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English-speaking areas of Japan? 2008/9/17 12:55

My girlfriend and I want to take our honeymoon in Japan. We're very interested in the country, the culture, and the language, but so far we don't have much experience with the language.

I know Japan is a diverse country and we would like to see the different sides to it. I'd like to see Tokyo but also see some of the more historic/rural areas.

However, we aren't sure which historic/rural areas would be best suited for English speakers with little experience speaking Japanese. We certainly don't want to visit Japan and become agitated because we chose a city where no one speaks English.

I was wondering if maybe some of you guys could recommend some cities. Here are the plan details we have so far:

*Duration: 7-10 days
*Time of Year: May/June/July
*Budget: $2000-3000 per person
*Places of Interest: Tokyo definitely, but we'd like to visit 3 or 4 different cities to get a more diverse understanding of the country
*Requirements: The cities we visit must have English speakers available in case we get lost or need help
by tcatsninfan  

RE: -English speaking areas 2008/9/17 16:16
We certainly don't want to visit Japan and become agitated because we chose a city where no one speaks English.

The short answer is that there aren't really English speaking parts in Japan although the chance to run into an English speaking person is probably highest in the big cities and the expensive hotels.

In convenience stores, average priced hotels and restaurants communication in English is very likely to be limited. I always thought that that was part of the charm of a foreign trip but I can understand how that scares you a bit. I can only recommend to take the risk, buy a travel language Guide for Japan and know the words for 'thank you' and 'excuse me' by heart. Think of it this way: many tourists have gone to Japan without Japanese skills and travelled around the country without having had any trouble. It is not such a big deal, it'll be fun in fact. You might know that Japanese restaurants often have photos of the food on the menu and even have plastic models of the food in the window. I have taken the person taking the order outside and pointed at the plastic model dish that looked delicious to me. Worked like a charm.
On the big stations all train destinations and station names are also displayed in roman script (abc...). Don't worry too much about it and immerse yourself in the real Japan and not just the part that speaks English.
by Kappa rate this post as useful

May/June/July 2008/9/17 16:20
Oh, and I would strongly recommend May instead of June and July where it can get very hot and sticky during the rainy season:
by Kappa rate this post as useful

English inJ apan 2008/9/17 16:22
There are NO areas in Japan where many people speak fluent English(besides the UK and US embassies) Millions of tourists have visited Japan without knowing a word of Japanese and had very few problems. Some Japanese do speak English--and other languages--but you really shouldn't EXPECT it! Do you think that foreign tourists travelling to your country expect to find lots of natives speaking their languages? I don't think so!. Even without sharing a language people have a way of communicating by hand gestures, smiles or even taking you by the hand or the elbow and walking you to your destination. Major streets, railway stations, museums, etc. do have signs in Latin alphabet. Of course preparing your trip by looking at detailed maps --many are available on the internet-- of all the places you will travel to is the best way to ensure that you will not get lost.
by Sensei 2 rate this post as useful

Information centres. 2008/9/17 16:38
I just would like to add that there are many tourist information centres in the big towns usually in or around the train stations and always indicated on the city maps you get get at your hotel, or so. Usually atthe centres they do speak English or they have a volunteer based service of locals who speak English or other foreign languages.
by Kappa rate this post as useful

tour guides maybe? 2008/9/17 16:46

There seems to be two types of people in the world. Those who feel comfortable in places where speaking is challenging and those who feel comfortable in places where speaking is easy. I am the former, you seem to be the latter, and I have no problem with that.

Have you considered hiring tour guides? You can either hire skilled professionals by asking for information at travel agencies or guide-interpreter search websites like these;

Or you can look for affordable goodwill guides who may have less skills but are more about enjoying friendship. Try searching "(name of city) goodwill guide." Here is an example.

To answer your question, there is no city that are truly language friendly in general. For example, Yamashita Park in Yokohama may seem like an ideal sightseeing spot for foreign tourists, and yet they don't even carry an English version of their brochure, while rural areas that seem to have nothing in common with foreign language can have a detailed English website just because a resident writes fluent English.

Good news for you is that all train stations in Japan have their station names indicated in fairly large alphabet letters.

