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Old 09-03-2014, 06:14 PM
 
Location: Queens THE REAL international city
2,386 posts, read 5,469,521 times
Reputation: 2827

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So, its been a childhood dream of mine to visit Japan. I was always fascinated with Japanese culture, history, fashion, food and when I became a teenager planned a trip with a few friends to visit Japan. This never happened and admittedly I just never took it seriously until recently. I was always intimidated, because as much as I would LOVE to visit Japan, I struggle to learn it and know not a lick of it. I don't expect to be a master but I always try my best to learn other languages, even if its just little things here and there.

Now I am seriously planning a trip to Japan for sometime next year and I am wondering how hard it would be for me not knowing Japanese very well? Are the Japanese friendly towards foreigners? Will it bother them not knowing Japanese?

I KNOW for a fact I won't be the only non-Japanese speaking person visiting Japan (mainly Tokyo and surrounding areas).

Also, I know Tokyo is an expensive city. Is it possible to enjoy Tokyo/Mt.Fuji/surrounding areas on a budget? I certainly plan on staying at a hostel but what would be the recommended amount of money to have (I'll be buying Yen from U.S. Dollars) for at least a week?


Any help, advice, would certainly help! I truly want to visit Japan and cross it off my list.
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Old 09-03-2014, 06:35 PM
 
Location: Sandpoint, Idaho
2,905 posts, read 5,299,172 times
Reputation: 3093
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lital_The_Best View Post
Now I am seriously planning a trip to Japan for sometime next year and I am wondering how hard it would be for me not knowing Japanese very well? Are the Japanese friendly towards foreigners? Will it bother them not knowing Japanese?
You have plenty of time to learn quite a bit of conversational and written Japanese.

Japanese are very respectful to foreigners, but I would not say friendly. You are a foreigner and they are Japanese.

They will not expect to speak any Japanese. That you would not know Japanese would not bother them, unless of of course you expect they understand your English. You are on their turf.

Japanese has three writing systems: Kanji, hiragana and katakana. If you have time and desire, learn how to read basic, traditional Chinese. I speak limited Japanese but can read a decent amount of Chinese. INvaluable in Japan, since city names are in Kanji, which means I can easily find my way around.

I would learn a number of common traveler phrases and honorifics. They both go a long way in Japan.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lital_The_Best View Post
I KNOW for a fact I won't be the only non-Japanese speaking person visiting Japan (mainly Tokyo and surrounding areas).
Once upon a time, quite long ago, a Westerner on the streets of Japanese would have caused a stir. You will not be a novelty and more or less ignored, especially in a center of economic activity like Tokyo.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lital_The_Best View Post
Also, I know Tokyo is an expensive city. Is it possible to enjoy Tokyo/Mt.Fuji/surrounding areas on a budget? I certainly plan on staying at a hostel but what would be the recommended amount of money to have (I'll be buying Yen from U.S. Dollars) for at least a week?
In many ways I find it cheaper now than in the 80s. Technically, you will always be on a budget. But how you set that budget or choose to respect it, is up to you. I find it no more expensive than the SF Bay Area and cheaper than NYC, but you have to manage your expenses wisely.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Lital_The_Best View Post
Any help, advice, would certainly help! I truly want to visit Japan and cross it off my list.
If you have one shot to go to Japan, I would not bother with Tokyo, a place which is not too different from big global cities and where a great time will cost you quite a bit.

Instead, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Hagi, Takayama, Kyoto, Nara, and Shirakawa-go are great experiences.

Tips.

Eat and drink like a Japanese. Not only cheaper but far more delicious.
Plan. plan, plan. Stay a a Ryokan or if in Shirakawa in one of their gasshō-zukuri.
Did I say, eat like a Japanese.

You'll love Japan. One of the all-time best travel destinations.
S.
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Old 09-03-2014, 10:26 PM
 
Location: Macao
15,956 posts, read 36,294,959 times
Reputation: 9496
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lital_The_Best View Post
Now I am seriously planning a trip to Japan for sometime next year and I am wondering how hard it would be for me not knowing Japanese very well? Are the Japanese friendly towards foreigners? Will it bother them not knowing Japanese?

I KNOW for a fact I won't be the only non-Japanese speaking person visiting Japan (mainly Tokyo and surrounding areas).

