Abroad in Japan: “How Difficult is Traveling in Japan without Japanese”?

Some reactions to the comments Chris Broad makes in this informative video:

  1. I think every expat should learn the language that they live it and not rely on their (white) expatriate privilege all the time.
  2. You shouldn’t encounter language problems at train stations that often. Instead of buying train tickets like a Showa-era character, you should use travel around with an IC card, as Broad rightly recommends. Only train lines in the hicks (like Kanazawa) still require you to buy tickets.
  3. A “My Suica” that has your name written on it doesn’t cost you anything extra, but you do need to supply JR East with a Japanese phone number, your full name, and date of birth (so they can re-issue your card if you lose it).
  4. Google Maps is great for traveling in Japan for first-timers. If you have a great grasp of figuring out place names in kanji and have a Japanese App Store account (and you can open one without a credit card or with an App Store gift card you can get at any convenience store in Japan), I would also recommend Yahoo Japan’s 乗換案内, which conveniently allows you to look up first and last train times (for when you’re out late), and alternative routes when certain lines are suspended or delayed (now a regular occurrence in Tokyo).
  5. Having no menus to point at in desperation is such a mood. But some of the best places I’ve been to in Tokyo (and elsewhere) have nothing but squiggly calligraphy on their illegible menu scrolls.
  6. オススメはなんですか。(What are your recommendations?) I’ve been asked this so many times by Japanese people in Hong Kong. Now you can turn the tables on them.
  7. Dribble coffee sounds amazing.