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Basic questions for a first-timer in Japan

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Basic questions for a first-timer in Japan

I read everyone will be friendly and helpful, but I'd like to prepare.

Where can I get simple answers to basic everyday questions before touring Japan alone, for instance :

- how to use a bus in Tokyo or elsewhere ?

- how to get a taxi ?

- how to use the train ?

- how to order a meal in a restaurant (apart from pointing) ?

- how to find a toilet ?

- will I find town maps and street names I can read ?

- which 5 words should I learn (that's about my limit !) ?

And what were you most thrown by in your first minutes in Japan ?


Tokyo, Japan
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1. Re: Basic questions for a first-timer in Japan

Answers to your questions (at least some) can be found at Japan-Guide site.


>>- how to use a bus in Tokyo or elsewhere ?<<

It depends. On buses which use the single fare system, you pay the designated amount to the payment box next to the driver. Inside Tokyo, if you have the SUICA card, you can just swipe it, or pay 200 yen. On buses on which you pay more as you go further, you normally take the numbered token away issued upon entry by a small machine. There will be a panel at the front of the bus indicating the exact price for next stop for each token holders' number. If you are not sure, show the token you took at the entry and ask how much it will be to the driver: onitoge.org/ryokou/060722/20060722110029.jpg

>>-how to get a taxi ?<<

Wave the taxi with the empty sign "空車" and the driver will stop. Pay according to the built-in meter next to the driver's seat. No tipping is necessary.

>>-how to use the train ?<<

Go to a station, buy a ticket according to the price (see Google Map "Get Route" or use Hyperdia search engine to find out fares and schedules) or use the IC value added card like SUICA to go through the turnstiles. Keep the ticket, as the turnstiles will collect them as you get off and out of the station. In case of IC cards, swipe through and the due amount will be deducted.

English language maps for JR and Tokyo Metro/Subway can be downloaded in pdf format.



>>- how to order a meal in a restaurant (apart from pointing) ?<<

Some restaurants have English language menus. Many restaurants will have menus with pictures. Ask for suggestions of the most popular set menu, perhaps.

>>-how to find a toilet ?<<

In the most obvious places, like stations, stores, cafes, restaurants, museums, hotel lobbies, long distance trains, you'll find toilets. Many if not all convenience stores (apart from bar areas) have a toilet that welcome customers for use. Public parks have toilets- but don't expect squeaky cleanness there.

- will I find town maps and street names I can read ?

The Japanese have a different approach in geography. Whereas in some cities streets are numbered and named (like in Kyoto), many streets do not have a name, as address is based on a town block system. There is usually the name of the crossing at the traffic lights also in Roma-ji (Latin script) like this (can you see "Ginza 1-chome" under "銀座一丁目?"):


If you get a good guidebook, there will be a map essential for you; Google Map is the most useful tool you can get, and it's free.

>>- which 5 words should I learn (that's about my limit !) ?<<

Konnichiwa こんにちは Hello.

Sayounara さようなら Good-bye.

Arigato ありがとう Thank you.

Please お願いします Onegai shimasu.

Tasukete (kudasai) 助けて(下さい) Help me (please).

When you are stuck with a problem, ask people around you for help. If you speak slowly without using complex phrases, or write down the question, the chances will be higher that people will understand you.

Edited: 20 October 2013, 12:48
Tokyo, Japan
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2. Re: Basic questions for a first-timer in Japan

The Oyster card in Japan. http://www.jreast.co.jp/e/pass/suica.html

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3. Re: Basic questions for a first-timer in Japan

Thanks Yobeekool for such an helpful start.

Singapore, Singapore
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4. Re: Basic questions for a first-timer in Japan

I can tell you what we did. SUICA (any other IC card should be fine) made life very easy for us in train travel. Used Hyperdia & Google Maps extensively for routes. If you Fix a route and take time to read directions on station, you will be good. The station masters are always around in case needed. Show written destination & they will guide you.

We used taxi in Kyoto & just hailed one which we saw was empty, but most of the time used taxi queues outside stations or attractions. We used bus only in Nara and paid 200 yen in box next to the bus captain as Yobekool has advised.

We stuck to pointing at pictures in restaurants, where English menu was not available. Surprisingly, the biggest difficulty I had in communication was at Mc Donald's near Kyoto station. I wanted pork burger and could not recognize from pictures as Singapore Mc does not serve pork. Few attempts of speaking slowly & writing down were of no use. Then I said Katsu as I knew we order Katsu Don for Pork Don and the boy at the counter immediately understood and I got my burger. We were all smiles :).

New Zealand
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5. Re: Basic questions for a first-timer in Japan

I visited Japan for the first time in June, and found it very easy to get around.

There are English signs as well as Japanese signs at train and subway stations. I got an Icoca card in Kyoto and Suica in Tokyo, which made it very easy.

There are good toilets all over the place, many of them marked with the universally understood male and female figures. In a couple of places a sign even said WC!

For useful words, I'd like to add Sumimasen (excuse me).

What was I thrown by in my first minutes in Japan? That I got from the plane door through all formalities and exited into the arrivals hall in 15 minutes.

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6. Re: Basic questions for a first-timer in Japan

I spent a year in Tokyo, plus a half dozen visits. I used a bus once. The Suica (or similar card) will make travel in Tokyo (and elsewhere) much easier--no puzzling over fare maps and ticket machines like these: http://www.flickr.com/search/?q=tokyo+fare+maps The Yamanote line http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2370.html and a couple of other JR lines connect many major centers. Most everywhere else is close to a subway station. In Kyoto, we used taxis last time, rather than wait for buses.

For restaurants: Many have 'plastic food' displays: www.flickr.com/search/… It never occurred to me while I was there, but you could probably take a picture of what you want, and show it to the waiter. A good place to start is the top floors of department stores--most all have a variety of restaurants.

Toilets: I was surprised to find clean restrooms even in the subway (I only looked in a couple of stations so I can't speak for all).

7. Re: Basic questions for a first-timer in Japan

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