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Can you survive without Japanese in Japan?


Japan is a fascinating country that attracts many visitors from around the world. However, not everyone speaks Japanese, which can sometimes seem like a barrier to survival. In this article, we explore whether it is possible to survive in Japan without knowing Japanese. We will look at different aspects of daily life and examine how difficult it is to navigate them without speaking the language.

The Importance of Language in Japan

Japanese is the official language of Japan, and it is a vital part of the country’s culture and identity. It is spoken by almost all Japanese people and is used in all official capacities. This means that knowledge of the language can be critical in many areas of life, including work, school, healthcare, and communication with locals.

Japanese Snack Box

Surviving Without Japanese

While it can be challenging to navigate life in Japan without speaking Japanese, it is possible. One way to do this is by relying on technology such as translation apps or hiring an interpreter. Additionally, some parts of Japan have larger expat communities with English-speaking services and support systems.


Finding accommodation in Japan can be challenging if you do not speak Japanese. However, there are several options available for non-Japanese speakers, including serviced apartments or Airbnb listings managed by English-speaking hosts. Additionally, some real estate agents cater to foreign clients and offer English-language services.


The public transportation system in Japan is extensive and efficient. However, navigating it without knowing Japanese can be tricky. Still, there are some ways to overcome this obstacle, such as using mobile apps for train schedules or hiring a private driver or taxi service.

Food and Dining

Japan is famous for its cuisine, but ordering food without knowing the language can be a challenging task. However, many restaurants now offer English menus or picture menus that make it easier for non-Japanese speakers to order food. Additionally, there are some international grocery stores where you can find familiar brands and products.


Accessing healthcare services in Japan can be difficult if you do not speak the language. However, many hospitals and clinics now offer English-speaking staff or interpreters on-site or via telemedicine services. Additionally, some international health insurance providers offer coverage for medical treatment in Japan.

Banking and Finance

Opening a bank account in Japan can be challenging if you do not speak the language. However, some banks now offer English-language services for foreign clients or have dedicated branches that cater specifically to non-Japanese speakers. Additionally, some international banks have branches or partnerships in Japan.


Sending your children to school in Japan without knowing the language can be challenging, but there are some options available. Some international schools cater to foreign students and offer classes taught in English or other languages. Additionally, some public schools offer classes for non-Japanese speakers.


Making friends and socializing in Japan can be challenging if you do not speak the language fluently. However, joining clubs or groups that share your interests can help you meet people who speak your language or who are willing to communicate with you despite language barriers.

Culture Shock

Moving to a new country can be an overwhelming experience that comes with a lot of cultural differences and challenges. However, with an open mind and willingness to learn new things about Japanese culture, you can overcome culture shock and thrive in Japan even without speaking the language fluently.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, surviving in Japan without speaking Japanese can be challenging but not impossible. With technology, support systems from expat communities or English-speaking services of some businesses like housing agencies and hospitals; foreigners living in Japan will surely get by as long as they are open-minded and willing to adapt to cultural differences.

Final Thoughts

If you’re considering living or traveling to Japan but don’t speak the language fluently, don’t let that discourage you from experiencing all that this beautiful country has to offer! While knowledge of the language certainly helps in navigating daily life more smoothly; there are plenty of resources available for non-Japanese speakers to survive comfortably while living there.

Can I move to Japan if I only speak English?

English is in common use in Japan with Chinese and Korean also becoming more common meaning that you can certainly get around without using Japanese. This is most true in the big cities and in areas frequented by foreign visitors. But as you move outside of the cities, foreign languages will quickly dry-up.Sep 15, 2022

Is it OK to go to Japan without speaking Japanese?

It is not necessary to speak Japanese in order to have a great trip to Japan. However, knowing some important Japanese phrases can enhance your experience. If you’re interested in exploring some of our favorite destinations in Japan, they can provide travel inspiration.

Can you live in Japan forever as a foreigner?

Foreign individuals who have demonstrated good behavior and possess adequate assets or skills to support themselves can be granted permanent residency in Japan after residing in the country continuously for a specified period of time.

Can an American own land in Japan?

For non-Japanese individuals seeking to purchase property in Japan, the first and most important question is whether it is legally possible. The answer is affirmative, as expatriates are permitted to acquire both land and properties within Japan without the need for citizenship or a residency visa. This rule is in effect as of November 27, 2020.

Are Americans welcomed in Japan?

Japan is now welcoming visitors from most countries without the need for a visa, allowing for independent travel. Those who have been vaccinated against Covid-19 do not require a negative test result before traveling, while those who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated will need to provide a negative Covid test.

Where do most Americans live in Japan?

Minato-ku, Setagaya-ku, and Shibuya-ku are the three wards in Japan with the highest population of American citizens. Although the number of Americans living in Japan is small compared to Chinese and Korean nationals, it has been increasing by approximately 1,000 every year.

Learning Japanese

If you plan to stay in Japan for an extended period, it’s highly recommended that you learn Japanese. Not only does learning the language make daily life more comfortable, but it also allows you to immerse yourself in the culture and connect with locals. There are many options available for learning Japanese, including language schools, private tutors, and self-study materials.

Respect for Japanese Culture

It’s essential to understand and respect Japanese culture when living or traveling in Japan. Japan has a unique culture with its own set of customs, traditions, and etiquette. It’s vital to learn about these cultural differences and be mindful of them to avoid unintentionally offending locals.

Traveling Outside of Major Cities

While major cities like Tokyo and Osaka have more English-speaking services available, traveling outside of these areas can be more challenging. It’s essential to prepare well in advance and research transportation options, accommodations, and local customs before venturing out into more rural areas.

Overcoming Language Barriers

Even if you don’t speak Japanese fluently, there are ways to overcome language barriers when communicating with locals. Body language, gestures, and visual aids can all be effective communication tools. Additionally, learning a few basic phrases in Japanese can go a long way in making connections with locals.


In summary, while knowing Japanese is undoubtedly beneficial when living or traveling in Japan, it’s still possible to survive without it. With enough preparation, research, and an open mind towards cultural differences, foreigners can thrive in Japan even without fluency in the language. However, it’s always recommended to learn Japanese for a more immersive experience and deeper connection with the culture and people of Japan.

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