The difficulties of going abroad or entering a new country don’t end with getting your passport and visa. Knowing basic things such as manners, traditions, and, of course, some language is needed. The language normally being the most important, because it would serve you as a weapon to go through everyday communications with different people, especially, if you are planning to come to Japan as a labourer or an exchange student.
One of the most common mistakes made by foreigners who move to Japan is that we think that as long as we know and speak English we can get by safe and smooth and communicate with people wherever we go. It may be true in some cases, but not in Japan. Sure it would be a big help if you’re lucky enough to find a Japanese who is fluent enough to have a full conversation with you, no offence to the Japanese people, but trust me, it would be a rarity. You may think that as long as you know hai and iie, you will be okay. But if you stay here long enough, at some point, there will be a time when the Japanese you are interacting with will wonder if the things he/she wanted to tell you got through to you or, you might find yourself wondering, Did I really get it? What was it again?
So learning some basic Japanese before coming to Japan is recommended.
Japan has three writing systems, namely kanji, hiragana and katakana. First, Kanji is a writing system borrowed from Chinese. It consists of symbols or drawings representing objects. Memorising and recognising Kanji characters is quite difficult but it sure is fun to learn them. It would be a great help if you memorised kanji of the names of the places you frequent to or the names of the train stations, navigating around your area would be a lot easier
Nihongo (日本語) fluency is divided into levels (N1, N2, N3, N4 and N5), and if you want to be adept with the language you can try searching online for free materials that can be used as a learning tool, or you can buy books on Japanese grammar, vocabulary, reading and listening. The 日本語総まとめ (Nihongo So-Matome) is a set of books divided into grammar, vocabulary, kanji, reading, and listening for every level. I’d recommend it the most, it is worth the money.
You might think learning Japanese language ia a lot of work, but it is not. Put aside the grammar usage for a while, it is all about how far your vocabulary can go. Memorizing 8 to 15 words a day is just enough. Watching anime and J-drama, and listening to the Japanese music would also help you improve your vocabulary and get familiar with the words such as arigatou gozaimasu (thank you), sumimasen(sorry/excuse me), ohayou (good morning), konnichiwa (good afternoon), and konbanwa (good evening). And most of all, using it to converse with the Japanese would be the best way to learn the language fast and improve your skill. Never fear, they are not going to make fun of you, at the very least, they would be moved with your eagerness.
Remember, as someone said, whenever you are in a foreign country talking to the natives, conversation in foreign language will go to their heads, but conversation in their own language will surely go straight to their hearts.