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  1. #31
    Volunteer Moderator Alumni Badger's Avatar
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    People rarely flat-out disagree in Japanese; these four utterances are related and very useful:
    Etto: said in a tone of uncertainty or regret with a really long drawn-out "o", it's a polite way to indicate skepticism or disagreement; it can also be used to stall, like saying "Um..." while scanning a menu
    Honto?: with rising intonation, it means "really?"/"truly?" and can be used to invite elaboration. Example: "You must try this delicious fish head!" "Honto?" ("Honto!" said as a statement means "Really!" or "For real!")
    Sō desuka?: "Is that so?" Same sort of deal as "Honto" but is probably a bit more polite
    Ee? (Ehhhh?): rising intonation; this is sort of like "Sō desuka?" but it can also mean "wow!..."

    Use "Konban wa" in the evening to say hello, and "Oyasumi nasai" to say good night (upon departure)

    Other people are "[Last name] san"; you are "[name] desu." I think it's ok to introduce yourself as "John desu" or whatever, but use people's surnames to talk to them unless you know them really well. "Chan" is the diminutive of "san" and used for kids or as a term of affection, like to your grandma or something.

    "Kawaii!!!" is "Cute!!!", but "Kowai!!!" is "Scary!!!"

    "Gomen"/"Gomen nasai": "I'm sorry"/"forgive me": very useful when you bump into people on the subway, need to push through a crowd, make a mistake, etc.
    "Sumimasen...": also basically means "I'm sorry" but is a good way to preface a request, like "pardon me..."
    "Eigo o hanasemasuka?": "Can you speak English?" I don't think I'd use this too often but it's a helpful phrase to know, for example if you need help in a pharmacy or anywhere you really need to be sure you understand.
    "O-toirei wa doko desuka?": "Where is the toilet/bathroom?", but "O-teirai wa doko desu ka?": "Where is the temple?"
    "Oishii!!"/"Umai!": "Delicious!" say that a lot while eating and the cooks will like you.
    "Sugoi": basically means neat/cool/awesome etc.; it's used more by younger people and in casual situations.
    "Shasshin o totte kudasai?" said with rising intonation: "Will you take my picture?" No need to worry about anyone running off with your phone or camera. If you see someone awkwardly trying to take a selfie, you can ask "Shasshin o totte?", which should get the idea across that you're offering to help them.

    In the event that someone cops a feel on the subway: "Hentai!" Said loudly and angrily, it basically means "Pervert!" and should work wonders for helping create a personal bubble around you. "Hecchi" ("H") is the short form of hentai.

  2. #32
    Forum Member terayon's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Badger View Post
    "O-toirei wa doko desuka?": "Where is the toilet/bathroom?"
    We visited Japan about ten years ago, and I worked hard with my phrase book ahead of time, carefully memorizing this phrase (um, that wasn't the only one) and practicing with my Japanese sister-in-law to get the pronunciation right.

    I was very pleased with myself when I got a chance to try it out ... except that I evidently did it so well that the store clerk answered me in lengthy Japanese! However, the utterly blank look on my face clearly conveyed the situation, and she took me directly to the washroom.

  3. #33
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    Thank you all again for all the insight! The wife and I are taking a lot of notes from this thread.

    What hotel recommendations do you have?
    We'll be flying out of LAX. Which TYO airport do you recommend to land in? Narita?
    Husband | Father | Creative | Photog | Subaru Pilot | Horologist | Foodie | Carryologist

  4. #34
    Forum Member Duggy'sMom's Avatar
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    If you have a choice, Haneda is more convenient. It's located closer to town. Re hotels - there are so many, you should pick an area you want to be situated first.

  5. #35
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    Which airport depends in part on flight costs and landing times. Both have good transport links to the city. Narita is a longer journey and costs more, but sometimes it works out better because of overall cost. My next trip to Japan I'm landing at Haneda and leaving from Narita.

