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Level of Japanese needed to travel in japan

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Kouhai
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I'll be travelling to Japan soon and I'm slightly worried about the Japanese proficiency needed to get around Japan- I'll be travelling to different prefectures by the JR lines. I'm also going to stay at some locals' accommodations and they can't speak English. Will that be a problem if my Japanese is only conversational? I'm scared they'll talk about something technical (accommodation fees or something like that) and I won't be able to follow and it'll cause a big problem.

Also, I may or may not be staying in a cheap motel/hostel a few minutes' walk from Shinimamiya station in Osaka. Is that dangerous for two 18 year old Asian females who aren't experienced in travelling alone? I heard it's okay during daytime but if we're walking back to the motel at night is it still safe? And do you have to speak Japanese to the motel's receptionists or do they speak English? I'm not confident in my Japanese speaking skills because I haven't had an actual conversation with a Japanese person and I don't want to freak out and forget how to speak when I get there.
(I apologize in advance if a similar thread has already been made)
 

Mike Cash

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You'll be fine. Relax and enjoy your trip.
 

Pebble

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You'll be fine. Relax and enjoy your trip.
I really did hear that Shinimamiya is dangerous though, like the most dangerous place in Japan, with yakuza and kidnapped girls but I'm probably just paranoid? Thanks anyway!
 

nekojita

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Check out the reviews for the specific hostel you're thinking of staying. In particular, look for reviews from other female travellers. That might make you feel more at ease, or tip you the other way, depending.

If you're feeling out of your comfort zone, though, don't stay there. Not because it's super-dangerous and you'll be kidnapped, but because you're not going to have much fun if you're worrying about getting back to your hotel after dark. Especially since you're young and not used to travelling. I'm certainly much more comfortable travelling solo now then I was at 18, and I understand why you might feel some anxiety.

(No offence, Mike, but I don't think you have much experience of being an 18 year old girl. ;) )

You can get by with only English, and many tourists do. Do try to use Japanese when you can, though. You probably will feel a bit self-conscious at first, but nobody will expect you to be perfect and most people appreciate you at least making the effort. You can prepare in advance by thinking about what you might need to ask (e.g. at the hotel, buying train tickets, buying food, etc) and learning some of those words/phrases.
 

Mike Cash

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At this point, 18 was so far back in the past that I have no clear recollection of whether I was a girl or not at the time. I suspect I may not have been, though.
 

Pebble

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Check out the reviews for the specific hostel you're thinking of staying. In particular, look for reviews from other female travellers. That might make you feel more at ease, or tip you the other way, depending.

If you're feeling out of your comfort zone, though, don't stay there. Not because it's super-dangerous and you'll be kidnapped, but because you're not going to have much fun if you're worrying about getting back to your hotel after dark. Especially since you're young and not used to travelling. I'm certainly much more comfortable travelling solo now then I was at 18, and I understand why you might feel some anxiety.

(No offence, Mike, but I don't think you have much experience of being an 18 year old girl. ;) )

You can get by with only English, and many tourists do. Do try to use Japanese when you can, though. You probably will feel a bit self-conscious at first, but nobody will expect you to be perfect and most people appreciate you at least making the effort. You can prepare in advance by thinking about what you might need to ask (e.g. at the hotel, buying train tickets, buying food, etc) and learning some of those words/phrases.
I'm probably not going to be staying there after reading this + much deliberation since I know I'll still inevitably be on my guard the entire time. This was helpful, thanks!
 

nekojita

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Generally, Japan is very safe, and I think once you're there and have your bearings you'll feel more relaxed.

Hope you have fun!
 

Glenski

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Do what any sensible traveler would do if they were headed to a country that had a different language:

refer to some guide book (better still, buy one!) to learn some of the basic phrases.

Generally you will be fine especially in the major cities. Japanese don't expect any foreigner to know their language, even though they might start a conversation with it (usually in store situations, where the clerks are practically programmed to utter various things). Nobody is going to whip out a sword and lop off your head if you can't understand something the first time around. Japan is very customer-conscious! Also, most people have had 6 years of English in JHS and HS, and even if they have long since forgotten it, they can hear and read it far better than they can write or speak it, but you will be amazed at how hospitable many people will be, even if their command of English is dirt poor. Trying to use Japanese on your part will always be appreciated, though, so make the effort even if it's to say "excuse me" or "thank you".

