

    “Sumimasen, (point at the address of the place) wa doko desu ka?” (Excuse me, where is _________?)

    Based on my experience, the person you ask might:

    • Just point you in the direction of the place you’re going.
    • Google it for you and show you how to go there.
    • Bring you directly to your destination even if they are going the opposite way.
    • Google the place, call the phone number to find out specific directions, draw a map and explain in detail how to go there using the drawing.

    Don’t worry, you will definitely find where you need to go. Oh, don’t forget to say “arigatou gozaimasu!” (Thank you).

    Visit a Tourist Information Center

    If you want to visit the usual tourist attractions, get help from the Tourist Information Center (TIC). TICs are located all around Japan. The staff there are multilingual, so, you don’t have to worry about a language barrier. Here, you can get maps in English (or another language), pamphlets about places of interest, Wi-Fi passwords or a Wi-Fi connection, buy certain discount passes or even some drinks (at certain centers). Visit the website for the location of TICs around Japan.


    Learn the most basic Japanese Language

    Learning basic Japanese words and phrases can be helpful and fun too. It can help you to order things that you want to eat, show some courtesy, or even ask to have an English-speaking person to talk to.

    Some basic phrases that you can use:

    • Arigatou Gozaimasu = Thank you very much
    • Eigo o hanasemasu ka? = Can you speak English?
    • Nihongo ga wakarimasen = I don’t understand Japanese
    • Toire wa doko desu ka? = Where is the toilet?
    • Ikura desu ka? = How much is it?
    • Oishikatta desu = (That) was delicious

    Try these tips! Now, going to Japan with little or zero Japanese language is not a problem anymore. Have fun traveling!

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