Visiting Japan Without Speaking Japanese



Rob Dyer promo The Real Japan

I hope you enjoy reading this post.
If you need help planning your Japan trip
click here.

Visiting Japan without speaking Japanese can be a daunting prospect for many. But it needed be so. Let me explain why... 

Around the start of last year, I discovered the blog West Coast To Far East

It's run by an interesting guy called Sean who, rather impressively, relocated in 2016 with his family - all the way from Hollywood U.S.A. to the mountains of Hida Takayama, in Japan's rural Gifu Prefecture. 

West Coast To Far East

I really liked how Sean's posts and YouTube videos focused on sharing his personal experiences and thoughts about his new life - good and bad - as he was experiencing them.

It isn't your average "I've been there and done that and here's how you can too" shtick. Far from it.

What especially makes Sean's content so engaging is his honesty and willingness to admit he doesn't have all the answers. That, several years on, he's still finding his feet in Japan.

West Coast to Far East blog The Real Japan Rob Dyer

West Coast to Far East blog

Visiting Japan without speaking Japanese

Visiting Japan for the first time can be a daunting experience. Add in potential language challenges and cultural differences – it might give you some cause for concern before your first big adventure here.

It's the No.1 topic first-timers to Japan ask me about. My post, Japan Without Japanese: How To Travel In Japan When You Don’t Speak Japanese, is the most read post on my site. So I wrote a book How to Travel in Japan Without Speaking Japanese. After reading my book on the subject, Sean and I got to talking about the challenges of travelling in Japan.

Want to learn Japanese?

Rocket Languages are experts in online language learning.

With them, you won't just be taking a language course. You'll be developing a deeper connection and understanding of the Japanese people, places and culture.

You are less than 60 seconds away from getting started.

Take a free trial to see what it’s all about and why they have over 2 million satisfied customers

Once you’ve signed up, you’ll have access to several sample lessons, an exclusive discount, and more!

Etiquette in Japan The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Sean invited me onto his YouTube channel to chat more about the themes in my book and to exchange experiences, discuss our personal insights and share some tips with you on visiting Japan without speaking Japanese.

Takahashi The Real Japan Rob Dyer

A series of 3 videos

Over a series of three videos we explore some of the challenges when visiting Japan without speaking Japanese. We share our combined experience, offering solutions that you can use to ensure your first or next trip to Japan is the best it can be.

And we share some personal anecdotes along the way, which we hope with encourage, inform or amuse as we go.

If you enjoy these videos and have any Japan travel related topics you like me to cover in future, please let me know by leaving a comment at the bottom of the page.

Japan Without Japanese Audiobook The Real Japan Rob Dyer

How to Travel in Japan Without Speaking Japanese

NEW! Audiobook Edition

NEW! A practical audiobook covering all the essentials
PLUS: 10-page printable PDF travel planner
No Japanese? No problem! 

Video 1 - Introductions and Travel FAQs

In this first video we get to learn a little about each other and discuss some of the most common concerns and questions people have about visiting Japan. Especially when you don't speak the language.

Insights you’ll get from watching Part 1

  • Why I started The Real Japan
  • How living in Japan changed Sean's perceptions of the challenges of traveling
  • The perceived language barrier and some ideas on how to overcome that
  • Japanese hospitality (omotenashi)
  • Why travelling in foreign countries rewards even just a little effort
  • Using phrasebooks and translation apps
  • How my subscribers' feedback has improved my book
  • Why preparation before you come to Japan can really pay off


Video 2 - Going With The Flow

In this second part, we touch on some of the amusing things that can occur while travelling, as well as these topics:

Insights you’ll get from watching Part 2

  • Preparing for a trip - mindset and practical tips
  • Navigating Japan's huge train stations
  • Using taxis with Japan's difficult address system
  • Not being afraid of 'getting lost'
  • Building in time to wander - without a plan
  • Not researching everything in advance
  • Tips on avoiding crowds of tourists
  • Getting off-the-beaten-path

Video 3 - Interacting With Locals

In this final video, we discuss how to get the most out of interacting with locals, as well as these topics:

Insights you’ll get from watching Part 3

  • Exploring the big city
  • Interacting with the locals
  • What to do when you leave your toothbrush at home
  • Finding a pharmacy in Hagi
  • Being a 'wild foreigner'
  • Using body language
  • Interacting etiquette


I hope you find our chat interesting and that you get some useful tips you can use in planning your own adventures.


