4 months before trip to Japan!

I am a true beginner (just finished level 1 of WaniKani). I am going to Japan in 4 months. My goal is to be able to read basic things like signs, menus, etc. (and if I’m lucky, pronounce them properly too!). Should I just keep powering through 4 month’s worth of WaniKani? Any tips or tricks for this specific scenario would be much appreciated!


If you are a native English speaker, practice lots of katakana.

Also, the kanji that you learn in your first few levels will frequently be found in signs. Usually, there will be English right next to it, but it is still a joy to recognize directions and places in Japanese.

Good luck here!


Going for a holiday or a long trip (study or work)? Ploughing along with Wanikani is probably good in either case, but it would also be good to pick up some spoken or listening basics. ‘Aisatsu’ = standard greetings and phrases, are more common and useful than in English. You could try some free YouTube beginners or tourist Japanese,

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Nah you want to be grinding vocab and set phrases. I don’t know if there’s specific anki decks for travellers but wanikani definitely takes you on the scenic route, content wise, and at a pretty relaxed pace.


Most signs in the cities will have English, so you don’t need to read that much.

Most menus will have pictures or there will be an English menu.

Speaking and listening is much more important.
Definitely learn set phrases for stuff like ordering.


I am planning to go this April, one month there, I hope I can do it.

About the daily life, you can find even in rural areas all the info in English, from stations to restaurants, really helpful. I’m told they changed a lot since the world cup 2002, before that it was a nightmare.

In my experience there, the only place I didnt see anything in English, even for road signs, was in shimabara, even to show a distance in a board it was written 2キロ :sweat_smile:

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Get all the practice you can before the trip, but also don’t sweat it.

You’re there to enjoy yourself.


Most signs are in Japanese and English. As for menus, something like a Japanese food deck would be better. I started making one on Renshuu.org, but it’s pretty incomplete. Drops (there’s an app and desktop, but desktop version never had working sound for me) has foods with photos, so that would probably be better. LingoLegends (app) probably has more foods but sans picture representations.

4 months of WK probably wouldn’t be very helpful because you’ll be stuck with a lot of irrelevant vocab and kanji that’s unskippable.

Are you planning to drive? I might know of where to find an explanation of signs. The road construction and slow down variations are good to know if you are driving.

If you are not a native English speaker, also practice lots of katakana.


Well, I thought these two sounded like spambots talking to each other…


During my trip to Japan I picked up some kanji from railway station names, because place names in Japan are very repetitive: lots of times you’ll see kanji like River, Town, North, East, West, South, New, Field, Low, High, Mountain… Most of these I learned just by looking up meanings of place names.

Right now I’m on level 4 and I’ve already encountered some of the simple kanji I had picked up from place names, namely: 田北川山.

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This one is gonna be hyper-specific but uh…look up the names of the transit lines for where you’re visiting. i.e. If you’re visiting Osaka, it wouldn’t hurt to know how to read 阪神 or 阪急, in addition to JR, because those are big transit companies and their names are used to differentiate between train and bus stations.

(AKA 阪急梅田 vs JR梅田, two very large train stations that are right next to each other in downtown Osaka, and that can be…very easy to mix up, if you don’t know to check which “Umeda” station you need XD)

Like everyone said, there will be English for 99% of signs you see, but if you want specific things to try and practice before then, train/bus lines are my recommendation :laughing:


Yes, and also major station names. Because even though all the public transport signs have English, with electronic signs you very often have to wait for the English to appear, and when it does, it only appears for a few seconds. So on many signs you see just kanji 80% of the time.

In this photo for example, to tell where each train is going, you need to either read the names in kanji or wait for them to change to English.

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Why not all the station names? :stuck_out_tongue:

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Oooh, and the different train types! Local vs. express, limited express, etc. Because making sure you get on the correct one of those is pretty important, and while they often have English labeling it’s not a guarantee.

Getting on the wrong train type can cause a lot of chaos, so definitely a good one to be able to read.


True! During my stay in Japan I didn’t learn the kanji for the train types, but I got away with learning the colors. On the particular lines that I used often, it was very useful to know that black means local. But knowing the kanji would have definitely helped.


Yeah, the colors are really useful – but the signs don’t always use the color-coding, and like you said the English goes by pretty fast. (I do love the colors though, they’re very convenient if you’re on a train line you’re already familiar with)

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Most of the time, I’ve been driving, but when using the trains, I could have sworn that they get equal time in (usually) Japanese, Chinese, Korean, and English. Being able to read 2-3 out of 4 helps but it’s not like it’s that long a wait usually.

It’s not too bad, to be fair…until you’re running late for something and need to know if the train that’s about to leave is the right one or not XD


Yeah but usually the platform signs list the destinations though