Japan is one of the most beautiful and modern countries on the planet. It is easy to get around thanks to their very efficient and fast rail links, the food is delicious, and their history is extremely interesting despite the fact it is largely limited to samurai stereotypes in Western culture. Even looking at the numbers from the online travel agency JustFly makes it clear that Japan is a remarkably popular destination with JustFly’s customers. But one thing that wasn’t covered in this JustFly review is an issue with Japan that I can relate to.
As a resident of Montreal, Quebec, I more or less moved into a French enclave lodged in the heart of an English-speaking country. While this does present difficulties, I can safely say I have never been caught in a situation that couldn’t be resolved with some patience. Japan’s biggest issue if you ask anyone is the clear and present language barrier that can lead to many unsettling situations where you feel completely helpless.
Outside of Japan’s aforementioned rail system, which is very tourist friendly, the day to day happenings of Japan are locked behind a language barrier that most westerners would have no chance to decipher. Unlike a language like French or Spanish, tourists from predominantly English-speaking countries have next to no exposure to the Japanese language. This is because there is no option or requirement to study languages like Japanese in Canadian or American public schools. This is contrary to languages like French or Spanish, which are offered as second languages courses. In fact in most parts of Canada, it is required for students to take mandatory French courses throughout elementary school and into high school. While few students come out of these courses as fluent speakers of French, they can at least manage some basic communication whereas Japan is completely foreign. Add in the fact Japan uses a completely different alphabet and you have a recipe for disaster.
So, what can you do to lessen the stress and make your trip to Japan a little easier? Firstly, I’d recommend travel insurance. It never hurts to have a good safety net in case you get truly screwed up while on vacation. Travel insurance can be easily purchased from your travel agency, including online travel agencies like JustFly. Secondly, book your rail passes before you make the trip. Not only are they cheaper, but it gives you a chance to grab tickets for more spacious seating. Thirdly, it may be a junky app, but Google Translate is a must download before you head out. You may sound like an idiot, but you should be able to give people an idea of what you are looking for. Lastly, and this is incredibly important, print out the name and address of your accommodations in Japanese. This is a no brainer as you’ll need to explain your address to cabbies, and they will have a way easier time reading it in their native language.
Japan will continue to be a hot destination for travellers booking with JustFly and other travel agencies. With the info given in this article I hope you can make the best of it and hopefully dodge the language barrier that has hampered many people’s vacations. For more information on fares to and from Japan, check out JustFly.