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Thread: Going to Japan

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    Default Going to Japan

    So, I'm going to Japan in about a week and a half (12 days and counting!), and I was wondering if there was anything I should know before I go there. I've taken 4 language classes at my University, so my grammar is probably at maybe a grade 2 (Japanese native) level, and my vocabulary (which I have admittedly not studied very much) maybe a Grade 1 (native) level, but I know very little about the culture. For example, under what conditions can I use plain form? I know in stores they use a lot of Keigo (and I know pretty much no Keigo so I'm screwed, but I've already resigned myself to that unfortunate fact), so it is OK to use plain style back to them? Also when is it OK to use short forms like きゃ or じゃ? Basically any information on customs and respect would be helpful, but please don't misinform me, as it's very important to me to make a good impression when I go. Thanks.
    日本語をならっている。 まちがえれば、おねがい知らせてください~!

    Quote Originally Posted by Paraphrased from LavaBug
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    Hmm, where in Japan are you going? I wouldn't worry much, especially if it's Tokyo or a relatively developed city like Osaka.

    It's impossible to give you any specific pieces of advice for politeness, but all I can say is to not be afraid to try and talk to people. You'll find there are people who are very eager to have a chance to talk to someone from overseas (I recently went to Tokyo Station to receive someone from abroad and we were stopped twice and asked if we needed any help by a random commuter). However, since Japan is a very secluded country, you should keep in mind there are unfortunately some people who are still a little wary around foreigners, but you shouldn't let that turn you off.

    And anyhow, who on earth would be offended if a person who's still learning the language isn't "polite" enough? The worst possible thing you can do (and I've seen this happens to a lot of exchange students, mind) is to be so afraid of making a mistake that you keep to yourself, or stick with only those people who know English. That would be a terrible waste.

    Anyhow, good luck. If you have any personal questions or whatnot, feel free to P.M. me, even though I can't be as active as I'd like online lately I'll try my best to respond.

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    Yeah, I'm going to Kyoto for 2 weeks (at Kyoto U for the mornings of those 2 weeks), then 1 week of traveling, including 3 days in Tokyo, where I leave from to come back to Canada.

    See, the thing is that when I talk, I instinctively use the ます form all the time, but sometimes I force myself to use the plain form, so my speech comes out all over the place sometimes. Nobody's ever said anything to me, but it's kind of embarassing, I think. To be honest, I've been a part of the Japanese club at my uni for 8 months, but I've been embarassed about my speech so much that I've maybe spoken 3 or 4 sentences in Japanese in those 8 months, despite the fact that about 1/4 of the club is native Japanese and a further 1/8 is pretty much fluent. The fact that the native Japanese people speak such good English makes me feel that my Japanese is really lacking. I kind of just feel that if I try to speak Japanese, I'll have to think too much to put a sentence together. I know it's completely bad and wrong for me to think that way, but I do anyway

    I'll try to do better when I go to Japan. I decided when I planned the trip about 6 months or so ago that the focus of this trip for me was going to be learning to speak Japanese better, and I'm set on that. Then again, I said the same thing in January, November, and September when I joined the Japanese club. So we'll see, but thanks for the advice and confidence ^_^
    日本語をならっている。 まちがえれば、おねがい知らせてください~!

    Quote Originally Posted by Paraphrased from LavaBug
    I remember that day 'cause it's Sailor Mercury's birthday...or is it my mom's?

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    We'll have to meet up for drinks when you're in Tokyo!

    The advice I tell everyone is to not worry about their language abilities so much. Even if your grammar is not good, people will get the hint. Having some Japanese ability when you come over is good, but expect it to not be perfect. Students are taught textbook Japanese; the stuff no one uses except in written documents. Don't get discouraged!! People will appreciate that you know even a little Japanese. However, manners are important. Remember: shoes off when you go inside, please and thank yours, all that stuff your mom reminded you of when you were a kid.

    Feel free to PM me if you have any Qs.

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    I guess so. I guess I just don't want it to be like...well, I saw in a stand-up comedy act on TV once where the comedian is talking about someone who doesn't speak French going to Quebec (and disclaimer: I have never been to Quebec so I don't know if this is true or not) and he says something along these lines:

    "So, when we [non-French speaking people] go to Quebec, we try to fit in and use some French. So I walk into a store and the clerk says 'Bonjour!' and I reply 'Bonjour!' and then the clerk goes 'ugh...Hello...'"

