Question about a trip to Japan regarding language!

I’m planning a trip to Japan this Christmas, and it got me thinking. How much Kanji would I need to be able to read once I’m actually there? Which Wanikani level would be enough for a casual week trip to Japan?

Level 1, especially if you’re sticking to the bigger cities where signage tends to have English on them ass well. Reading generally isn’t a huge priority, and most people are super friendly and helpful if you need help with anything.

I see, but I also want to be able to find my way around cities and at the least bit be able to summarize a text box’s information in my head without too much assistance. I was thinking I’d have to reach somewhere around level 16-17 to be comfortable enough. Thank you!

The problem you’ll probably encounter is that at level 16 or 17 you’ll be able read all the boilerplate info and then not know how to read the actually content words that are unique to whatever info you want.

This is what confuses me about the people who say “80% of conversations use 20% of the words!” as if you don’t have to learn much… but that’s because most of the words in any sentence just act as scaffolding for the content.


I see what you mean from this. I’ll have to put context into play then.

I went for two weeks a couple years ago. We had a pocket wifi so we could have GPS. No issues getting around (other than that one day where the pocket wifi died).
In more rural areas it got a bit tricky, as the signage was completely devoid of English, but don’t recall ever really struggling to get around. My Japanese was (and is) very poor, and Kanji was very very low.
Of course things like Enter, Exit, No Entry, Bathroom, etc, are good to know.


IMO you don’t need any Kanji while traveling in big cities…sure it would be nice but for a “casual week trip” in touristy places, English is everywhere especially with the Olympics coming.

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Both of you hold a good point, and from what I read right now my original predictions for travelling proficiency were too far-fetched. I just never want to be “that” tourist (as someone that grew up in korea i would know) and I really don’t want to piss the natives off if I’m so clueless of my surroundings that I’m constantly asking for directions and help.

Sure, I had a few people not even look at me, and wave me off. But, the vast majority were more than happen to help. Even got approached a few times when I guess I was looking lost/confused.
Just be polite and respectful, and everyone will be cool. But, people will also not call you out if you’re rude/disrespectful. So more so than not having to ask for help, just brush up a bit on customs/etiquette/etc if you’re truly worried about being “that person”

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Also, if you’re really worried about getting lost, I highly recommend using Google Maps. It works great in Japan and it’ll even tell you the cost of public transportation. I used it all the time when I was travelling in Tokyo and Kyoto and it always gave me perfect directions.

I also find that even in smaller cities, most of the signage has English. You really have to go relatively rural to have signs in only Japanese.

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