Tokyo Disney and Language Issues

Discussion in 'Tokyo Disneyland' started by DisCopper, Dec 11, 2009.

  1. DisCopper

    DisCopper DIS Veteran

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    We went to Japan in March 2009. The trip was great, and included time in Disney, Tokyo, Kamakura, Nagoya, Takayama, and Kyoto.

    We planned the trip to start out at Disney. I figured that it would be a good segue into our time in Japan. I figured most people would speak English and we wouldn't have to struggle as much.

    WRONG.

    OK, we couldn't afford to stay at a Disney Resort, so we stayed at the Hotel Okura. It's on the Disney monorail line, right by Bayside station. A nice hotel, and I'd stay there again. But we had language problems right away. They fumbled through getting us checked in. The restaurant menus were only in Japanese. The waiter spoke no English. The host spoke a tiny bit, and tried very hard to help us.

    Once inside the Disney Parks, we found the cast members spoke minimal (and I mean minimal) English.

    We had a GREAT time, but I left worrying how we were going to get around the country knowing only minimal Japanese (one friend studied for a year before the trip, and still was far from fluent).

    What a surprise when we hit Tokyo that we could almost always find someone who spoke English. In fact, in our travels across the country we found that we had the most problems at Disney. Even in Takayama (a small mountain town), we easily found English speakers.

    I'm not complaining here. I went on the trip fully expecting to have to get by on our minimal Japanese. I didn't really expect anyone there to speak English. I was just surprise that the place I thought would be easiest, turned out to be the most difficult.

    Anyone else have a similar experience?
     
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  3. ChrisFL

    ChrisFL Disney/Universal Fan and MALE

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    Somehow I got by just fine most of the time and I spent 4 days in Tokyo, 2 in the parks and 2 days in the city....only a few times did I have a problem with english in the parks or elsewhere.

    It seemed like I ran into 3 types of people there, those who don't speak any english, those that speak it very well, or those that speak it but you can't understand them anyway! :laughing:

    But everyone I spoke to, even when they were unable to speak english were VERY accomodating and extremely friendly.

    At DisneySea, I was standing in front of Fortress Explorations and I was looking for a mini-boat ride which I knew about but couldn't find. After explaining exactly what I looked for, the wonderful CM not only showed me the map of the fortress, and I said I'll find my way, but no, she insisted and actually took me the entire way to it. That's the service I used to find at WDW but not anymore
     
  4. DisCopper

    DisCopper DIS Veteran

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    Everyone we ran into in Japan was extremely friendly. OK, except for the guys on the street corners in Roppongi who were trying to get you into clubs.

    Showing you the way to the attraction might also be a Japanese thing. We encountered that a few times in Japan. When we had questions about a train in Tokyo, we asked a family with a 20-something girl. We figured she'd speak English. She didn't, but her 90-something grandmother did! She not only told us which train to take, but lead us to it, made sure we got on, and made sure we knew how many stops before we got off.
     
  5. ChrisFL

    ChrisFL Disney/Universal Fan and MALE

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    Hehe, yes, I had nearly no bad experiences in Japan...

    the only thing I had lots of trouble with was the ATM's in the city....90% are either not in english at all, or if they are, they still don't take western credit cards.

    So anyone planning a trip, when you're able to, get as much Yen as possible either from the airport, etc. so you don't need to worry about ATM's
     
  6. lindsey clare

    lindsey clare Mouseketeer

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    we didn't have any language issues at Tokyo Disney. in fact i mostly remember the CMs either speaking english or being very adept at gestures and body language :)

    i think the only rides that we enjoyed less because of NOT being in english were the jungle cruise and the haunted mansion. still fun, but a little bit less so for us non-japanese speakers!
     
  7. The Expert

    The Expert Has been to every Disney park in the world!

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    I agree with lindsey_clare... we had far fewer issues in the parks and at our resort (Hilton Tokyo Bay) than we did in the city itself! Even so, everyone is so friendly and accommodating we were able to get along just fine.

    (We loved Indy speaking Japanese!)
     
  8. LeeLeeLuvsDisney

    LeeLeeLuvsDisney Mouseketeer

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    We had very few language issues as well. Everyone was so friendly and accommodating. If someone didn't speak English, we got by with pointing, hand gestures, etc. They always ended up understanding us enough to help, and we always ended up understanding enough to get around or find exactly what we needed (cash, food, etc.)

    Anyone who wants to go to Japan but is afraid of the language issue...don't be! Just learn a few of the polite phrases (hello, thank you, etc.) and you'll be just fine.
     
