30 Week Programme Prior to Japan Trip

Hi all

Can I have some advice please? I started at the beginning of September to put together a program for a Japan trip with the family that starts on April 1 next year.

In terms of my experience during lockdown and prior to this summer I started wanikani. I got to level 11 but having taken the summer off I forgot everything so I reset to 0 at the beginning of September
I’m currently on level 4

This is what I’ve put together by way of a program to try and get the most like Japan trip. I can devote about 1-1.5 hours each day to learning Japanese.

  1. Wanikani-trying to go licketty split and crunch a level every ten days to a fortnight. I am hoping for early to mid level 20s so that most of the basic kanji will be familiar. So far it is working but I am aware once I get up into level 8 and beyond those kanji that don’t stick will slow me down. My late forties brain sometimes struggles with retention.
  2. I started three weeks ago to work through Level 1 absolute beginner Japanese course on the Innovative Language Learning app. I play this in the car and when walking the dog. So far enjoying this immensely, especially the tidbits about idiom and it is improving the listening and hearing side, as well as the survival stuff massively. I manage three lessons a week with the assessments.
  3. I start tomorrow on a Japanese face to face group course at my local college. It only runs for nine weeks and is two hours per week. We finish at Christmas. Our resources are the Usbourne picture book 1000 words and the Lonely Planet Pocket phrasebook. I wanted to find a native speaker and other enthusiasts IRL to keep me honest.
  4. Learn Japanese!! app on IOS. Just really for tracing out hiragana and katakana as my writing is poor and katakana reading is weak.

The below are extra and not daily more like weekly when I can squeeze them in

  1. Genki book and workbook level 1. More glancing at the convos and practising writing out in the back of workbook in the reading and writing session.

  2. Netflix and Prime. The Prime Japan series since it uses subtitles and also Samurai Gourmet because, if I am honest, this trip is a lot about the food for me and my kids.

I do have some experience in learning foreign languages and learnt Latin and Italian as an undergraduate as I was serious about doing a PhD in medieval history which I did complete. However, almost decades on I would say this is a whole different difficultly level (altho’ the Latin helps as it was a bear for weird grammar).

The other driver is I wanted my kids to see the value of life long learning and being curious and enthusiastic about exploring new things is better demonstrated than inculcated. My littlest 10 loves languages and is, I know, observing my struggles with not a little interest.

I wanted to know is the balance of this primarily self taught program ok and more importantly will we be able to make the very most of the 3 week trip based on it? Any missing gaps or material above you think I should give a miss? I never get more than half an hour intervals (bar the group class) to study, so I am very very keen on efficiency above all else.


A few years back, I had a similar run on a visit to Japan. Somewhat randomly, here are some things from my study that helped:

  1. Basic kanji recognition. For street signs, and in terminals.
  2. Fluency with currency.
  3. Whatever speaking you want to do for your own development and enjoyment.
  4. Basic greetings and polite interactions.

So many people in customer service roles are quite skilled in English. People liked seeing that I was communicating in Japanese, but they clearly also saw us as opportunities to practice their own English.
The one thing that I am glad I practiced was kansai dialect. We were in Kyoto the entire time. I could do about 1 minute of convincing conversation untill it all fell apart. :face_with_hand_over_mouth:

It is so hard to know exactly what


I think the app Drops would probably be perfect. It can help with kanji recognition and it’s also got sections for food and tourist destinations (Kansai and Tokyo primarily) that you can focus on. I’m not a fan of the pictures they use for food, but they might help introduce you to new ones or teach you the kanji for ones you know. The free version is limited to 5min per 10h but that sounds like it’d fit well in your routine


Thanks will give drops a whirl. The specific kanji food items will help immensely.


I hope you enjoy! The food is under two sections at least- a general food section and a Japanese specifics section

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Interesting re learning to speak about what interests you. I will dig deeper on the stuff close to my heart which is basically food and plants. We are all over the place, some days in Tokyo, some in Kyoto and some in Miyajima and Hakone as well as Hiroshima. I have the the vaguest hope of returning for some more intensive learning and a tour of Hokkaido as that is the area that really thrills me.

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I am sorry my earlier comment got cut off on the way out the door to work.

The real challenge is finding ways to get into conversations.

My most common conversation was this:


That’s it. Most of the time, people are busy doing what they are doing, and there is no excuse to interact with them.

We managed to have some conversations, but we had a strategy to make it happen, which I can recall and share later…

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You should consider getting a bit of basic grammar in there.

Personally, I have been making my way through this YouTube playlist. Just one video a day should be enough.

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Just watched the first one. This series is brill!!

This made me laugh. I found in Italy I had to use the equivalent of あの since people registered me first as Japanese (I’m actually British Born Chinese and dont’t speak a lick of Cantonese or Mandarin). Then repeat whatever I was saying three times. The first to get them to realise not Japanese, the second so they could process why is this Japanese lady speaking I think Italian to me in a really English accent?, and the last time to get my message across. Persistence definitely paid off.

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I forgot to reply more originally, sorry.

I had already decided that I was going to be unafraid to engage in conversation in Japan. So I just went all in, gleefully making many embarrassing language mistakes. But I obeyed all the social rules, and people were helpful with language. I managed to get into conversations every day there.

Some of my conversation starters won’t work for everyone, but here are some that worked.

  1. Crafts fair. We went to a temple that has been having a big crafts market once a month for 400 years. There are small vendors who will talk about what they make, which makes for more conversation than a food market. It was crowded, but when we found some of the less crowded areas it was even easier to have full-blown conversations. This was the most conversation I had in one day.
  2. A conversation starter on your person. Something that will cause someone to approach you and engage you in conversation. It could be a shirt with some American character that some Japanese are nuts about. For me, it was a 1950’s Yashica D twin reflex camera. Elderly people have more time for conversation than the young, and some of them remember these cameras. I had maybe 6 people approach me to talk camera with me, who had actually shot one of these cameras back in the 50’s.
  3. We made regular conversation with the gal who cleaned our room. It helped that the storage room was across the hall from us. I bought her chocolate for Valentines day, and wrote a card in Japanese. When we returned to the room later, there was a nice thank you note, with kanji drawn nearly as poorly as my own.
  4. Brainstorm about how you are going to get in conversations in Japanese. Evaluate what works each day. I will try to think of more things that worked for me.
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