We expected language to be a challenge in Japan. The few phrases we know are difficult to use in real life. Many of the signs in public places have English translations. And we are learning the Japanese characters for some subway stations that we frequently use.
What I didn’t anticipate were the difficulties presented by not being able to read the language. Every day we receive a mailbox full of things. Some are official-looking, with return envelopes for some kind of reply. And totally in Japanese, with not an English word in sight. Same problem with the mysterious messages that pop up on our phones. Trips to the grocery store present yet another exercise in frustration trying to figure out what we are buying.
Plans are to learn to read at least some Japanese language before we leave. In the meantime, we’re relying on my Japanese co-workers to translate the more important-looking mail items. As for the grocery store — well, we may have some unexpected meals for awhile.