    It's probably funnier to actually see the joke being done, but you get the idea, and I don't want it to be like that (except with Japanese instead of French) when I go to Japan. The fact that I'm white doesn't help matters much, I don't think, as my prof said that Japanese people like to try to speak English to white people But oh well, we'll see ^_^
    日本語をならっている。 まちがえれば、おねがい知らせてください~!

    Quote Originally Posted by Paraphrased from LavaBug
    I remember that day 'cause it's Sailor Mercury's birthday...or is it my mom's?

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    I`m at Kyoto Gaidai right now, and it`s not too terribly horrible. I often find myself forgetting that I`m talking to my teacher and end up using plain form, but she`s cool and doesn`t care too much.

    All I can offer, though, is don`t be afriad to talk to people. If you say something wrong, they`ll correct you politely, and it`s a good learning experience.

    And even if you mess up, I`ve noticed that they`re still always amazed that you even try to speak Japanese to them, rather than just point, or (as I`ve seen and hear people do) ask flat out in English.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Nytyngayl View Post
    And even if you mess up, I`ve noticed that they`re still always amazed that you even try to speak Japanese to them,
    i get that all the time. i think its basically the mindset of the japanese and native english speakers are very different to begin with.

    english in this age has become the lingua franca of the world. although chinese is spoken by the most number of people, english is the language that is most taught as a 2nd language around the world. therefore, english is spoken by a wider spectrum of people.

    so to many native english speakers, if someone can speak english, it's not really that surprising. you just go, "you can speak english...i see." and if the non-native english speaker makes a mistake, sometimes you correct him/her.

    but on the other hand, japanese is only spoken by people in japan. no other country in this world uses it as its official language. therefore to the japanese, it is very unusual to say the least, to see a foreginer speaking japanese. so when they hear one speaking, they become so amazed at the fact that you CAN speak japanese to begin with, and just go, "WOW!! you can speak japanese", eventhough all you said was "excuse me how much is this?"

    even if you make grammatical mistakes they'll just ignore it. like i said, they're so impressed at the fact that you can speak any japanese at all, that stuff like that won't bother them.

    so, have fun when you come here. don't be afraid to speak. make as many mistakes as you can and learn from them. you are white. you stick it out in the crowd. you are the foreigner so if you do anything wrong, they'll forgive you so don't worry

    p.s. when i meant do something wrong, i meant grammatical mistakes or cultural mistakes like going into someone's house with your shoes on....not stealing or robbing someone lol.....i know you know. i'm covering my @$$ just in case
    Last edited by tetekmakhang; 05-02-2008 at 06:56 AM.

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    Rofl I'll definitely make as many mistakes as I can...calling my prof ちゃん and whatnot XD (nah, just kidding, I know what you said, but that's how I read it XD)

    OK, I'll definitely keep that in mind. I really do want to improve my speaking skills, but I'm a bit embarassed over how bad they are now, and I found out last night that I have to take an oral test when I get to KyotoDai (where I'm going to be for 3 weeks), although it doesn't count for much. But I guess there's no way to improve other than practise, eh? Hopefully I'll actually do what I say this time though :'(
    日本語をならっている。 まちがえれば、おねがい知らせてください~!

    Quote Originally Posted by Paraphrased from LavaBug
    I remember that day 'cause it's Sailor Mercury's birthday...or is it my mom's?

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    I'll be heading to Japan on May 19 for five days of semi-diplomatic duty before taking three weeks' worth of holiday (starting May 24). Perhaps we could meet up for a cuppa in Tokyo? (I'll be staying in Saitama for a bit)

    一級の取れる外国人生徒は滅多にないから正直少しは驚きました。まあ敬語とかはあまり気にせず、気楽で日本 にいる時間を過ごしたらどうですか?常に丁寧語で行けば安全だと思いますが、私に対してそんな遠慮はいりま せん。

    じゃまなね~

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    I live in Saitama and work in Tokyo. Where will you be based?

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    @Peardruid: I wouldn't have had a clue about what you said if I didn't have Rikaichan on my FFX XD Even as it is, I still barely have a clue, except it was something about Keigo which I haven't learned yet (Keigo isn't taught in my school until Japanese 5 which I am unfortunately going to have to wait till January '10 to take even though I'm already finished Japanese 4...my school is stupid...)

