Travelling to japan, how to learn in person?

Hello! I am travelling from Korea to Japan for 3 months in late November, and although I have spent over 6 months there already, I have never been since i started learning japanese.

I am not good at japanese speaking or grammar, but i have been trying to keep up with WK whilst I have been in Korea (3 months), I was wondering if anyone has any tips on how to profit from the immersion of being in the country properly. I keep hearing people say living in Japan will fast track learning, but I don’t really know what that means or what i should be doing! ideally i don’t wanna have to spend all my time in japan studying haha

thanks for any advice guys! Also I hope anyone else travelling to Japan this winter has an amazing time and if you see a british guy looking lost u never know it may be me XDD


Big question…

I guess, start with, try to listen. When you go to the combini there’s about 6 questions, do you have a point card? Are you over 20? Do you want this heated up? Do you want chopsticks? Do you want a bag? A new one is how will you pay (now that shock horror, there’s some card options!) It’s easy to be bamboozled and just stand there shaking your head confused. It’s also hard with masks on the and screens sometimes I have misheard and they have pointed to the thing instead of repeating it. Yes I know the Japanese, I just can’t hear a thing you just said. Might be the same in Korea these days.

So be ready for the questions to catch them and be able to reply properly. Bag? Fukuro iranai. Heated up? Kekko desu. Point card? Arimasen.

That’s a good starting point, I guess. Also buying tickets at the counter instead of the machine will give you a chance to work on your from here to there tomorrow by train at around 12pm, how much will it be skills.

Small talk with people at the right bars also goes a long way if you find someone who can tell you which ones to go to. No one wants to wander into the wrong Snack bar and end up spending a fortune on two drinks and a crappy appetizer plus massive cover charge.

Where are you going?


Living in Japan is more of fast track learning in the sense that the time it takes to master the language is decreased by large amount as opposed to studying outside of Japan. You already are getting immersed in the language as it is while living in Japan though the Japanese is different from region to region. In my opinion, the best way of learning very fast is going to a place where not a lot of people speak English, which is probably in the countryside but may not be an ideal travel spot either.

I’m not sure exactly where you want to travel to but let’s say in theory you go to Tokyo. It may be a little easier as you don’t have to learn as much of the other dialects such as Kansai dialect. Realistically speaking, it will take a while to master Japanese even while living in Japan (~2-3 years). Outside of Japan, this can take about roughly a little longer. Of course, this will all depend from person to person and their ambition to learn the Japanese language. As kellamity, mentions about the konbini questions you may get some questions along the lines of

ふくろだいじょうぶですか?Do you want a bag?

Of course the reply is
だいじょうぶです。If you don’t want one
はい。おねがいします。If you do

If you get a lunch at konbini

You can reply
だいじょうぶです。If you don’t want
おねがいします。If you do.

99.9% of the time you won’t really have this so just say

Also, if you plan on going to Osaka, I’m not sure if they use Kansai dialect but if that’s the case you may hear
いけますか? which is pretty much the same thing as だいじょうぶですか?
いけます = だいじょうぶです


Konpai your way to fluency.


Correct me if I’m wrong, but from you’re post I understand that you’ve been studying Japanese for about 3 months, right? In that case I recommend focusing your efforts on simple interactions like with service workers.

Try your best to do the interaction in Japanese (but don’t be disheartened if they switch to English, especially in touristy areas). When you go to a restaurant, reading the menu is great practice. Even if they give you the English menu, ask if you can also see the Japanese menu and compare the two. Maybe you can learn some new food words. Pay attention to the signs around you and try to read them.

Try to eavesdrop on the people next to you in a cafe (without being creepy). You probably won’t be able to understand much, but focus on what you can understand. Are they using desu/masu when they talk? Can you hear them using ne or deshou at the end of sentences? What things can you pick out?



Seems better to take it easy and just watch a lot of TV and spend time with lighthearted interaction with friends and neighbors. No sense in exhausting yourself.

It fascinates me that that is what most sticks out to you with Osaka-ben! :smile:

That I understood without too much trouble, but こうってきました (for 買ってきました) confused the heck out of me the first time I heard it. Wut? Something came frozen?

Emergency Osaka-ben:

〜へん = 〜いません (かまへん = かまいません, わからへん = わかりません)

や = だ

で = よ


関西弁:「そうやで! かまへんって!」

標準語: 「そうだよ!構いませんって!」

“That’s right. They said they don’t care!”


