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Japanese: Lonely Planet Phrasebooks    by Yoshi Abe order for
by Yoshi Abe
Order:  USA  Can
Lonely Planet, 2004 (2004)
* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

I used to travel regularly (pre-kids) and the countries I found hardest to deal with were those like Thailand, China, and Japan, with different scripts - where even street signs were hard to decipher, never mind attempting to figure out which washroom door to open. I wish I'd had this pocket-sized book when I visited Japan, and will make good use of it next time I go.

This 4th edition of the Japanese Lonely Planet Phrasebook includes a '2000-word two-way dictionary' (at the back), and the edges of its various sections are color-coded for fast and easy access while on the road. The Introduction tells us that 125 million people speak Japanese, mentions other languages spoken in the country, and the different dialects. Next in Tools, we're given a quick lesson in pronunciation (long and short vowels and consonants) and a brief introduction to written Japanese (kanji, hiragana, and katakana). This is followed by a handy phrasebuilder section, talking about things like phrase order, how to put together questions, and polite forms. Numbers, time and date, and phrases relating to money are also covered.

After Tools comes a Practical section covering getting around, asking directions, seeking accomodation, shopping, sending mail or making phone calls, using an Internet café, sightseeing, handling business, and so on. Next is Social - meet and greet, going out, sport and culture, and (that universal icebreaker) talking about the weather. Food has its own color-coded section, including a half page on 'the art of drinking tea', and a culinary reader translating Japanese names for dishes and ingredients. Next, Safe Travel covers emergencies, dealing with police, and talking about health matters. Frequently, the phrasebook also suggests relevant things to listen for, which I find very useful.

Heading to Japan? Then you'll find this Lonely Planet Phrasebook extremely useful. But do get a copy in advance, work on basic sentence structures, memorize key phrases, and read over its cultural tips (advising when to take off shoes, bow, etc.) before you go.

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