Answers from Our Experts (1)
Japanese people are extremely polite and will go out of their way to help. It’s not uncommon for someone to walk you to your destination if you are lost. But while it’s gotten easier to use English in major cities like Tokyo, it’s still not widely spoken here (although many people can understand it to an extent). So don’t be shocked.
Fortunately, signs and maps in train stations are written in English, and more restaurants are offering menus in other languages. There are also a few good English-language resources to help demystify the ordering process at Japanese restaurants. What’s What in Japanese Restaurants by Robb Satterwhite is a great place to start.
Still, it’s useful to learn a few basic expressions in Japanese: sumimasen (“excuse me” -- the phrase you’ll use to catch the server’s attention; to ask for the check say, "o-kaikei kudasai"), arigato (“thank you”) domo (“thanks,” “excuse me,” or sometimes used as a stand-in for “hello”), oishii (“delicious”), and kawaii (“cute” -- you will hear this word everywhere).