Also, I know Tokyo is an expensive city. Is it possible to enjoy Tokyo/Mt.Fuji/surrounding areas on a budget? I certainly plan on staying at a hostel but what would be the recommended amount of money to have (I'll be buying Yen from U.S. Dollars) for at least a week?


Any help, advice, would certainly help! I truly want to visit Japan and cross it off my list.
I lived in Japan for 6 years.

You'll see tons of non-speaking foreigners everywhere trying to get around Tokyo, and doing tourist things. It's not that hard to do. Advice would be to make sure you find a subway map in English, before you go. You'll definitely find subways maps in English, but they aren't all in English. SOmetimes you have to look around a lot at the stations to find the English map. If you can't do that beforehand, most likely you can ahold of English subway maps through the attendants, particularly at the larger stations.

Japanese are POLITE towards foreigners, and to everyone else as well. Friendly implies that they are going to say 'hi' and ask you "how's your day?". That's not really a common characteristic, but Japanese are certainly POLITE, and certainly try to be HELPFUL.

If you don't know Japanese, it won't bother them. Of course, they'd like it if you spoke Japanese, and many long-term expats and exchange students do know some Japanese. But, if you don't, it's okay too!

YES, Tokyo IS an expensive city. However, you can stay at hostels for around US$15/night, and spend more time eating Japanese ramen and other 7-11 products, if you are really struggling. You can also find some cheap restaurants here and there as well. They exist.

Take a look at JAPAN LONELY PLANET....it's a guidebook for budget travelers. It'll help you sort things out, and will have prices available, usually in YEN, and you can sort out what you can afford.

Basically, with affordability. The answer is always relative, and always IT DEPENDS. You can find deals and everything else, and do it. It just means you have to do more research than the other person who has the money already. Budget is always possible. If you are implying, 'almost free', than, 'no', you can't do that. But you can certainly visit and do things and get a feel for Tokyo/Japan with whatever budget you might have, on and on, blah blah blah.

What's recommended to bring? It depends on how much of a budget you are trying to do. Look at Lonely Planet guidebooks, decide what you want to do, see how much it says your hostel, your trip to Fuji, your whatever else costs...and see what it'll be. If you didn't want to spend any money at all, you could just stay in the hostel for a week, and just walk around eating ramen for a week. There are no hard rules to how much you need to bring for money, it completely depends on you, and what you want to do. If you want to party and drink beer and such, bring a lot more. If you want to just walk around and talk to whatever japanese people are in the hostel, maybe not as much. Too much variability with that question of how much money to bring.
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Old 09-04-2014, 08:10 AM
 
10,847 posts, read 11,325,665 times
Reputation: 7587
I don't understand why you are so scared about visiting Japan. The Japanese are just humans.

I visited Japan only 6 months ago and the trip was fantastic (note I don't speak Japanese except "good morning" and "thank you"). I travelled solo and everything went smoothly.

Tokyo is NOT very expensive. Yes, it is expensive to buy a condo but as a tourist, it is not bad at all. I would say it is cheaper to visit Tokyo than NYC, Chicago, Boston etc because hotels are more affordable - not because 4 star hotels are $50 a night but because there are abundance of budget hotels available for budge travelers. I paid less than $60 a night in the most vibrant part of the city center (private room/bath). Cheaper if you share. Meals are not expensive either and depending on your budget you can have a nice lunch for under $10.

The only thing I consider expensive in transportation. Remember to buy a two day pass at Tokyo airport, which is available only for foreigners (costs $10, good for two days, great deal!). Depending on how many places you want to see, consider buying the Japan rail pass (I bought it for over $300 but worth every penny).

Language is not a barrier. Most Japanese in the tourism industry speak some English, especially the young generation, although often with thick accent. I not only visit the cities, but explored the surrounding areas such as Hakone (to see mt Fuji as well.) I took the bullet train and visited Kyoto and Nara. Remember Kyoto is a must-see. It will be a shame if you fly all the way to just see Tokyo. I liked Tokyo but Kyoto is just so much more interesting.
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Old 09-04-2014, 10:09 AM
 
15 posts, read 15,281 times
Reputation: 11
I don't think Tokyo is more expensive than major cities in the US. Japan's weak economic performance for the last 2 decades does not allow bad inflation to happen. Reasons for Tokyo or Osaka still being more expensive than Singapore and HK are little import workers and new immigrants, food and some stuff are locally produced(Singapore and HK usually import from neigboring developing regions, keep costs low), and relatively little competitions among local shops. Singapore and HK have lower tax rates than Japan, no consumption and import duty for HK too.