  9. GEB@okw

    GEB@okw Mouseketeer

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  10. disney_princess_85

    disney_princess_85 DIS Veteran

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    Your son's little boy is lovely! My brother lives in Japan and has done for 12 years now. Since he's been over there he has got married, had a little girl and he speaks near-fluent Japanese. My sister-in-law is Japanese and her English is so-so but good enough that we can understand each other when they visit England.
     
  11. walt's assistant

    walt's assistant What?!? No more Tag Fairy?

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    No language issues for the most part at TDS, but I do suggest you get a couple of English maps a Guest Relations. I lost mine and had to go all the way back to Guest Relations to get a new one because there were not any available at other locations in the park.

    And, yes, you can usually find people in Tokyo that have some English.
    :goodvibes
     
  12. sand2270

    sand2270 DIS Veteran

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    Ah Roppongi at night...totally different experience than the daytime :)

    I was very nervous about having language issues and both trips I took I had no problems. The Japanese in Tokyo and at Disney were polite, I do not recall any bad experiences.
     
  13. polkadotjewel

    polkadotjewel Earning My Ears

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    Heh, I never had too much trouble at TDR... The three times I've been I was always with a Japanese-speaking person, and everywhere I ate had English translations of the food so I was able to order smoothly. And then buying things were easy, due to knowing polite phrases ("hello", "thank you", etc). The one time I had a bit of trouble was when I was looking for a TDS CD, and after a few times trying to pronounciate it, the Cast member finally knew what I was talking about (too bad it was sold out). And then finding an English map took a few minutes, due to my friend asking a Cast member if they had one, but then they had to ask another Cast member... But like everyone else has said, the people there (at both TDR and in Japan) are extremely friendly and most will be willing to help you out with any problems :)
     
  14. JJsmama

    JJsmama WDW addict

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    We had a fabulous time at Tokyo Disney! We were also surprised that there were not more english speakers in Tokyo. (No, we do not expect people to speak our language every where we go. In fact, we live in China and speak English, German and CHinese. Obviously, none of these worked in Tokyo.) It was a bit surprising since almost everywhere else we travel in Asia, we can get by in English if not chinese.

    Anyway, once in the parks, we did fine. Some of the park maps and schedules, etc were not available in English either though, which was surprising. Things were more difficult in the city. You really need to do some research and have a plan for touring around.

    Tokyo Disney was definitely the cleanest Disney park I have ever been to. The people were more in the Disney Spirit there (almost everyone wears Disney costumes to the parks) and the crowds were the most considerate of others. The Japanese crowds especially love the parades, which happen a couple tmes a day and that can be a great time to do some Major Attractions (Pooh)

    Also, Japan is the one place we travel where our telephones and ATM cards never work. Somehow try and be prepared for that. Luckily we could use our Disney VIsa in the parks.
     
  15. DisCopper

    DisCopper DIS Veteran

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    I didn't try an ATM card... I'd heard that the machines can be difficult. I used my iPhone 3G and paid for a certain amount of overseas minutes beforehand. It worked great. We were in Takayama up in the mountains and the iPhone was even able to find us a place to eat when almost everything was closed.
     
  16. jsilvers

    jsilvers DIS Veteran

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    If one brings a foreign cell phone to Japan, it needs to be able to make use of the UMTS2100 standard; many phones that claim to be "quad-band" or "world phones" can't. And even if a phone is technically capable of using UMTS2100, it has to be authorized to roam internationally by its provider (AT&T, T-Mobile, etc.).

    As for ATM cards, most Japanese ATMs will not accept U.S. cards, but some will - most notably, ATMs at post offices, 7-Elevens, and Citibank branches. I understand that there is a postal ATM in the Ikspiari mall at Tokyo Disney, although I haven't used it myself.
     
  17. sand2270

    sand2270 DIS Veteran

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    You can also rent cell phones in the airport. I did this, I made the reservation online, picked it up after I landed and than dropped it in the airport when I left.
     
  18. ChrisFL

    ChrisFL Disney/Universal Fan and MALE

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    There's also plenty of ATM's that don't even have english as an option. I asked my hotel concierge where to find one that takes "western" cards and they were able to tell me (though this was near Tokyo Tower and not Disney).

    My advice to anyone visiting is either try to find out where "western" ATM's are quickly, or just exchange for lots of yen when you arrive.
     
  19. JJsmama

    JJsmama WDW addict

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    Agreed. Good Ole Greenback USD is good to have. The hotel can exchange them for you.
     
  20. queenie82

    queenie82 Queen of the 5 Castles

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    My iphone 3G worked in Japan.

    Money wise we took Japanese Yen - American Express Travellers Cheques and cashed them with no commission at the Disneyland Hotel. This is a more secure way of carrying what is effectively cash.
    We also got yen cash before we left.
     
  21. yenlee

    yenlee Mouseketeer

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    Is it the case that Australian phones work but American ones don't?
     

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