Sunday, October 01, 2006

Illiterate again

One thing that is different about being in Japan is not being able to read much. Most signs are in Japanese, forms are in Japanese, newspapers and magazines are in Japanese, TV is in Japanese, and most other things are not surprisingly, in Japanese. This means that I am unable to do certain things I took for granted back in Australia.

For example today I got a commuter pass for the train I catch to and from work. To do this, I needed to fill out a form. If someone from work hadn't given me a copy with what I need to put in each space, I would not known how to fill it out.

Opening up a bank account was a similar situation, although for that I had the mishap of forgetting my hanko, so I had to make two trips.

I am fortunate that all the train stations are labeled in kanji, hiragana and English. I've heard that as little as three years ago, this was not the case. The signs are also quite comprehensive, with guides to where to go to transfer between lines, between train types (hankyu to subway, or hankyu to monorail, for example). So far I have not had any troubles catching trains.

Restaurants are OK, as most have either menus in English or menus with pictures on them, or both, and you can get away with just pointing at what you want. The only problem is I don't know how to ask what something is if I don't know what it is.

Anyway, in summary, the language problem is annoying, but not really a major burden.

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