Taking the world less travelled

Making the Most of Japan

Posted by on Jan 19, 2009 in Travel | 6 comments


I just discovered this month’s Japan Blog Matsuri and decided to take part at the last moment! This month’s topic is:

“How I Resolve to Make the Most of My Stay in Japan”

Well, unfortunately Sad I’m not in Japan any more. I was there for two weeks in November. But before I went I promised myself that I would not wimp out… I WOULD communicate in Japanese.

This may not be such a big deal to some people. I figure, though, speaking in another language would be nerve wracking for a lot of people. For me, well, I’m shy. I don’t have a social phobia, but it can be hard sometimes to work up the courage to talk to people. Doubly so in another language really. But I promised myself that this was my opportunity, and I wasn’t going to let anything stand in my way!

I started off strong. On our aeroplane was a Japanese flight attendant who had previously been a Japanese teacher in Melbourne. We had a conversation and he knew just the right level to communicate with me. It was great, it did build up my confidence. :) Thank you flight attendant guy, you were awesome at your job and made the whole flight more pleasant!

Being in Japan… Well, there was a lot, of course, that I didn’t understand but a lot that I could. I managed to purchase headache medicine which was behind the counter and understand the directions that the pharmacist was telling me. That was a success.

Other times I got shy. When we were trying to purchase a camera lens duty free we got a guy that could talk English.

Sometimes we had no choice in the matter. After just getting off a train in Umeda, we barely had a chance to orientate ourselves before some helpful (but, unwanted helpfulness!!) man directed us in English to the correct exit. Other times another sales guy insisted on talking in English even though I answered in Japanese.

And other times – and I do blame this on lack of sleep as I get grumpy when that happens! – I was thinking “why should I bother asking this question in Japanese, I wont be able to understand the answer”.

Overall, I loved my trip to Japan and I had lots of positive experiences talking in Japanese. The people I went with were also impressed with how much I know, even if at times I feel like I don’t know much. I would say, however, that I didn’t really “learn” much Japanese while I was there, but I did solidify things that I was learning and got a bit of speaking practise.

Most of the time I felt like I was just trying to “survive”, as in I was using my Japanese to buy things or find out where I was. Looking forward, next time I go to Japan (hopefully sooner rather than later!), I resolve to have more “conversational” conversations.

This month’s question was from Rising Sun of Nihon. Looking forward to next months!





Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Brett Fyfield

    Hey Carly, it sounds like you’re pretty outgoing person who doesn’t normally find it difficult to strike up conversations with people, in whatever language.

    What would you suggest to someone that is naturally unlikely to start a conversation?

    It really used to bug me when people spoke in English, even though I was perfectly capable of speaking to them in Japanese. Where do you hope to take your Japanese?

    I love the Alogrithm march BTW.

    • GoddessCarlie

      Hi Brett!
      You have it wrong! I’m very shy! I think the thing is all in my attitude however. I know I’m shy so I actively work hard to talk to someone. I have another fear – a fear of heights, but I still went on some very scary ferris wheels in Japan. I think it helps that I am also a “think before I act” kind of person, so I just jump into a situation and worry about it later.

      However, I did have help. The headache tablets. I was going to chicken out. But it wasn’t my headache, and so I did it for my friend. It ended up being a surprising success. By the end it felt “easy” going up to someone at the train station and asking if a particular train stopped at a particular station. But it was all “survival” Japanese, next time I would like to try to strike up a conversation. Maybe in a bar so that alcohol has loosened my tounge!

      OK Guys, if you are shy like me:

      * Make it your goal to talk to people. In life, remember, people often regret the things they don’t do, so you don’t want to have this regret for the rest of your life!

      * Have no fear. Easier said than done, I know. But remember, if you stuff up, for most basic things you can say a bit of English and most people will understand, and then you never have to see that person again. At one time I had a mental blank and forgot the word for “stop”. So I asked a guy “この電車は奈良にstopu?” haha. Of course, once you’re on the train the announcements reminded me of the correct word.

      * I myself haven’t had the courage to go up to some stranger and say “so hows about this weather”. Just push yourself a little bit, don’t rely on English even though you can for the most part, and you’ll be proud of your little achievements. Then next time you go you can push yourself a little further.

    • GoddessCarlie

      Sorry for the novel! Next question:
      “Where do you hope to take your Japanese?”

      I want to be able to converse without thinking about it. I want to be at the stage where I can guess the meaning of words because I know 99% of the rest of the words. I want to be able to read novels in Japanese with ease, really getting lost in the worlds within them. I want to be able to express my own thoughts in writing in Japanese so that my (english speaking) friends can’t read the horrible things I’m witting about them in my diary. ;)

  2. atreya

    Yea, I was in a similar situation when I was in Japan for 2 weeks. I was in a village for the most part but I ended up using “Survival Japanese” most of the time. And I kept forgetting simple vocabulary at crucial time. I forgot the word for work which is “仕事” when I tried to introduce myself. And yes, I do have a lot of regrets. There were a lot of things that I wanted to do but I couldn’t because of the group I went with.

    The only different thing that I experienced was that when the Japanese people who initially talked to me in English figured out that I knew Japanese, they immediately started talking in Japanese to me. They were jumping with joy that I knew Japanese. And these were the kind of people whose English was not so good and they had a hard time talking in English.

    But yea, I definitely want to make another Trip to Japan. Probably, after I get a real job. ^^;;

    Speaking of writing Journals in Japanese. Have you ever tried Lang-8 ? http://www.lang-8.com

  3. Deas

    Hey Carlie – I think this is a really down-to-earth resolution, and an admirable one at that! I totally understand how it can be difficult to move from average day-to-day simple communication to more “conversational” conversations. I hope you’re wildly successful in your endeavor! Thanks for contributing to the matsuri, too, by the way!

  4. GoddessCarlie

    Thanks for the comments guys!

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