    @PookyChan: I think my prof (who's organized the trip) said we're going to be staying near Tokyo Tower, but it's unlikely I'll be around the hotel for anything more than sleeping, showering, and internet access. Short of that, I'll be...around XD

    But in all seriousness, I'll probably be spending the most time in Shibuya, I'm guessing. That is to say, I'll be spending maybe 30% of my time in Shibuya, since there's so much other stuff I want to see too XD
    日本語をならっている。 まちがえれば、おねがい知らせてください~!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ertai87 View Post
    But in all seriousness, I'll probably be spending the most time in Shibuya, I'm guessing. That is to say, I'll be spending maybe 30% of my time in Shibuya, since there's so much other stuff I want to see too XD
    shibuya? there's really that much in shibuya? like what? i could spend at the most about a day over there. i mean, like you have clothes shops....but if you want to look at japanese fashion, harajuku would be a better place.
    if you want to go to an arcade, then the one in odaiba is waaayy better. as for electronics....how can u forget akihabara.

    im not really sure if theres really anything that great there.... after a day (or maybe in just a few hours) you'll run out of things to do in shibuya...trust me.

    im sure therell be some ppl wholl say the opposite...in which case i certainly most welcome such comments. my university is like only 20 mins by train from shibuya, and if theres something that ive missed out on, please do tell me
    Last edited by tetekmakhang; 05-06-2008 at 01:57 PM.

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    Well, I'm only gonna be in Tokyo for 3 days, so 30% of the time is...yeah XD

    I forgot about Akihabara...I'm probably going to be spending a lot of time there too...where are the good video game and manga shops in Tokyo? XD
    日本語をならっている。 まちがえれば、おねがい知らせてください~!

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    I would actually spend time in Shibuya to see fashion than in Harajuku. Harajuku is getting too touristy. You COULD do a whole day in shibuya, but I wouldn't recommend it. It's close to harajuku and shinjuku, so there in plenty to do in the area.

    For video games, any electronic shop will do. And for manga, any book store. There are plenty of places in Akihabara to check out as well. But akiba can be a bit overpriced.

    My fav walking tour starts from Ueno, down the Ameyoko shopping streets of Okachimachi, and into Akiba. Did it the other day, actually!

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    A good full day tour is to go to Asakusa, check out Sensoji temple and the shopping district around it, and then take a ferry down Sumida river from Asakusa, to Hama-rikyu (Tokugawa era park) [Costs about 900 yen, includes park admission). Once you leave Hama-rikyu, you can see the buildings in Shiodome, and then take the Yurikamome line train (check out the first car of this train, its fully automated, no driver) over the Rainbow Bridge to Odaiba, the home of Sega Joypolis (and a very interesting mall) and the Tokyo Big Sight. The view of the Tokyo skyline from Odaiba is quite nice.

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    Well suggestions for Tokyo have already been made a few and all are worthwhile (tokyo is a big city, I live here for 7 months and still haven't seen all of it ^^)
    If you mainly plan to stay in Kyoto, and are interested in Akihabara-like areas I suggest a day trip to Osaka and then look for "denden-town".
    I forget what the part of the city that one is in is called (I think it was shinsaibashi). My personal estimation is, that it has a bigger variety of shops,
    and it not so much focused on tourism therefore feels more natural than akihabara. I daresay it even is a little bigger than akihabara, but I leave that comparison to other people. Osaka also has america-mura and dotonbori which you might wanna check out.

    In Kyoto, there is an area, like a few blocks...around shijo kawaramachi which has shopping arcades. stores, a lot of shrines and temples implemented in those arcades and also an animate and melon book store.
    Also of course it features a lot of temples/shrines and stuff, and most of which are really very nice to look at (but don't visit more than 2 temples a day, otherwise they all start to look the same after a while ^^)

    Also the Kansai area is a fairly good place to learn and apply Japanese and meet some people who are really genuinely interested in you.
    Tokyo in that matter, is to an degree different, because here people are less relaxed and more distanced. Also if they can, they always talk to you in english, if they can which is tempting, but will not help you.
    About Keigo and stuff, don't worry, in stores you just need to understand certain things (which will come automatically if you went there a few times), but can basically talk as colloqial as you like (you're the customer after all).
    As long as your Japanese is understandable it will do, unless you look asian, people will know, that you try.

    P.s pooky, we still need to hang sometime (and a know I can say that in pm too :P)
    Last edited by LavaBug; 05-06-2008 at 10:14 PM.

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    @PookyChan: I'd be staying at Izumidai in Ageo City (call it 1.5kms from the Okegawa Station on the Takasaki Line) with an old couple for three weeks or so. I'll be gallivanting across the country sometime, but I'll be spending much time in Tokyo, particularly at Waseda University and one of its attached high schools (where I'm doing an informal immersion-like thing) in Shibuya district.

