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One of the first thing to kick off my Japanese learning was the preparation a short trip to Japan last summer. I didn’t knew a single useful word (but thanks to anime, I was able to say “I want to kill you” in half a dozen way). And what was worst, I went alone.

My first thoughts were:

  • I want to be able to ask my way or for some help
  • I want to be able to find directions in the railway stations
  • I want to understand part of what was said to me in real life situation (ie at the hotel desk, at the restaurant, …)

To do so, I decided to learn hiragana and katakana, some basic spatial elements (i.e. left, right, across, toward, …) and some vocabulary list such as those in the Lonely Planet guide.


  • some basic useful vocabulary
  • a strong reason to learn hiragana and katakana and practice as much as was possible


  • No grammar. It’s great to grab the meaning but you can’t say a sentence (where hotel be ?)
  • an even worst pronunciation (sankyuu)
  • kanjis are everywhere

As a conclusion, I would say it was a good thing to do. Even in Tokyo, not so many people (seem to be) speak(ing) English. But what’s more important, it showed me what I had to do next and how much it would take!