Practice Chinese in Japan

Written by April Zhang on Sunday, 30 June 2019. Posted in Front Page

Practice Chinese in Japan

I recently had a trip to Okinawa. One day, I got caught in the rain and had to spend a couple of hours in a coffee house, where other tourists suffered the same fate. There was a nice couple from Germany. It was their first trip to Japan and they found it really hard to get around or to order food, because they did not speak Japanese. I do not speak Japanese either, yet for me Japan is not a hard place to get around. The reason is simply because I can read Chinese characters.

For people who study Japanese as their second language, Japan is certainly the best place to visit and to do some practice. But many people did not know that Japan is also a pretty good place for Chinese learners to practice Chinese. I have been to a few places in Japan, and I find Chinese characters everywhere, usually a mixture of traditional characters and simplified ones.

People who are fluent in both languages will tell me that the meanings of words are different from their meanings in Chinese. For example 手纸, it means “toilet paper” in Chinese, “letter” in Japanese. Still, I consider it conveys quite a bit of information, which is more than enough to make people, who understand Chinese, at ease. 

Let’s take a look at some of the photos I took during this trip when I was hanging around the neighbourhood.  

This store’s name is 光陽写真館. Two characters, 光 and 真, have only one form, while 陽 and 館 are in their traditional forms, and 写 is a simplified one. If we understand 写真 means photo, we will know what this store is about. If we don’t, we can probably connect this combination with a Chinese word 传真 and take a guess. Either way, there is no chance for me to mistaken this store for a restaurant at least. 

This sign is 会館, one simplified character and one traditional character. My guess is that it means “club”, as it is so close to 会所, which is commonly used in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

This ferry schedule is not that quite clear to me, but even worse for people who can’t read Chinese. 

As I was heading to a popular tourist destination, Tokashiki island, I noticed the ferry management put an English sign there just for all the stupid tourists. By the way, it was at the island where the German couple and I got stranded in the rain. The island was a beautiful place with wonderful white sand beach. But there was not much to do when it was raining and cold. 

Let’s have a close up at the English sign.

Reading Chinese characters informed me clearly where to stand when I took the monorail.

And where to get drunk.

And knew when I encountered a cool place.

It is really amazing that learning Chinese becomes an added advantage in Japan, and people can definitely practice their Chinese there. Vice versa is probably true as well, that people studied Japanese find it really easy to travel around China.

About the Author

April Zhang

April Zhang

April Zhang is the owner of MSL Master and the author of two series of Chinese textbooks, Mandarin Express series and Chinese Reading and Writing series, which are highly relevant and very effective for non-Chinese speakers to learn Mandarin Chinese.