How to Travel in Japan Without Speaking Japanese

There's loads more on this topic in my book How to Travel in Japan Without Speaking Japanese.

If you want to travel in Japan but don't speak Japanese you can learn more about my book HERE.

How to travel in Japan without speaking Japanese ebook The Real Japan Rob Dyer

Rob Dyer The Real Japan

About the Author

A writer and publisher from England, Rob has been exploring Japan’s islands since 2000. He specialises in travelling off the beaten track, whether on remote atolls or in the hidden streets of major cities. He’s the founder of

Liked this post? Please share this image... ↓

Visiting Japan Without Speaking Japanese Rob Dyer The Real Japan West Coast to Far East

Pin Me!

Are you planning a trip to Japan? Have any questions? If so - leave a comment below.


Leave A Comment / Ask A Question

Book Your Trip: Japan Travel Essentials

Click to See My Recommendations

Book Your Flight
Find the best flight by using Skyscanner. It's my go-to flight search engine because it has the most comprehensive global search options.

Book Your Accommodation
I frequently use as they consistently offer the cheapest rates and most flexible cancellation options for hotels and guesthouses. Use Hostelworld if you're looking for budget-priced options.

Book Your Japan Rail Pass
The best official agent by a country mile is Clear and easy to use website. Excellent customer service.

Book Your WiFi
I never travel in Japan without pocket WiFi. Get Ninja WiFi for unlimited internet everywhere, use Google Maps, supports up to 10 devices.

Book Your SIM Card or eSIM
Order your physical
SIM Cards or eSIMs to stay connected and in touch while in Japan.

Book Your Hire Car
Rent a car in Japan without speaking or reading Japanese via's Car Rental portal.

Ready To Book Your Trip?
Check out my Recommended Japan Travel Resources. The list covers all the essentials. It’s filled with carefully selected travel resources. And I only include the best travel resources - those I use myself or recommend to my clients.

Need Help Planning Your Trip?
Japan Travel Store includes essential travel items as well as my books, travel guides and more.

Leave A Comment / Ask A Question

  • Jill Allen says:

    Watashi wa sukoshi Nihongi o shitte imasu
    I can only speak a little Japanese .
    This phrase can help greatly , just by learning a few basic phrases to help along the way on your journey can make a world of difference.
    In the big cities English is widely understood , but up in the countryside and off the beaten track then it isn’t used and a few phrases can certainly help
    Japanese people are patient and tolerant and if they hear you are trying to speak their language , even a little bit then it paves the way.
    Sumimasen, Nihongo ga wakarimasen.
    I’m sorry but I don’t speak Japanese .
    Give it a try ! You’ll be surprised ! 👍

    • Thanks for sharing those two great suggestions Jill!

      A little Japanese can go a long way, but it can also help those who don’t speak English understand the extent of your language limitations.

  • Even the littlest effort seemingly without worth at all seems appreciated by locals Rob. I love the message here. I see it in rural Panama daily. I speak Spanish semi-fluently but even carrying on a casual chat with not dazzling grammar – LOL – makes people light up, because few Panamanians here speak any English….as to be expected. It makes people happy when you try to speak their language because they realize and appreciate the discomforts and fears arising in your attempt.


    • Thanks Ryan, yeah that’s very much my experience.

      My wife and I also love travelling in Greece, and I still take my old phrasebook with me everytime (I’m a bit old school like that – prefer a book over an app).

      My Japanese is minimal but I can get by, and in the mor off the beaten path places you sometimes see the delight in people’s faces (especially older folk) that you’re even attempting to communicate in their native language.

  • {"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}