It will be difficult for a newcomer anyway, as both Japan and China are not good at English. If you can read the local language, much less hassles.
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Old 09-04-2014, 12:20 PM
 
Location: Taipei
6,801 posts, read 5,167,679 times
Reputation: 4602
Quote:
Originally Posted by botticelli View Post
I don't understand why you are so scared about visiting Japan. The Japanese are just humans.

I visited Japan only 6 months ago and the trip was fantastic (note I don't speak Japanese except "good morning" and "thank you"). I travelled solo and everything went smoothly.

Tokyo is NOT very expensive. Yes, it is expensive to buy a condo but as a tourist, it is not bad at all. I would say it is cheaper to visit Tokyo than NYC, Chicago, Boston etc because hotels are more affordable - not because 4 star hotels are $50 a night but because there are abundance of budget hotels available for budge travelers. I paid less than $60 a night in the most vibrant part of the city center (private room/bath). Cheaper if you share. Meals are not expensive either and depending on your budget you can have a nice lunch for under $10.

The only thing I consider expensive in transportation. Remember to buy a two day pass at Tokyo airport, which is available only for foreigners (costs $10, good for two days, great deal!). Depending on how many places you want to see, consider buying the Japan rail pass (I bought it for over $300 but worth every penny).

Language is not a barrier. Most Japanese in the tourism industry speak some English, especially the young generation, although often with thick accent. I not only visit the cities, but explored the surrounding areas such as Hakone (to see mt Fuji as well.) I took the bullet train and visited Kyoto and Nara. Remember Kyoto is a must-see. It will be a shame if you fly all the way to just see Tokyo. I liked Tokyo but Kyoto is just so much more interesting.
Exactly.

Knowing Japanese could be very helpful,but like in any other country the local language is always helpful.Japan is easy to get around as the infrastructure is among the best of the best in the entire world.Not knowing Japanese is no big deal.

Btw I highly recommend Hokkaido.
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Old 09-04-2014, 02:25 PM
 
10,847 posts, read 11,325,665 times
Reputation: 7587
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greysholic View Post
Exactly.

Knowing Japanese could be very helpful,but like in any other country the local language is always helpful.Japan is easy to get around as the infrastructure is among the best of the best in the entire world.Not knowing Japanese is no big deal.

Btw I highly recommend Hokkaido.
I forgot to say public transit in Japanese cities is simply world class, putting everything in north America including NYC in shame. Everything is so clean and so easy to navigate: subways, train stations (NYC subway stations are dirty and like a maze). You hardly ever need to ask anyone. The trains are on time on the second.

However, it needs to be warned that Tokyo doesn't have a grid. All the streets criss cross like crazy, and many places don't have a street number like you see in North America. So I could be a bit challenging to find a specific non-famous place if you need to. I still have no idea how the postmen deliver mails, as apparently Mr. White's house will simply say "The White's", without a street number or flat number.

Food is amazing. After visiting Tokyo, one will the "Japanese food" North Americans are familiar with by no means represents what the Japanese normally eat.

I didn't have time to Hokkaido but will definitely visit it next time.
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Old 09-04-2014, 06:48 PM
 
Location: Queens THE REAL international city
2,386 posts, read 5,469,521 times
Reputation: 2827
Quote:
Originally Posted by botticelli View Post
I forgot to say public transit in Japanese cities is simply world class, putting everything in north America including NYC in shame. Everything is so clean and so easy to navigate: subways, train stations (NYC subway stations are dirty and like a maze). You hardly ever need to ask anyone. The trains are on time on the second.

However, it needs to be warned that Tokyo doesn't have a grid. All the streets criss cross like crazy, and many places don't have a street number like you see in North America. So I could be a bit challenging to find a specific non-famous place if you need to. I still have no idea how the postmen deliver mails, as apparently Mr. White's house will simply say "The White's", without a street number or flat number.

Food is amazing. After visiting Tokyo, one will the "Japanese food" North Americans are familiar with by no means represents what the Japanese normally eat.

I didn't have time to Hokkaido but will definitely visit it next time.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Greysholic View Post
Exactly.

Knowing Japanese could be very helpful,but like in any other country the local language is always helpful.Japan is easy to get around as the infrastructure is among the best of the best in the entire world.Not knowing Japanese is no big deal.

