Japan

Understand

The “Land of the Rising Sun” is a country where the past meets the future. Japanese culture stretches back millennia, yet has also adopted (and created) the latest modern fashions and trends.

Japan is a study in contrasts and contradictions. Many Japanese corporations dominate their industries, yet if you read the financial news it seems like Japan is practically bankrupt. Cities are as modern and high-tech as anywhere else, but tumbledown wooden shacks can still be spotted next to glass fronted designer condominiums. On an average subway ride, you might see childishly cute character toys and incredibly violent pornography – sometimes enjoyed by the same passenger, at the same time! Japan has beautiful temples and gardens which are often surrounded by garish signs and ugly buildings. In the middle of a modern skyscraper you might discover a sliding wooden door which leads to a traditional chamber with tatami mats, calligraphy, and tea ceremony. These juxtapositions mean you may often be surprised and rarely bored by your travels in Japan.

Talk

The language of Japan is Japanese. Most Japanese have studied English for at least 6 years starting from junior high school, but the instruction tends to focus on formal grammar and writing rather than actual conversation. As a result, beyond the major international hotels and main tourist attractions, it is rare to find locals who are conversant in English. Reading and writing comes much better though, and many younger Japanese are able to read and write in English despite not understanding spoken English. If lost, one practical tip is to write out a question on paper in simple words and give it to someone young, preferably the high school or college students. They may be able to point you in the right direction. It can also be helpful to carry a hotel business card or matchbook with you, to show a taxi driver or someone if you lose your way. Take comfort in the fact that many Japanese will go to extraordinary lengths to understand what you want and to help you, and try to pick up at least basic greetings and thank you’s to put people at ease.
(source: Wikitravel)

 

 

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