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How difficult to get around Toyko if you don't speak Japanese?
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No. of Recommendations: 4
I don't speak Japanese and didn't find it difficult to get around Tokyo. That said, I'm comfortable taking the subway, using Uber (or similar), etc. I also have no problem wandering around, choosing restaurants at random and ordering food without being entirely sure what I might get.
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All the children learn English in school starting young. They say many outlying schools don't have the best English speaking teachers. But kids will stop you and say hello (often with a strong accent).

Americans usually stick out in the crowd. Mostly because average height in Japan is 5 ft 2 or so. We are often a lot taller in addition to skin color.

The best English speakers are usually found in hotels in Tokyo or Osaka. But all college graduates know English.

On the streets, its hit or miss. But improving as English speakers increase in number.
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<I don't speak Japanese and didn't find it difficult to get around Tokyo. That said, I'm comfortable taking the subway, using Uber (or similar), etc.

That is good to know. We have used Uber. I am okay with pattern matching kanji.

I also have no problem wandering around, choosing restaurants at random and ordering food without being entirely sure what I might get.

Not quite that adventurous. We aren't fans of sushi or sashimi.
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English language menus are common. Many menus include photos of the food. Many restaurants have displays of their dishes in the window.
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Most subway signage is also in English. The mass transit system(s) is (are) great. The major confusion is that there are multiple overlapping systems (JR and subway, for example) and some locals are only familiar with the one they regularly use. There are some mobile phone apps which will provide the most time/cost efficient routing. Taxi's are honest and not overly expensive.

The local neighborhood tourist offices offer free English language walking tours (tipping not allowed). I've found it an extremely easy city to get around in for the non-English speaker.

Jeff
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Not quite that adventurous. We aren't fans of sushi or sashimi.

I'm not either. Sometimes I would just point at a picture on the menu that looked cooked or once, another diner's plate. LOL. My personal preference is to avoid places with English menus as that suggests they somewhat cater to tourists.
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Most subway signage is also in English. The mass transit system(s) is (are) great. The major confusion is that there are multiple overlapping systems (JR and subway, for example) and some locals are only familiar with the one they regularly use. There are some mobile phone apps which will provide the most time/cost efficient routing. Taxi's are honest and not overly expensive.

Google Maps is great for this. It will tell you which trains/route you should take, departure time, how many stops to your destination, etc. In a few countries, it even specified which platform the train would depart from.
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I'm not either. Sometimes I would just point at a picture on the menu that looked cooked or once, another diner's plate. LOL. My personal preference is to avoid places with English menus as that suggests they somewhat cater to tourists.

We are in Silicon Valley where there are quite a few good Japanese restaurants and I worked for a Japanese company for quite a few years. My attempt to learn Japanese has mostly failed.

Most of the time we explore local food when traveling but occasionally it is nice to admit "I am a tourist" and would like food that is "normal" for me.
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I know it's a cliche, but I look for places where locals appear to go. And sometimes you can ask a hotel desk person "where would YOU go". I've been in places where no one speaks English. Once in Montreaux, I had to speak Spanish to the waitress because she only spoke Spanish and (I think) French. In Japan we went to a restaurant where we had to point at pictures. No English writing, and the waitress's English was only marginally better than my Japanese (which is limited to a few phrases like "hello" and "good evening" and "thank you").

I regard that as something of an adventure. If it looks good, order it. Don't know what's in it, but it obviously doesn't kill any of the locals so it likely won't kill us. About half the time in Asia I have no idea what I'm eating. Apart from maybe "seafood" versus land-animal food. Likely it's better I don't know or I might be a squeamish American.

1poorguy
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Taxis are honest and not overly expensive.

Vouch.

Data point of one - we were in a taxi in Tokyo (pre-Uber - 2012) and I gave the destination.
The driver misunderstood me and was headed a different direction.

There was a language barrier.
Finally I was able to make my destination clear.
When we arrived he would allow me to only pay about half the fare on the meter -
I tried to pay full fare.
there was much apologizing.


peace & it'd be so much easier now
t
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Taxis are honest and not overly expensive.

Vouch.

Data point of one - we were in a taxi in Tokyo (pre-Uber - 2012) and I gave the destination.
The driver misunderstood me and was headed a different direction.


When I was in Singapore for work, not all taxi drivers spoke English. I had a copy of a map page for my destination with the address written on it. Only once did I wonder if I would ever be seen again. It was raining heavily, the driver didn't speak English and didn't know the destination. He was on the radio and I could hear the address being repeated. Eventually, he must have received directions because we made it to my destination.
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Google Maps is great for this.

Don't assume your phone will work in Japan. It might have gotten easier over the past couple of years, but traditionally, many foreign phones are challenged in Japan. On the other hand, there are MANY free wifi hotspots (including all 7-Eleven and Lawson convenience stores, as well as apps to find the nearest one).

Jeff
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WhatsApp

Free. Turns any WiFi into a phone line with texting. Anywhere in the world.
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So, here's an offer to any who wish to take advantage of it:

Any who want a PDF of the Tokyo section of "Take the High Road - A Primer for the Independent Traveler", simply contact me off-list and I'll forward it to you.

Tokyo is only one of 24 Japanese towns and cities covered in the book.

Jeff
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