Should I speak Japanese in order to go to Japan / Does everyone speak English in Japan?
You don’t need to speak Japanese in order to go to Japan as a tourist. Of course, knowing a few basic phrases will help, as for in any other country.
Most cities, and especially touristic locations, will have place-names written in English. Depending on where you are, other languages such as Chinese, Korean, or even French may be used! Many big restaurants have both Japanese and English menus too. Whether you take the taxi or public transports, you will have at least some English to help. Some taxis have even translated charts to point exactly where you need to go.
Now, as for the Japanese speaking English, no, many don’t speak English very well. In fact, you can live your whole life in Japan by only knowing Japanese and nothing else.
If you go to big cities such as Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto, you will have more chance of finding someone who can speak English than in rural towns. Some people are even as friendly as to help you find your way.
Is Japan safe? / Is it safe to walk in this city at night?
Japan is known to be one of the safest countries in the world, and it is usually safe to walk almost everywhere, even at night, without having to worry. The reasons why are simple.
First, with the exceptions of police officers and the Japan Self-Defense Forces, it is extremely hard to get a firearm permit, and nearly impossible to carry one legally.
Then there are the security guards everywhere. Whether it’s a supermarket or a parking lot, they are almost everywhere.
There are also the convenient stores, which can be found almost everywhere, and are open 24/7, even for the New Year.
Another factor is the zero tolerance for drinking and driving. If you drive and are found having even a sip of alcohol, you will lose your permit immediately. Moreover, depending on the alcohol level in your blood, you can face up to 5 years of prison, and get a fine of up to 1 million yen. The same fines, as well as a loss of driving permit can be applied if you are found to ride a bicycle after drinking.
The low tolerance for drugs is also an important factor. Being caught in possession of even a small amount of drugs may result in a prison sentence between one to ten years, and a fine of up to 5 million yen.
Finally, the koban. These are small police boxes you can find everywhere. Police officers might not always be inside, but there is a telephone that connects you to the central. Officers will usually arrive within 15 minutes.
Does the public transport run 24/7?
Public transport runs every single day of the year, but in most cities, no bus nor train runs between 01:00 and 05:00 in the morning. In some places, this can be as early as 23:00 at night, and as late as 06:00 in the morning. We recommend you to check the timetables in advance to see when the train or bus starts and stops running.
Is it a problem if I can’t use chopsticks?
Most restaurants, especially chains, have cutlery. Just ask them for a fork and knife, or even a spoon, and they will oblige. It is possible that the cutlery they give you is small, because some restaurants only have these for families with children.
In case you want to be safe, you can go to a convenience store or a 100 yen shop and buy plastic cutlery.
Will you be stared at by the Japanese as a foreigner?
About 98% of the country consists of Japanese citizens. Whether you will be stared at will depend on your looks and where you go. People in big cities are usually used to see lots of tourists. In smaller towns, however, you may get stared at, but it’s not like they will be in your face. They will look at you, but if you look at them, they will immediately look away.
Some people who are not used to foreigners, especially if you are black, tall, or have lots of tattoos, might change their seats in the train or the bus if you go and sit next to them. But this doesn’t happen too often.