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45 reviews
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I'm going to Tokyo for the first time in July and I was wondering if English is understood well there?

I have no problem trying my hand at Japanese (I have a phrasebook to help out) - I'm just asking out of curiosity.



Tokyo, Japan
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8,152 posts
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1. Re: Language.

4 star hotels and above, yes. Roppongi, yes. International tourist attractions like Tokyo Tower, yes. Other places, no

Tokyo, Japan
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24,350 posts
123 reviews
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2. Re: Language.

English or you speaking Japanese is not important. A smile, asking for help, and adjusting things to the local way is important.

New Zealand
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3. Re: Language.

I know only a few words of Japanese, and got by well enough. There are signs in English for the subway system and elsewhere. The staff at my hotel (3 star) varied from basic to very good in their knowledge of English.

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1,667 posts
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4. Re: Language.

Pretty much every single person has studied English at school in Japan - both old & young, but whether or not they feel confident to speak English is another question. Back in the 1980s& 90s there was an English boom with many adults going to conversation classes in their free time, on weeknights & on weekends.

Note: Most students learn 'North American' English so if you aren't American people sometimes have difficulty understanding your accent & words - you could speaking like an American if people are having trouble understanding you - use the accent, or for example say "elevator" instead of "lift." I'm not promoting any particular way of speaking as preferable but just stating that this is the way things are due to the post-war Occupation, Junior High School textbooks & the pervasive influence of US culture.

People generally can read written English better than speaking it, so sometimes it helps to write it down.

World Travel
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5. Re: Language.

Very helpful Elly M. I have also heard that many Japanese are good at written English, but shy to speak.

London, England
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6. Re: Language.

I haven't had any difficulties finding my way around all over Japan with only a few words of Japanese.

It helps if you have a map with the place/street names in both Japanese and English, which makes it much easier for people to assist you.

I ran into some people who spoke English well (although not a lot, even in Tokyo) but the signs in the stations are in English writing and the information signs at many of the sights were in both languages.

At one of the hotels I stayed in , the Sunroute Hotel in Asakusa, the most of the desk staff spoke fairly good English (and were really helpful) at other hotels the ability varied a lot.

Edited: 4:48 am, June 23, 2013
7. Re: Language.

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