    @Ertai: If you're keen on walking around Akihabara, I'm your man! (I can't seem to remember much about it, since I last went in 2006, but I'd love to just shop till I drop over there). I'll probably be spending some time in Shibuya as well - anytime convenient for you'll be great for me.

    Oh and I just realized that they closed the Gundam Museum in Chiba. What a pity. I had a swell time eating a desert decorated with a picture of a pink Haro drawn with sauce. (It's called 「ラクスの休日」, if you can believe that).

    I'll also be heading over to the infamous shrine sometime, as well as the museum. I'd been there last time, but had to leave early. This time I'd like to take another look. Any takers? XD

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    I'd like to meet some people over there actually. For anyone living in any of the areas I'll be in (pretty much Tokyo and Kyoto) and wants to hang out, PM me some contact info...I'd give mine but I don't know what it is yet XD Since I'm going as a school trip (with 11 other people including my prof), I don't know how much time I'll have or if I'll be able to do anything by myself, but if I do, I'll let you know

    Also, I'll have to write down those tour recommendations. I have a map of Tokyo, but the streets aren't well labelled, so I might have to figure it out as I go along XD My plan was to take the Yamanote in a full circle and call that the end XD
    日本語をならっている。 まちがえれば、おねがい知らせてください~!

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    @pear: aaah, good ol' takasaki line. You'll be in a bit of the inaka; nearly 2 hours from Tokyo, but definitely doable. I commute through the waseda area daily and change trains at Takadanobaba station, so I'll be free for drinks if you area.

    @lava: ramen in shibuya again? ;D I might be going to nagano this weekend, but I'll ask G.


    cruising around the yamanote IS one way to do it! Each station is so different and has its own character.

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    Well apparently my prof has set a schedule for what we're doing in Tokyo. We have 1 free day, but that's gonna be mostly filled up with shopping in Akiba...lots of stuff I want to buy XD

    Also, I was wondering: I looked at a JR map today and I noticed that a couple of the places I wanted to visit are pretty far away. I wanted to visit Hiroshima to see the memorial statue thingy and Kobe to see what's so great about their beef. Is there an easy/cheap way to get to either of these places from Kyoto? We're not supposed to activate our JR passes until we leave Kyoto, after which we go North (I noted both of these places are south-ish)
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    Shinkansen would be the fastest, I think. Hiroshima is not too close to Kyoto unfortunately.

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    actually kyoto, kobe and oosaka are next to each other. about 1 hour apart (or just slightly more depending on which station you come from me) by normal train . so you wouldn't need to take the shinkansen. but unfortunately for hiroshima...it's way down south.

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    OK, so I'll have to do Hiroshima another time, I guess...how much would it cost to get from Kyoto to Kobe (return trip) by train? I'm just trying to plan what I'm doing on weekends XD
    日本語をならっている。 まちがえれば、おねがい知らせてください~!

    Quote Originally Posted by Paraphrased from LavaBug
    I remember that day 'cause it's Sailor Mercury's birthday...or is it my mom's?

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    ((You're visiting Kyodai? Ah, I envy you, that's a beautiful school. If you'd come to Waseda I could have shown you around :P.))

    I know this isn't exactly what you'd travel halfway across the globe for but if you go to Akihabara you must try one of those Turkish Kebabs they sell at the stands. They're not even that fabulously good, really, but I make it a point to eat one every time I go there, so, er.

    I haven't been to much of the Kansai area, but one thing about Tokyo is that always surprises me the most is that, despite everything, people actually live here (well, obviously). You can walk out of the busiest cities in town and right into a beautiful park or the suburbs, especially around the Imperial Palace.
    "If a person who indulges in gluttony is a glutton, and a person who commits a felony is a felon, then God is an iron."

    -Spider Robinson, God Is an Iron

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    Yeah, I noticed that when I was doing my presentation (everyone going on the trip had to do a presentation, and mine was on Tokyo with another guy). I found it surprising that Tokyo had so much green space (or park space anyway). I'm from a big city but there are very few parks here, and what parks there are are usually no more than a block large.
    日本語をならっている。 まちがえれば、おねがい知らせてください~!

    Quote Originally Posted by Paraphrased from LavaBug
    I remember that day 'cause it's Sailor Mercury's birthday...or is it my mom's?

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