Just in case you're interested, I go to any place in the world "speaking" with gestures and drawings. But it's your honeymoon, and you should try to be as comfortable as possible :)

Bon voyage!
by Uco rate this post as useful

... 2008/9/17 16:55
I have been to Japan twice now, the first time I went I spoke no Japanese but I had a little phrase book, I didn't have any problems communicating at all with this. The Japanese people are very friendly and if they spoke no English they were patient with me while I looked through my phrase book and then they would also use the phrase book to answer me.
You shouldn't have a problem where ever you go, just enjoy it and have fun Japan is a brilliant country.
by kittywheaty rate this post as useful

... 2008/9/17 19:29
I rented a car in Okinawa using an online English to Kanji translator at the rental office. It took a few moments, but we finally connected.That was actually one of the highlights of my trip.

As others have suggested, a phrasebook and a knowledge of the most useful phrases such as Toyre ga doku desu ka?


Biru ippon onengai shimasu.

are essential.

(Where is the toilet? and One beer please.)
by Paul rate this post as useful

some tips 2008/9/17 20:02
You cant expect most of the people there to speak English at any place of Japan, except for at the US and UK embassies and the US millitary bases in Japan.

But most of the foreign tourists who have been to Japan had no serious problem when they were staying in Japan, and (I hope) they had a good time. Last year, 8 million tourists visited Japan without much knowledge of the language.

One good tips for you is to stay in popular tourist destination such as Kyoto, Nara and Himeji. You will see many other tourists enjoying
their travel without speaking Japanese language.:)

by Ts rate this post as useful

English-speaking areas of Japan 2008/9/18 06:23
Hello tcatsninfan,

You chose one of the most wonderful Countries for your honeymoon. You say that you're very interested in the Country, the culture and the language. For first time visitors, your concern about your not being able to communicate with the Japanese is NORMAL and I don't believe that you'll be agitated if you encounter this. Know that this will happen. But, this is part of the beauty about traveling to foreign Countries. One should not expect the Japanese to speak English inasmuch as a fair number do understand and speak SOME English.

Each of you should buy a Japanese Phrasebook with two-way dictionary (English & Japanese) such as Lonely Planet's pocket book that cost only about US$6.95. Study the book in advance and get to know some of the more useful words suggested in the book. Just know a few useful words such as good morning-afternoon-evening, thank you, excuse me, etc.

Speak slowly and clearly and you'll find that a fair number of Japanese will understand you even if they know little English. A lot of the younger generation also understand some English especially those that work where there's a lot of exposure to foreign tourists. Don't worry about getting lost. Ask for direction to a major location from where you can find your way such as a large department store, train station, popular tourist site, etc. Ask while pointing to any direction and they'll point you in the right direction. You can always catch a taxi. So, you won't get lost. Remain calm and you will manage. This will be one of your more memorable experiences. We've all gone through that and still go back for more while we get better.

Since it's your first visit, I suggest that you lean more towards 10 days instead of 7 days and consider the areas around Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Nara, Himeji, Hiroshima and Miyajima. Research these locations and do a detail day by day & hour by hour Itinerary, and revise it as you move along. Also do a detail budget so that you get a better handle on the costs. Consider flying into Kansai Airport (KIX) and out of Narita (NRT) or the reverse plus the JR Rail Pass. The more you put into our planning, the more you'll get out of it. As said by other Posters, consider traveling in May when the weather is more comfortable.

You need to do a lot of research and a good tool is the Search feature above these postings. You can also search for Japan Tourist Organization and contact the closest office to get copies of maps of Japan, Tokyo and other Cities.

Having said the above and if you still feel that the Japanese not being able to speak English is a major obstacle, consider jumping onto a Package Tour. Good luck!
by Harold rate this post as useful

English-speaking areas of Japan 2008/9/18 06:46
Hello tcatsninfan,

I meant to say, jump onto an Escorted Package Tour.

Either way, you're going to love Japan.
by Harold rate this post as useful

Thank you for all the replies 2008/9/18 11:45
Thank you all for your responses.

The tone of my original post may have been a bit off. I didn't mean to sound as if I thought most Japanese spoke English. What I was referring to are specific things. For instance, I know that some hotels staff English-speaking workers while others don't. I was simply wondering if there were certain cities that were better at handling English-speaking tourists.

I had a fear in the back of my mind that my (future) wife and I would find ourselves lost some place in Japan with no means of getting out. I can see from all your responses, though, that this is not likely to happen.

Once again, thank you all. I will keep the May date in mind. I will probably be posting future questions once I begin laying out the itenerary. You all here at Japan Guide are a great, friendly resource.
by tcatsninfan rate this post as useful

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