Moving to Japan soon!

Hi all, I will be moving to Japan in September to finish my integrated masters degree from Edinburgh UK. This is not a lot of time and I’m wondering if anyone has any tips for a novice to learn quickly and efficiently so that I’m not overwhelmed by Japan and can actually survive outside of the science lab… Thanks!


Just watch Steins; Gate and don’t even leave the lab!


Where are you moving to exactly? How long have you been studying Japanese?

1 Like

Tip number one: the words どうぞ, どうも and すみません will get you through basically any social situation known to man. :slightly_smiling_face:


It depends on your goal and how much free time you have.

If you just want survival Japanese outside the lab and don’t have much time at all, I would go with a very basic introductory book/ phrase book and just learn those. It’s a little bit more involved than @Belthazar’s solution, but basically does the same thing.

If you want to actually go beyond survival and have more time, I’d definitely go up to at least N5 level (beginner), which should be possible until September. You could even shoot for N4 (upper beginner/lower intermediate) if you are dedicated and have enough time. In that case, you would need to learn:

  • kanji up to level ~16 on WK
  • go through a basic textbook (genki I, minna no nihongo I, etc)
  • learn some vocab, either through said textbook or a more specific one (e.g., à JLPT vocabulary practice book, level N5 first, then N4)
  • practice some listening. That can be done through stuff like Japanesepod101 (which has a free option)
  • once you have some basics in place (near N5) you should practice reading as well, using graded readers level 0 (easiest), then, as time allows, level 1.

Reading that back, I feel the main problem would be budget as well. Most of those are expensive, especially if you do not really care about learning Japanese beyond the basics. In any case, I’d recommend going through the free levels on WK, checking your university library for stuff like Genki I and other books, and taking advantage of the free trial and free account at Japanesepod101.

I hope it helps!


You could train in the old fashion
Get a Manga that has furigana (hiragana transcription of kanji), get the Akebi app (first download everything, then you can use it as an offline dictionary !) To create list of vocabulary and add the word you don’t know in a list.
Then you can use this list as flashcard to learn those words.

1 Like

Practice your jikoushoukai (self introduction). You want 3-5 sentences that includes your name, where you’re from, why you’re here, how long you’ll be here, and your interest/hobby. And practice, practice, practice it! Until you can fire it off without warning in front of an important person or a crowd. Until you can say it when you’re drunk at a party and get pulled to a stage.


I’m afraid I’ll probably never leave the lab to be honest, it’s like a black hole :stuck_out_tongue: I hadn’t heard of Steins;gate before and it looks like something I’d really enjoy, thanks!!

I will be moving to Nagoya, and I’ve been teaching myself for a few weeks now, so I’m pretty confident with recognising each of the hirigana and katakana but I have no vocab yet

Thank you!

Wow this is very helpful! I will have a lot of time this summer after I finish my exam and while I know there won’t be loads of free time when I move I’d quite like to say I can at least be conversational and impress everyone when I move back to the UK. I hadn’t thought about checking out my university library for textbooks! Thank you!!


Thank you! I’ve not really ever read any Manga but I’d quite like to start. Are there any that you recommend? What’s a good one for beginners, or what’s your favourite?

Thanks! Yes that does sound like a good thing to get sorted! Thank you!

よろしくお願いします(yoroshiku onegaishimasu) is also a pretty useful expression. You can use it as polite ‘‘pleased to meet you’’ at the end of an introduction, or as an email closing sentence, or just ‘‘please and thank you’’… you’ll hear/use that expression a lot I think. If anything, you’ll earn brownie points with your peers for using it ^^

1 Like

You’ll probably pick this up pretty quickly in Japan, but use a slight bow of the head when you say these. As a matter of fact, repeatedly bowing your head while mumbling can extricate you from pretty much any awkward situation. :wink:


Nagoya is a city I didn’t spent any time in when I was recently over there, but reality is all the major cities are fairly English friendly. Train stations have lots of English signage, station staff speak reasonably good English, etc. You can buy stuff at a conbini without having to say a word of anything, really. Plenty of restaurants have an English menu. So from a survival standpoint, you’ll be fine :wink:

With respect to the language - number one thing is to accept that it’s going to be difficult and take a long time. Have to be steady and get a little better every day.

Biggest suggestion I’d have is to work on listening from day one. In my experience, if someone is going to speak Japanese to you it’s all or nothing. I’ve recommended it elsewhere, but something like Shadowing: Let’s Speak Japanese might be a pretty good resource. Lots of recordings of brief statements or interactions, at native speed, with Japanese and English transcriptions. Should help acclimate to the speech speed and style.

You can also get an app like HelloTalk if you want to practice using the language and interacting with native speakers. Active use of the language is important.


For speaking at least,

  1. Focus on conversation
  2. Pronunciation and intonation matter.
  3. KEIGO (polite language) may seem like a pain early on, but if you don’t understand it when you get there, you won’t understand shop staff.
1 Like

Sorry, I tend to thing that people learning Japanese knows manga :stuck_out_tongue:

Read the first tome of Dragon Ball. The vocabulary is not that complicated, and you will learn funny think like パフパフ :D
I’m actually watching the anime, and even without the subtitle, it’s really easy :wink:

After that, I recomend you to read One Piece. There’s about 80 tomes but you should at least know a little about it it part of the Japanese culture now :wink:

But you can read other book.
For example, I’m reading a book for children in primary school :

It “Bibliography to read in ten minutes”, it’s a good start for a beginner !
It has a lot of katakana and the furigana’s are easily readable (Which is not always the case in managa’s)
(Don’t jorget your jishou or Akebi :wink: )

PS : Don’t forget, book for children are less expensive :wink: Don’t be afraid to read them :wink:

1 Like

Thanks so much for your suggestions! Really helpful!

1 Like

No problem !
By the way, I don’t know if you know but NHK did a lot of free Japanese lesson !

(You can have them in a lot of different languages :wink: )

1 Like