Deaf and Solo in Japan


Deaf and Solo in Japan

This guest post, including picture and video, comes to us from Sophie Li.  Sophie is deaf and uses cochlear implants.  You can follow Sophie on Twitter at @papillonparle.


Hailing from Australia, I wanted to find a place to travel solo and out of my comfort zone. Both for the first time and at the same time. I spontaneously picked Japan and before I realized what I was doing, a plane ticket was booked and my bank account was doing more poorly.

As this post is about accessibility in Japan, I apologise in advance that I will not share my travel experiences here. Instead, I have only two tips for deaf – scratch that – everyone who plan to visit Japan.

Understandably, one of the biggest challenges was understanding Japanese in speech and writing, so my lifesaver was a mobile wifi router that gave me unlimited access to Internet. The process to getting a loan was so smooth: I paid for the time I needed it and I was able to pick it up upon arrival at the airport in Japan and drop it off at a post office again at any airport in Japan. With the wifi router, I connected with my phone and was able to translate to and fro with ease to navigate my way across the country, translate English to Japanese (ie. Where’s the toilet in this massive underground train station/department store/maze – help!) and converse with Japanese people whom some have become friends. I have lost count of the times when my reliable wifi router saved the day. Now for those wanting to know how I found this gem, google Global Advanced Communications and look for standard pocket wifi and the loan is chunks of 7 days. Lastly, make sure you buy this BEFORE arriving in Japan. It is not available when in Japan, like many other deals for travelers.

How did I discover this? Many ask and this leads me to my next tip for my fellow travelers: research. It’s true, when people say, ‘When traveling to Japan, research is your friend’. I’ll even go further and say it is ‘your best friend’. Japan is not a country to “wing” it. There’s too many to experience on top of the shock you will receive from cultural and language differences.

Oh, I should probably mention that I am profoundly deaf so wear two cochlear implants and I sign and speak fluently. On this note, I leave one more piece of advice for deaf travelers out there: try to connect with deaf Japanese people if you can and learn their culture and language. I felt very humbled to be able to participate in their proud and sophisticated way of life and was fortunate enough to experience a famous deaf Japanese restaurant (Fusao http://fusao2000.wix.com/fusao) and a live theatre and film event, made and run by deaf people in Tokyo.

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