Btw I highly recommend Hokkaido.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cantonese_mtporr View Post
I don't think Tokyo is more expensive than major cities in the US. Japan's weak economic performance for the last 2 decades does not allow bad inflation to happen. Reasons for Tokyo or Osaka still being more expensive than Singapore and HK are little import workers and new immigrants, food and some stuff are locally produced(Singapore and HK usually import from neigboring developing regions, keep costs low), and relatively little competitions among local shops. Singapore and HK have lower tax rates than Japan, no consumption and import duty for HK too.

It will be difficult for a newcomer anyway, as both Japan and China are not good at English. If you can read the local language, much less hassles.
Quote:
Originally Posted by botticelli View Post
I don't understand why you are so scared about visiting Japan. The Japanese are just humans.

I visited Japan only 6 months ago and the trip was fantastic (note I don't speak Japanese except "good morning" and "thank you"). I travelled solo and everything went smoothly.

Tokyo is NOT very expensive. Yes, it is expensive to buy a condo but as a tourist, it is not bad at all. I would say it is cheaper to visit Tokyo than NYC, Chicago, Boston etc because hotels are more affordable - not because 4 star hotels are $50 a night but because there are abundance of budget hotels available for budge travelers. I paid less than $60 a night in the most vibrant part of the city center (private room/bath). Cheaper if you share. Meals are not expensive either and depending on your budget you can have a nice lunch for under $10.

The only thing I consider expensive in transportation. Remember to buy a two day pass at Tokyo airport, which is available only for foreigners (costs $10, good for two days, great deal!). Depending on how many places you want to see, consider buying the Japan rail pass (I bought it for over $300 but worth every penny).

Language is not a barrier. Most Japanese in the tourism industry speak some English, especially the young generation, although often with thick accent. I not only visit the cities, but explored the surrounding areas such as Hakone (to see mt Fuji as well.) I took the bullet train and visited Kyoto and Nara. Remember Kyoto is a must-see. It will be a shame if you fly all the way to just see Tokyo. I liked Tokyo but Kyoto is just so much more interesting.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiger Beer View Post
I lived in Japan for 6 years.

You'll see tons of non-speaking foreigners everywhere trying to get around Tokyo, and doing tourist things. It's not that hard to do. Advice would be to make sure you find a subway map in English, before you go. You'll definitely find subways maps in English, but they aren't all in English. SOmetimes you have to look around a lot at the stations to find the English map. If you can't do that beforehand, most likely you can ahold of English subway maps through the attendants, particularly at the larger stations.

Japanese are POLITE towards foreigners, and to everyone else as well. Friendly implies that they are going to say 'hi' and ask you "how's your day?". That's not really a common characteristic, but Japanese are certainly POLITE, and certainly try to be HELPFUL.

If you don't know Japanese, it won't bother them. Of course, they'd like it if you spoke Japanese, and many long-term expats and exchange students do know some Japanese. But, if you don't, it's okay too!

YES, Tokyo IS an expensive city. However, you can stay at hostels for around US$15/night, and spend more time eating Japanese ramen and other 7-11 products, if you are really struggling. You can also find some cheap restaurants here and there as well. They exist.

Take a look at JAPAN LONELY PLANET....it's a guidebook for budget travelers. It'll help you sort things out, and will have prices available, usually in YEN, and you can sort out what you can afford.

Basically, with affordability. The answer is always relative, and always IT DEPENDS. You can find deals and everything else, and do it. It just means you have to do more research than the other person who has the money already. Budget is always possible. If you are implying, 'almost free', than, 'no', you can't do that. But you can certainly visit and do things and get a feel for Tokyo/Japan with whatever budget you might have, on and on, blah blah blah.

What's recommended to bring? It depends on how much of a budget you are trying to do. Look at Lonely Planet guidebooks, decide what you want to do, see how much it says your hostel, your trip to Fuji, your whatever else costs...and see what it'll be. If you didn't want to spend any money at all, you could just stay in the hostel for a week, and just walk around eating ramen for a week. There are no hard rules to how much you need to bring for money, it completely depends on you, and what you want to do. If you want to party and drink beer and such, bring a lot more. If you want to just walk around and talk to whatever japanese people are in the hostel, maybe not as much. Too much variability with that question of how much money to bring.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sandpointian View Post
You have plenty of time to learn quite a bit of conversational and written Japanese.