How did you manage to make reservations in a small hotel without knowing Japanese, anyway?
 

Mike Cash

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Japan had over 13 million foreign visitors last year. Most of them had safe and enjoyable trips.
 

Mark of Zorro

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I heard it's okay during daytime but if we're walking back to the motel at night is it still safe?
No place is 100 percent safe. Japan is safer than most places though.

There are general tips everyone should know and use though, no matter where you are. For example, don't casually stroll. Walk quickly with your head up like you have someplace to be. Doing otherwise will attract all sorts of people who would seek to target you.

If you are ever lost, you can ask Japanese police. Their English sucks, but they will actually try to help. That said, I would be wary of them if they start asking you too many questions or try to get you to go with them anywhere.

And I suggest all females learn the magic word. Its "AIDS" It should roll of the tongue any time some guy bothers you. Say it over and over. AIDS. If that does not work, Ebola.
 

thesuker

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In my experience, knowing Japanese isn't necessary, but it sure helps a lot. Most people I encountered didn't know much English, and that was a big problem when asking for directions. That said, except for one very frustrating hour trying to find a specific youth-hostel in Tokyo, the language barrier wasn't much of a problem, and I got by quite well. Japanese people are very very helpful, and will go to great lengths to make sure you get the help you need :)
 

haibuihoang

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I used to walk from my lab in Kyoto back to the guest house at midnight and felt no threat at all. Japan is one of the safest country I think and people are really kind and polite. Their English is not really good but it'll be OK. But of course If you speak basic Japanese it will help better for sure.
 

Pebble

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How did you manage to make reservations in a small hotel without knowing Japanese, anyway?
I'm so sorry for the late reply >.< I do understand japanese if it's reading everyday stuff (I don't get a lot of vocab so it's with the help of the dictionary though)
 

fouad

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I'm so sorry for the late reply >.< I do understand japanese if it's reading everyday stuff (I don't get a lot of vocab so it's with the help of the dictionary though)
I was in Osaka for 3 days in July 2013. I stayed at the C. S. Hotel a short walk from Shinimamiya station. As everywhere else during the 16 days visit in Japan I never felt so safe and relaxed.
No need for worries.
 

leicnhjopt

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Hi. I’m a newbie. I’d like to write about the level of Japanese needed to travel in japan. I hope my advice will be helpful.

It seems to me that the most important thing is to show that you are willing to use Japanese.
If you try to communicate in Japanese, people respect your attitude to speak Japanese and listen to you carefully. As they listen to you speak Japanese, they understand how good your Japanese is, and adjust to your pace. When you cannot catch or understand what they say, you could repeat exactly what you caught. Then, they will repeat or rephrase to explain what you cannot understand.
In addition, they perhaps try to use English, or just pronounce English words they know. Please listen to their English if it is comprehensive, which will be helpful to get information or understand what they say.

Since you know some Japanese and have enthusiasm to speak it, your stay in Japan will be successful.
Please don’t worry too much about your Japanese skills. Just let them know that you can speak Japanese saying “Konnichiha” or “Sumimasen.”
Break the ice and have a nice trip :)
 

Pebble

Kouhai
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Hi. I’m a newbie. I’d like to write about the level of Japanese needed to travel in japan. I hope my advice will be helpful.
It seems to me that the most important thing is to show that you are willing to use Japanese.
If you try to communicate in Japanese, people respect your attitude to speak Japanese and listen to you carefully. As they listen to you speak Japanese, they understand how good your Japanese is, and adjust to your pace. When you cannot catch or understand what they say, you could repeat exactly what you caught. Then, they will repeat or rephrase to explain what you cannot understand.
In addition, they perhaps try to use English, or just pronounce English words they know. Please listen to their English if it is comprehensive, which will be helpful to get information or understand what they say.

Since you know some Japanese and have enthusiasm to speak it, your stay in Japan will be successful.
Please don’t worry too much about your Japanese skills. Just let them know that you can speak Japanese saying “Konnichiha” or “Sumimasen.”
Break the ice and have a nice trip :)
Thank you! :)
 
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