One of my concerns when we started planning our trip to Japan was the completely alien-ness of the language and, more importantly, the writing. I am pretty good at picking up information peripherally and was quite worried that without the innate and automatic ability to recognise words (even if I didn’t immediately know their meaning) I would be left feeling very disorientated and that it would really hinder my ability to enjoy the entire trip. (Yes, “Lost In Translation” is one of my favourite movies – we watched it on the inbound flight again – why do you ask?)
But it does seem that my fears were unfounded. While most advertising and product package is entirely in Japanese, most signage has not just English lettering but actual English translations for the important information too, which means I can comfortably scan a scene and pick out some salient details and clues as to where we’re trying to go or what we’re trying to achieve quickly and easily.
More so, with Tokyo being such a large, international and cosmopolitan city, many people have at least some English available to them, and while they clearly seem to appreciate our clumsy attempts at communicating in Japanese, between us (and often falling back to the universal shared International Language of Pointing) we’ve had no real frustrations trying to buy or order anything. To be honest, it’s been pretty much plain sailing so far!