Japanese are very respectful to foreigners, but I would not say friendly. You are a foreigner and they are Japanese.

They will not expect to speak any Japanese. That you would not know Japanese would not bother them, unless of of course you expect they understand your English. You are on their turf.

Japanese has three writing systems: Kanji, hiragana and katakana. If you have time and desire, learn how to read basic, traditional Chinese. I speak limited Japanese but can read a decent amount of Chinese. INvaluable in Japan, since city names are in Kanji, which means I can easily find my way around.

I would learn a number of common traveler phrases and honorifics. They both go a long way in Japan.


Once upon a time, quite long ago, a Westerner on the streets of Japanese would have caused a stir. You will not be a novelty and more or less ignored, especially in a center of economic activity like Tokyo.



In many ways I find it cheaper now than in the 80s. Technically, you will always be on a budget. But how you set that budget or choose to respect it, is up to you. I find it no more expensive than the SF Bay Area and cheaper than NYC, but you have to manage your expenses wisely.




If you have one shot to go to Japan, I would not bother with Tokyo, a place which is not too different from big global cities and where a great time will cost you quite a bit.

Instead, Nagasaki, Hiroshima, Hagi, Takayama, Kyoto, Nara, and Shirakawa-go are great experiences.

Tips.

Eat and drink like a Japanese. Not only cheaper but far more delicious.
Plan. plan, plan. Stay a a Ryokan or if in Shirakawa in one of their gasshō-zukuri.
Did I say, eat like a Japanese.

You'll love Japan. One of the all-time best travel destinations.
S.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lital_The_Best View Post
So, its been a childhood dream of mine to visit Japan. I was always fascinated with Japanese culture, history, fashion, food and when I became a teenager planned a trip with a few friends to visit Japan. This never happened and admittedly I just never took it seriously until recently. I was always intimidated, because as much as I would LOVE to visit Japan, I struggle to learn it and know not a lick of it. I don't expect to be a master but I always try my best to learn other languages, even if its just little things here and there.

Now I am seriously planning a trip to Japan for sometime next year and I am wondering how hard it would be for me not knowing Japanese very well? Are the Japanese friendly towards foreigners? Will it bother them not knowing Japanese?

I KNOW for a fact I won't be the only non-Japanese speaking person visiting Japan (mainly Tokyo and surrounding areas).

Also, I know Tokyo is an expensive city. Is it possible to enjoy Tokyo/Mt.Fuji/surrounding areas on a budget? I certainly plan on staying at a hostel but what would be the recommended amount of money to have (I'll be buying Yen from U.S. Dollars) for at least a week?


Any help, advice, would certainly help! I truly want to visit Japan and cross it off my list.

Thank you so much guys!! These advice are so valuable to me and it makes me much more excited about my trip to Japan.

As for some people mentioned, I definitely plan on seeing outside of Tokyo since I always tend to like to look beyond just the "main center" or "downtown" of a city. I plan on seeing the other districts, Mount Fuji and checking out some of the Izu Islands if at all possible.


Again, I'm taking notes and will be taking all the advice. Thanks you all!
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Old 09-04-2014, 09:41 PM
 
Location: Sandpoint, Idaho
2,905 posts, read 5,299,172 times
Reputation: 3093
I would disagree a bit about prices in Tokyo. It IS more expensive if one compares apples to apples. The tap in the vibrancy of the city at its best will cost. New York need not be expensive but if you want to roll with the players, you won't have enough $. I guess the way I look at it is that if you are planning for a life long trip to Japan, why go budget in Tokyo? I would feel differently if you are passing through Tokyo on layover and want to stretch your $. Then for sure, you can do it within reason.

It really highlights the need to step back and think about what you want to experience and how.

S.
P.S. I do agree that prices have come way down in the past ten years, despite the stronger yen.
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Old 09-04-2014, 10:27 PM
 
Location: Taipei
6,801 posts, read 5,167,679 times
Reputation: 4602
Quote:
Originally Posted by botticelli View Post
However, it needs to be warned that Tokyo doesn't have a grid. All the streets criss cross like crazy, and many places don't have a street number like you see in North America. So I could be a bit challenging to find a specific non-famous place if you need to. I still have no idea how the postmen deliver mails, as apparently Mr. White's house will simply say "The White's", without a street number or flat number.
I heard that the street number in Japan only indicates when the building is built instead of where the building is located in,so it could be very confusing.
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