Hopefully part of your tattoo experience includes plans to travel while in Japan. Traveling in a country where you don’t speak the native tongue can seem a little daunting. But hopefully this doesn’t negatively effect your decisions while planning your trip.

Signage for pubic transportation, especially train stations, is increasingly available in Romanized spelling as opposed to exclusively kanji and hiragana characters. Buses are as yet unlikely to have Romanized spelling for the stops they visit. And taxis will always be a roll of the dice if you’re unsure of where you’re heading or how to communicate as much.

A lone bicycle messenger rides towards the Tokyo Tower standing on the horizon. On his left busy traffic heads in the other direction.

Bicycle is another option for traveling around Japan. Fast moving and pretty easy when correcting missteps. Plus you can avoid traffic congestion. This bike messenger has the right idea.



While Traveling Will You Have Trouble Getting Around?

The great news is that you don’t have to rely on signage while travelig. Feel free to ask the people around you for help. Japan has a large number of people with varying degrees of English ability and everyone is super friendly. In large cities, i.e. Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, and other designated cities, you’ll have an easy enough time getting around using basic English.

Beyond simple assistance when it comes to more complex requests for directions, traveling in general, convenience store locations, and the always important restaurant recommendation you may need to fall back on a phrasebook, dictionary, or the ever-improving Google translate. And portable wi-fi is handy in making sure that communication isn’t the limiting factor it could’ve been in the past.

Japanese is a beautiful and unique language that truly helps develop a greater understanding of Japanese culture in general. Although by no means necessary, it is almost certain that making some small effort to bridge the language gap, successful or otherwise, will pay dividends and lead to a greater traveling experience. Let alone better communication with your tattoo artist.  There are many great ways to prepare and pickup a few phrases for your travels. Please feel free to contact us for any help speaking with your artist.

Tattoo artist Horimitsu applies tebori tattoo shading to the arm of a client.

Horimitsu can apply tebori (hand tattooing) Japanese tattoos and also keep conversation with English-speaking clients. Many Japanese tattoo artists have great English ability.


Communication is a Funny Thing…

I have had many unsolicited strangers approach and ask if I needed assistance. Especially while looking at the fare board in a station or while shopping in the grocery store. There are definitely some people that want to put their English skills to use and just help someone in need.

I’ve had an awesome time making a fool of myself pantomiming through a tattoo consultation with my artist. We figured it out.

The strangest may have been my experience speaking with a German visitor in Japanese because we had no other common language. Strange at first… and very natural after a minute or two.

Between their broken English and your fumbling attempts at Japanese you may just make a friend for life. You’ll only be disappointed if you don’t make any effort at all.