Am I screwed when I go to Japan?

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Am I screwed when I go to Japan?

Postby einjeru-chan » Mon Jan 30, 2012 9:38 pm

I'm definitely going and have my tickets for Japan from Feb.18th-Mar.8th (so just under 3 weeks stay) and it really is mostly for travelling around purposes. I'm an 18 year old woman from Canada who's going alone but I'm staying with a home-stay family during my stay. Seiko knows enough English to talk back with me, but as for the rest of her family, as far as I know, doesn't speak English. Seiko also can't be with me all the time as she has school now and then. My question is, will getting around be extremely difficult for me? I hardly know any Japanese, although I've been learning here and there, there's no way I'll be on a true conversant level by the time I leave. Seiko will try to tell me everything, but I'm scared I'll get lost or that it will be unsafe for me when she's not around. I'll be staying in Saitama but will be going to Tokyo a lot and one trip to Kyoto.
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Re: Am I screwed when I go to Japan?

Postby Musouka » Mon Jan 30, 2012 10:30 pm

You can easily navigate most of Japan with nary a word of Japanese. Almost all the train stations have signs in English. Even the train ticket machines have English menus. You might want to invest in a Rail Pass if it's worth the value (depending on where you want to travel and the duration - find the train routes and prices here). You can also invest in regional passes. Otherwise, a Suica or PASMO card would be nice to quicken the process. If you are on a budget, you can utilize the service of overnight/long distance buses (like ones from this company) to travel long distance.

You would also find Tourist Information offices in all the major stations with English-speaking staff, maps in English and other useful information. In major tourist areas like Kyoto and Nara, you would also find huge maps in English placed on the streets and tourist information offices in various locations across the city.

It pays to plan. You would find a huge amount of information in English and many useful electronic maps on the Internet. Check out the Practical Travel Guides on JNTO website.

I found the buses to be a bit tricky at first but you would soon learn how they work (slightly different in Kyoto vs Tokyo). For getting around Kyoto's landmarks, you might want to purchase a 1-Day (or more) Bus Pass (from the office located just outside the the north exit opposite to Kyoto Tower).

Useful link for Kyoto buses: http://www.city.kyoto.jp/koho/eng/access/transport.html

It would help if you have a data plan so you can access Google Maps on the go. Location of buildings and attractions can be a bit tricky at times. This would also be useful to access websites like Hyperdia on the go so you can reschedule your train travel time. Otherwise, always have a backup plan for the train departure time (although you would only wait a few minutes in most stations if you missed your original time; provided it's not the last train, of course)... this is more important if you are connecting trains.

Carrying a phrasebook, a guide book (I would recommend Japan by Rail) and a map would also help.

Useful link: http://www.customs.go.jp/english/summary/passenger.htm
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Re: Am I screwed when I go to Japan?

Postby Kinzokusei no Inu » Wed Feb 01, 2012 10:17 am

I don't know about easy. Every time I've gone to Japan I wonder how these people manage in this country without knowing a word of Japanese, but there are a fair amount of them running around so they must do all right. Lot of sign language and pointing I guess. Trial and error as well. Just don't get flustered and you should be all right though. Your homestay family will probably be really looking out for you, even if they don't speak your language. However, expect few people you meet to be able to speak English to any functional degree over there. This includes staff at hotels, airports, restaurants, and train stations, or cab drivers, and don't let anyone try to tell you it's any different. I'm mostly referring to every day life and activity here, not the tourist trek, which probably has multi-language people in place to assist with that.
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Re: Am I screwed when I go to Japan?

Postby Eijioo » Wed Feb 01, 2012 10:54 am

One important thing you should know is counting Japanese yen and understand numbers. It helps when you go to buy something and you understand exactly how much you should pay and receive back in change. Though it isn't really that difficult to shop unless you really are looking for something specific in which you need to speak to someone who may not know English very well.
Most stores have the cost listed on the items and places like restaurants and coffee shops have menus in which you can simply point if you cannot say what you want in Japanese. Usually, even if you say it in English, they understand what you want. Even if a store worker does not speak English at all, in my experience, they are all friendly and patient to try to understand what you want.
It also helps to plan your traveling in Japan ahead of time as much as you can and know exactly where you are located in Japan and the names of the train stations around you. Try to get a map of the train systems and study it and know exactly where the stops are and where the next connectionis. This way if you want to travel alone by train, you know exactly which station to go to. Most stations have some information in English and romaji, but I found that it is also good to recognize the Kanji for where the names of locations and stations, just in case the information isn't in English or romaji.
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Re: Am I screwed when I go to Japan?

Postby jessman1999 » Fri Dec 14, 2012 10:11 pm

Those are very urban areas of Japan, you'll be fine traveling by yourself.

As for the family situation, this will help you.

xが好きです。(すき[sounds like ski]) I like x.
xが好きじゃない。 I don't like x.

verbてもいいですか? May I _________?

verb+てform もいいですか?
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Re: Am I screwed when I go to Japan?

Postby jstn » Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:25 pm

Jessman, I think you missed he boat on this one. Would be interested to know how she got on though ;)
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Re: Am I screwed when I go to Japan?

Postby jessman1999 » Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:42 pm

HAHA!! Yeah, I guess I did. I thought the trip was for the upcoming year. Oops.
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Re: Am I screwed when I go to Japan?

Postby jstn » Sun Dec 16, 2012 3:01 pm

No worries, easy mistake to make :)
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