    Regarding areas, here is a good summary of main accommodation areas in Tokyo. I like Asakusa, closely followed by Ginza.
    A30 in original halcyon/wasabi. Side Kick in verde/northwest sky and cloud/viridian, Pop Tote in Mars Red, Travel Cubelet in Mars Red, A30 packing cube backpack in northwest sky, large travel tray in sitka, packing cubes, pouches and cubelets

  6. #36
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    I just wanted to add that most Bihners would also probably enjoy Loft; there's a large one in Shibuya. This link might be more helpful than the official site in helping you find it (but you'll probably stumble upon it anyway wandering the shops in Shibuya--I second Duggy'sMom rec for Tokyu Hands).

    Loft Shibuya | Shopping in Shibuya, Tokyo

    By the way, Loft in Japan is not related to the US women's clothing store also called Loft (Ann Taylor Loft). Like Tokyu Hands, Loft has a beautiful selection of stationery and home goods--and Loft has Hobonichi Techo goodies :-)

  7. #37
    Forum Member Duggy'sMom's Avatar
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    Yes! Loft is awesome! How could I forget? And yes, is on the way to and from Tokyu Hands.

  8. #38
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    Husband and I did two weeks in Japan over Christmas carry-on only (2 A45s, MCB, Synapse25, and a DBP for a day bag). It was great, and we were glad we had our luggage on our backs when we encountered the stairs.

    There is another option for wifi you might consider - TEP Wireless. They will ship the pocket wifi unit to your home before you leave, and you send it back in a pre-paid envelope when you get home. Price is reasonable, and if you like I can give you a referral link for a discount. Private message me if you would like that link.

    One thing I liked about Japan is that it's pretty casual, even in nice stores/restaurants. Jeans or other pants are fine pretty much anywhere, even for women. You're going to have a blast!

  9. #39
    Forum Member Ms. Ferret's Avatar
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    As others have said, bring a coinpurse of some kind, because the lowest-denomination bill you'll see is 1000 (just under $9), the rest are all coins. IIRC the vending machines (which are excellent) don't accept anything below a 10 coin, so you'll probably end up with a bunch of leftover 1 and 5 coins as souvenirs.

    I used the Google Translate app on my phone to translate kanji-heavy signs I couldn't puzzle out. You can use your phone's camera to capture the Japanese characters vs. trying to sketch them in manually. This is how I figured out that one particularly threatening-looking warning sign said nothing more than "PARKING VIOLATION STRICTLY PROHIBITED".

    7-11s in Japan are amazing -- in general all of the food I had in Japan was fantastic, but the 7-11 was our go-to for cheap meals. Their ATMs were also a convenient way to get cash with my US debit card.

    If you're going to take a train, opt for the Green Car so you don't end up crammed in with commuters for several hours like I did. Also, the locals I saw used Suica cards instead of cash, which I'm totally going to look into for next time.

  10. #40
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    In Tokyo, a Suica or Pasmo card is really useful for taking trains and subways around town and definitely worth getting. Suica is available at JR stations and Pasmo is available at private railway stations. They work the same.

    If you are concerned about being crammed in on trains, an ordinary reserved carriage will be fine - it doesn't have to be a Green Car. It costs a few hundred yen extra to reserve seats, unless you have a JR Pass in which case reservations are free with the pass. At busy times it can be useful to reserve seats.
    A30 in original halcyon/wasabi. Side Kick in verde/northwest sky and cloud/viridian, Pop Tote in Mars Red, Travel Cubelet in Mars Red, A30 packing cube backpack in northwest sky, large travel tray in sitka, packing cubes, pouches and cubelets

  11. #41
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    Japan still has squat toilets in some places. I only saw one in Nikko. Otoh, the controls on a Toto Washlet are fun to decipher. Also be on the lookout for an automatic tap on the tank cover. Water flows when the toilet is flushed, wash your hands, and waste water drains into the tank for the next flush.

    Many public restrooms will not have paper towels for drying hands or soap for washing. You could bring a handkerchief and gel sanitizer. It is also the possible they will not have toilet paper. Check (first) or carry moist wipes/small pack of tissues (just in case).

    A private home will have slippers inside the front door and outside the bathroom door. Change to the slippers to avoid tracking dirt into the house and contaminating the living space with anything on the bathroom floor. Yes, you change from shoes (wear loafers?) to inside slippers, then change slippers each time you pass through the bathroom's door.

