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First Impact with Tokyo: how good is my Japanese, finally?

By December 17, 2023No Comments

It’s insane that just 12 months ago, when I had just started Japanese, I had zero plans of going to Japan anytime in the future. And now, I’m living in Tokyo.

Here’s how my self-taught Japanese of 12 months fared:

1) Getting things done with Japanese companies is so much easier.

Eg: to get a SIM card, I went to a Japanese company where nobody speaks English, and got a good price that isn’t available online.

Even though reading and understanding contract terms is not within my ability at the moment, they could explain things to me verbally and I could follow.

2. I can have long, engaging conversations with random Japanese people.

Eg: a lady was playing Pokemon Go on her phone while we were waiting at a ward office. I chatted with her about many kinds of topics, only once or twice needing to translate technical terms.

I also had a chance encounter with a Jehova’s witness on the street and I could converse with her. (Did not convert lol 😷)

3. My Japanese is quite a bit more advanced than people who went to language schools even longer than a year. Foreigners constantly get complimented on being “good in Japanese” even if they string together a simple sentence. But in my case, they are more specific: that I sound very natural!


1. I’m kinda glad I didn’t spend much time trying to learn “survival Japanese” or any such structured courses in the beginning. I’ve found that at that level of proficiency, people find Tokyo to be equally easy to navigate with zero Japanese at all.

2. Build a broad base of natural Japanese by engaging with content that interests you — and it will transfer much better into everyday life than any specific vocabulary or grammar you try to memorise (if you can remember it at all). I promise.

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