How to Avoid Getting Lost in Japan: Don’t Be Letter-Blind

Written by Fatiya

July 2015




Imagine that you already step your foot in Japan. The country you wanted to visit since a long time ago; when you were still a kid watching anime. You know that there are many famous tourist attractions and you want to go to all the recommended places… but ended up being lost in the cities because of one and one thing only: language barrier. Not everyone can speak English – actually, most of them can not speak English – and as you travel to a much remote and deserted place (in order to reach the most beautiful places possible to visit), you will find even fewer people around to help you if you get lost. Your time in Japan is precious and you will not want to waste it by getting lost in unknown.

The most important tip to avoid getting lost in Japan is at least you have to be able to read through Japanese letters. Japan has three kinds of letter: Hiragana, Katakana and Kanji. Hiragana is used to write words that originated from Japan, with it’s curvy and simple form as the unique characteristic of Hiragana. Katakana, on the opposite, has a more bold and firm shape. Katakana letters is used to write words that originated from other languages.

Both Hiragana and Katakana are quite easy to read and memorize, because those two are much simpler than the third letter: Kanji. If you are only spending a short amount of time in Japan, learning Kanji is not urgent; it is more used than Hiragana and Katakana and will requires a hard time to memorize all the Kanji. For assistance, the written Kanji usually also have Furigana above the kanji. Furigana is the small Hiragana to help people correctly read the Kanji letter.

It seemed a bit confusing with all three kinds of letters, but both Hiragana and Katakana are easy to learn and very useful. Living in a country that does not uses alphabet will require you to be able to at least read. Do not be letter-blind. As people said, ‘reading opens your world’, you can at least see the road signs and decide whether you are going in the right way or not. By being able to read Hiragana and Katakana, you can read the menu in restaurant and found something familiar like “Sushi” or “Onigiri”. You can learn Hiragana and Katakana by yourself before you go to Japan – and travelling in the foreign country will fell less scary and more exciting as you make your way through the jumble of familiar letters welcoming you in Japan

Excited already to learn the two Japanese letters? But what comes after that? Well, the next step might be the easiest way – Contact Inspired Steps and we will definitely help you creating a nice experience of studying abroad in Japan!


**Inspired Steps offers you consultation to go to Japan through various programs – study abroad, internships, language study, cultural immersions, and many more. Let’s put your learning Hiragana and Katakana letters to a good use!