What will you be doing there? Traveling?

I would say the key thing to do is put yourself in situations where you can’t fall back on English so much. When I first moved there even though my office life was primarily English, I’d go out to eat frequently by myself. I happened upon an 赤提灯 bar/snack with seating for about 12 people max. The proprietor was very friendly and I became a regular to the point where, a year or two later, I went on an onsen trip with them and other regulars.

Another thing I did was when dating opportunities came up, I deliberately avoided girls who could speak more English than I could speak Japanese. But that kind of backfired on me. I ended up marrying a girl who doesn’t speak English and so have spent the last 20+ years speaking only Japanese at home. :weary: :rofl:

I also joined up with some international groups/friends that I found online. Even though there were many English speakers there were usually Japanese people there who didn’t speak so much English. They had various events. Riverside BBQs. Rural hiking. Dinners out or in people’s homes. etc.


How did you find these online groups? It sounds like a good idea.


The ‘fast-tracking’, in my experience, comes from a couple of things.

One, as many people have said, is exposure. You’ll get used to be asked about point cards, and bags, and chopsticks or straws, etc. It forces a lot more listening practice than you would get outside the country, even if your response is just a nod or a headshake, or if someone switches to English. (People definitely will, but you’re still gonna get plenty of practice, trust me.)
You’ll have road signs, and menus, and ads, and 間もなく or ドアーが閉まります。It turns your daily life into reading and listening exposure, not to mention speaking practice and getting punted in the deep end for vocabulary. (I say this with affection and also the deep knowledge that my own vocabulary knowledge is still abysmal.)

Secondly, from my experience, is just repetition. When I was studying in college, I might look a word up for my homework on Monday…and then not think about it again until Thursday. Or Friday. Or never. And so that word didn’t stick. But when you’re hearing or using a word on a literal daily basis, you get so much more exposure to it. You’re not one-and-done looking it up for homework, you’re looking it up and then potentially using it throughout your day or week, and that has a big impact, at least for me personally.

And while I absolutely understand the desire to not be studying the whole time, I would encourage you to do whatever small amounts of studying you have the time for in between cool sight-seeing and experiences. Your best bet for actually cementing new grammar and vocabulary is to use it, so that you improve your own understanding and mental muscle memory with it, so taking a brand-spanking-new bit of vocabulary and trying to put it into practice is actually a great way to make sure you understand it and can recall it when you want to.
(I readily admit that using new grammar in actual conversation is incredibly nerve-wracking but it is, in fact, really helpful.)

Also, from my experience people are very kind about the Lost Looking Foreigner Who Needs Help With Something Silly. Granted I’m living in Kansai, near Osaka, which apparently has a reputation for being a more friendly area than, say, central Tokyo. But I’ve had people offer to help me when they thought I looked confused (buying train tickets) and met some very kind people when I did need help (fixing a different set of train tickets that I did, in fact, mess up). I can’t guarantee there won’t be some jerks out there, but don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it, even if that requires a lot of charades and google translate.


In my opinion, living in Japan doesn’t really fast track learning all that much. It gives you some more opportunities to improve and use it, but honestly for the situation most people find themselves in I don’t think it makes much of a difference on its own. It’s a plus for sure, just not a really big deal imo.

I think that if people were to notice some big jump in their rate of acquiring the language, it would probably stem more from their mindset than anything imo. Moving to Japan makes it to where you feel more motivated to learn japanese for various reasons, and there’s also a sort of the expectation that you will learn it now at play.

Being more focused and motivated when it comes to your studies will probably be a majority of the “benefit” imo. So use that time to build strong habits and set the tone for the rest of your japanese journey. The reality is, most of the language study stuff you can do outside of Japan nowadays. If you already are a highly motivated and focused learner, I don’t think you will notice much of a difference honestly, unless you’re at a very high level and have the opportunity to cut English out of your life for the most part (but that’s a different story)


While I do think that the level of study and motivation a person puts into their time in Japan has a big impact on what they get from their time here, I would disagree that being in Japan doesn’t provide a better studying experience than you could get in another country, at least when it comes to speaking and listening skills. Unless you have a local community of native Japanese speakers to lean on, no amount of deliberate Japanese listening immersion or practice in, say, the U.S. is going to match the listening exposure you get from just living your daily life in Japan.

