Arigatou gozaimasu is the Japanese expression for thank you. Sounds super foreign, doesn’t it? As I knew that saying thank you and bowing is just as essential as sushi for the Japanese culture, I knew I had to memorize it somehow. The memory hook I made for myself was Koh Samui – Arigatou Koh Samui.
This small introduction into the Japanese language might already give you an idea of the challenge that traveling to Japan is. But wait for it! When you read arigatou goizamasu in latin letters, it is definitely possible to remember somehow. But what if you’re faced with the various kinds of the Japanese alphabet? The modern Japanese writing system is divided into Kanji and Kana. Kanji is a logographic way of writing, it is adopted from the Chinese alphabet. Kana is a syllabic alphabet and is divided into Hiragana (used for native Japanese words and grammar) and Katakana (used for foreign names and words). Yep, even the Japanese people get confused here.
For foreigners it definitely is not the easiest to navigate through the jungle of foreign sounds and signs. Luckily, most subway stations have signs both in Japanese and Latin alphabet. Going for dinner is a much bigger challenge. Even in cities like Osaka and Tokyo, most of them are kept solely in Japanese. If you’re lucky, they contain photos. If not, just point to whatever the person at the table next to you is having. And be surprised by what actually lands on your table!