People want to learn some Japanese before they travel o Japan for different purposes. I have had students that came to me one or two months prior to their martial arts tour to Japan. They felt it would be rude to visit Japan without knowing some basic phrases. We started with daily greetings and went beyond to appreciation phrases before and after the martial arts training session, ordering food in the restaurant, asking for directions, asking for instructions to go about different cultural-specific activities such as taking a bath at a public bath house.

Other examples of students going to Japan would be purchasing used Kimono fabrics, tasting different kinds of ramen noodles. In class prior to the trip, possible settings such as having conversation with the fabric store owner or ramen chef were practiced. In addition, recordings that contain useful phrases were made for students to practice outside class. Below are some of the phrases we had practiced in class, included in the individualized recording made for each student, and actually used by the student in the real settings.

Episode 1
“同じ色でほかの柄はありますか。” (Is there any other patterns in the same color?)
After asking questions similar to this one, this student became aquatinted with the button specialty store owner and was invited to the storage area to search for anything she wanted.

Episode 2:
“初めてです。分かりません。教えて下さい。”(This is my first time. I don’t know. Please show me.)
At the bath house, this student asked the local Japanese people to show her how to bath in the public bath.

“いいですね。どこで買いましたか。”(It is good. Where did you buy it?)
She was even offered to use the facial cream by a Japanese woman taking the bath, after she asked about it.

Episode 3:
“お寺に行きたいんですけど、、、” (I would like to go to the temple.)
“地図を書いて下さいませんか。”(Would you please write a map for me?)
This student asked for direction at a convenience store on her way to the temple. Later, the store clerk even biked to the temple to make sure she had safely made it to the destination.

Episode 4:
“はい、そうです。アメリカ人です。” (Yes, you are right. I am an American.)
This student went into a local family-run diner and found herself to be the only one with different hair and eye color. This is the how she responded when she heard other customers commenting in Japanese with a regular voice instead of whispering about her being “Americans”, assuming that she would not understand Japanese at all.

“これは野菜ですか。肉ですか。” (Is this vegetable? Is it meat?)
“ベジタリアンです。肉は食べられません。”( I am a vegetarian. I cannot eat meat.)
Those local customers were even more shocked and amazed when this student asked the server about the menu items. At the end, some local customers joined this student at the same table and chatted for some time in Japanese.

Episode 5:
This student was at very beginning level with only basic knowledge of one of the three writing systems: Hiragana. He first asked for an English menu. When told there was not one, he asked for photos of menu items. When told again there was not any, he started asking about the usual menu items he knew about.