    If you're adventurous or have a Japanese person to guide you, try a public bath house (almost always gender segregated). Wash your whole body, including your hair, before getting into the bath (or series of them at different temperatures), which is only for soaking (not washing). A popular place for tourists to experience this is Tokyo's Odaiba entertainment district: Oedo Onsen Monogatari. They are ready for tourists and have English instructions. Beside the hot springs, there are also the typical services found in spas and a food court. No camera inside the onsen! If you have a tattoo, cover it well or don't go to the bath house. Go into the bath (fed by a hot spring) naked. Leave the large towel they give you in your locker; bring the small washcloth with you to the bath. Do not let the washcloth fall into the bathwater; balance it on the top of your head if you want to blend in. Look for foot baths in the onsen and sometimes next to the sidewalk. Also bring a clean set of clothes to change into when you leave.
    Last edited by gary1960; 02-08-2017 at 10:11 PM.

  12. #42
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    Thank you all again for your insight. I do have some questions now that we are less than 2 months away! I haven't traveled internationally since I was a child.

    1. What can I expect once landed in Tokyo: customs? Paperwork?
    2. When headed back to USA, how early do we need to arrive at the Narita Airport?
    3. Do we need to clear through customs (leaving TYO/entering USA) with all the souvenirs we may have? Probably lots from the 100-yen stores.
    4. Bring cash and exchange in TYO?
    Last edited by PandaOps; 04-13-2017 at 10:01 AM.
    Husband | Father | Creative | Photog | Subaru Pilot | Horologist | Foodie | Carryologist

  13. #43
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    Just dropped by this thread and there's a lot of good information. Kudos to those who mentioned Yamazaki whiskey and the Ghibli museum in Mitaka. They are both great.

    If you are going to be hanging out in Tokyo or other big cities, there will be many signs in English so don't worry too much about learning the language. Do your best to learn "where is the train station/bathroom" and how to do say hello, thank you, and other basic convo, and you will do just fine.

    It looks like you decided to fly in and out of Narita. The airport you choose should depend on where you are planning on staying that night. Because my family lives in the west side of Tokyo (near the Ghibli museum), I've always had to fly into Narita because flights usually get in pretty late to Haneda and there are no trains or buses going at that time of the night.

    Once you get to Narita, you will have customs, and form what I remember, they haven't converted to kiosks so you'll get your form to fill out on the plane. Last time, I flew out of Narita, I got there 2 - 2.5 hrs before departure and I had plenty of time to do some shopping in the airport. If you are planning on getting souvenirs, waiting until the airport isn't a terrible idea. They have a lot of the souvenirs that people look for (tokyo banana, match baumkuchen, little trinkets). Correct me if I am wrong, but you can carry all of the things you get in a separate bag from your personal item and carryon so you can maximize what you are taking home this way. You will have to clear customs once you enter the US. I also make sure to have some yen on me when I get there, somewhere around 10,000 - 20,000 yen.

    phelan had a lot of good points. I don't know if you said how long you are staying but if you are staying more than a week, get a rail pass and head down to Kyoto and spend two days down there. It's beautiful, little smaller, and a different vibe than Tokyo. Stay a Ryokan, follow the public bath house rules (see gary1960). If you want to go Tsukiji (they're planning on changing the location soon), be ready for an early morning and make sure you stay close the market the night before. Also, ginza, shinjiku, and odaiba are all great.

    Really excited for you guys!

  14. #44
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    Quote Originally Posted by tmdaniels9 View Post

    Really excited for you guys!
    Thanks for the tips! Our hotel is actually a 10 minute walk from Tsukiji, and it might be the first thing we visit since we'll probably still be jet lagged.

    So you recommend having Yen ready at hand before even landing in Japan?


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    Husband | Father | Creative | Photog | Subaru Pilot | Horologist | Foodie | Carryologist

  15. #45
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    I usually buy a bus ticket once I get there and I've always used cash. Narita has some decent places to eat as well. I'm sure credit card would be fine, but I haven't done this myself.

    Also, someone mentioned a coin case, which is a good idea. I remember being so frustrated at all the coins in my pocket last time I went. If only I could have known about TB back then. I can only imagine how useful something like a Q-kit attached to one of the o-rings in the DLBP would be to carry change.

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