Essential Japanese language learning for traveling Japan

Reading and writing Japanese is very difficult. Over 2,000 kanji are taught throughout Japanese high school, and there are thousands more in use. So while I do learn kanji, I focus on speaking and listening, grammar and vocabulary…

…which is why this book – 7 days 60 minutes Japanese – takes a good approach to learning basic Japanese needed for traveling Japan. There’s no Japanese to read or write, everything is in plain English with all Japanese spelt phonetically.

The book is small, a total of 55 pages covering language and vocabulary, so you’ll easily read it within 60 minutes.

Learn basic Japanese for traveling Japan
7 days 60 minutes Japanese book review

Helpful Japanese language

Early on you learn basic survival phrases, that you can easily insert words into to communicate in basic Japanese. These 3 sentence patterns are:

  • when you want the listener to do something – e.g. can you please look after this luggage for me? (I use this one frequently).
  • when you want to ask the listener if something exists – e.g. is there a toilet here?
  • when you want to ask if it’s possible to do something – e.g. can I try this on?

And honestly, when interacting with people while shopping, at hotels and restaurants – you know, general travel stuff – I rarely use Japanese any more complicated than these 3 sentence patterns.

Bonus: sounds files are available to download so you can hear how to pronounce Japanese. I highly recommend this, as mis-pronouncing words can make it almost impossible for Japanese people to understand what you’re saying.

Helpful gestures and facial expressions

Japanese often use hand gestures and facial expressions that are totally (surprise…!) foreign to westerners. The book explains how to interpret these gestures and avoid many awkward moments.

Helpful conversation examples

When you ask a question, you get an answer, and the book provides expected responses and example conversations. So the book does a helpful job of preparing you to interact with people in Japan.

Helpful vocabulary

At the end of each section you get a list of relevant Japanese words to use in the sentences you’ve just learnt. At the end of the book there are several more pages of handy vocabulary.

How to use this book

Think of situations you’ll be in while traveling Japan and prepare a few sentences. There’s space at the end of the book for notes and writing your own phrases.

My verdict

I read this book in under an hour on a flight to Japan, and although I’m capable of conversational Japanese, I found this book to be a good refresher and even learnt a few new words. Like the book says at the end, Japanese people don’t expect foreigners to speak Japanese, so a little goes a long way…

For the total beginner preparing for a trip to Japan, get this book along with a normal Japanese phrasebook.

Plus, 10 yen from every purchase is donated to help survivors of the March 11, 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

Links to buy the eBook and paperback version are available at the 7 days 60 minutes Japanese page.

Note: I didn’t get paid to write this and don’t receive any commission if you buy the book. The publisher was kind enough to send me a copy, and I deemed it worthy enough for me to get my lazy typing fingers into action and write this review.