Japan is one of the most beautiful countries in the world. And it is also one that’s listed on most people’s must-go-to places. But traveling around Japan has its challenges. One of the hurdles people have to overcome is the language barrier.

If you’ve ever been to Japan, or are planning to go, the second you get there, there’s one thing you’ll notice. The people are incredibly kind, polite and organized. But the second thing you’ll realize is that not everyone can understand or speak English. This is the challenge. Luckily for us, there are a few ways you can overcome this with a few language barrier hacks to consider before going to Japan.

Before we begin our list, it’s absolutely important that the first thing to consider when traveling, not just for the language barrier, but for navigating through the country, is to have portable WiFi device or a SIM that has data. This is easy, as you can find many different SIM or WiFi rentals in Japan for mobile internet, and can be purchased either on the spot or reserved prior to your trip, and even delivered to your hotel. Having Internet access will help immensely during your trip!

1. Download a translation app, or have Google translate available

Just having something to help translate your English question or inquiries into Japanese will help a lot. This will give you the freedom to ask any question from anyone, and usually, in Japan, people are willing to help!

2. Have photos ready for the essentials

By essentials, we mean, toilets, 7/11, train and bus, or specific tourist places you want to go to. These will help when you’re navigating around a place and just need to know where to find these areas. Simply show a photo of where you want to go, and people will help.

3. Learn these simple Japanese phrases

English to Japanese (Nihongo)

  • Please   Onegaishimasu
  • Thank you  Arigatou gozaimasu
  • Excuse me  Sumimasen
  • Yes    Hai
  • No    Iie
  • I’m Sorry  Gomen nasai
  • I don’t understand Wakarimasen

The Japanese people are extremely polite, and it’s important to also return the same courtesy by learning these essential Japanese phrases to use during your trip. And, you’ll actually feel guilty not knowing how to say these once you’re there as, like we said, they are really polite and accommodating.

With these hacks in mind, we have one last tip to share! Try not to ask just anyone if you are in need of assistance. In the bigger cities such as Tokyo and Osaka, you’ll see that a lot of people are either busy or rushing to go somewhere. Make sure that you choose who you ask, to not cause any inconvenience to anyone. 

[well]This is a guest post by Jan Martin.

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