At least personally, my listening comprehension after a 4-month study abroad in 2019 was leaps and bounds better than it had been after almost 3 years of studying in the US. Obviously I was actively studying and practicing during that time, and without that study I wouldn’t have improved nearly as much, but the difference between stilted conversation practice two or three times a week at school and having to listen to full-speed native speakers just to buy milk at Lawson was immense.

The best practice, in my mind, is to have the local levels of exposure while actively continuing to study. That way when you learn something new you can listen or look for it around you to confirm you really understand it – or, of course, just turn around and use it with someone to see if you did it correctly.

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well, i never said this, so…

True that! I guess I hear it very frequently from classmates that it becomes almost the one that sticks out. All the things you pointed out are pretty much spot on just from speaking to classmates although I don’t live in Osaka so some things are slightly different but it’s still in an area where 関西弁 is very prevalent. Another thing is when you learn from standard japanese learning material you often learn some verb forms like

宿題をしなきゃ 標準

It is said that latter is pretty much said all the time in the 関西 region vs the former.

Also another thing I found confusing was いる vs おる as you may see おる as something else. Went to a police station one time and heard them use おる as another form of いる. Very interesting. I know there’s a lot more I’m learning but so far it’s been a learning experience indeed. I’ve only been in Japan for a short time.

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Don’t mind my asking, what are those questions in Japanese? I know that “Do you want a bag?” is 袋はご入用ですか?but I’m unsure of the others…

Not just Japanese. Kombini-style keigo formal Japanese. The so-called “manual keigo”.

Do you have a point card? = ポイントカードはお持ちですか
Are you over 20? - More precisely, this question will be displayed on a confirmation screen in front of you, asking you to push a button to confirm. The attendant will prompt you to press the button with ボタンを押してください
Do you want this heated up? = (お弁当)温めますか
Do you want chopsticks? = お箸はお使いなりますか or お箸をお付けしますか
Do you want a bag? = 袋はご利用ですか or 袋に入れしますか
Bonus question, Do you want separate bags? (generally if you’re buying both hot and cold things) = 袋はお分けしますか

Your total is XX yen = ご会計は〇〇円でございます
Would you like a receipt? = レシートを宜しいですか
When you hand over your money, they’ll announce 〇〇円を預かり致します
Here is your XX yen change and receipt = 〇〇円の返しとレシートでございます


Ah, I guess I misunderstood what you meant with noticing a difference between inside/outside Japan. Sorry about that!

I kinda agree here. I have lived in Japan for 2 years, and most daily situations that you encounter there won´t really help you becoming fluent. It won´t even necessarily help your listening hability, because you can just guess what people will tell you and you won´t even need to listen. And limited interaction won´t change a lot of things.

However, what could really help is :
-Karaoke. It improved my reading pace a lot and it´s quite a fun way to do it. Also, in a lot of karaokes, songs come with furigana, so it really helped. Though, you could argue that you may look at the furigana instead of kanji.
-Long interaction with people. If you stay at the same location for a few days, try to find ways to meet japanese people and talk with them. Conversations, even simple, can really help with listening and becoming smoother while talking. I am talking about real conversations, not exchanging greetings quickly. In my experience, all my friends who got a girlfriend in Japan (willing to speak Japanese to them, of course) DID improve significantly compared to others. Because they had the opportunity to use Japanese often, having long conversations and the girlfriend tried to help and correct them. (I am talking about girlfriend since the other way around is rarer and it happens that japanese boys refuse to speak Japanese to their girlfriend and it sadly happened to me as well XDDDD)

But in anyway, enjoy your time there !


Good write up!

I got レジぶくろ thrown at me the other day and was totally taken off guard, a what? What do I maybe want? Reji? Ooooh… yeah fukuro but the other way of saying it. Lol. No I don’t want. Bags these days cost money. I gave an ii desu when I did want one and it was taken as a ‘I’m good without a bag’ so then I had to say wait, sorry, hai fukuro onegai. Then the cashier had to add another 10 yen on. I am so used to saying no I never really nailed the ‘yes’ answer I guess.

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Great list.
Not for konbini but should also add お持ち帰りですか? so you don’t get caught unawares at your first fast food purchase.


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