When you first arrived in Tsukuba, you might have been surprised to find that not many people here speak or understand English. Tsukuba bills itself as an international city of research, so from the things you read before you come, you can get the idea that it is rather Westernized and that you will be able to get service in English. After you arrive, you realize that that is not really the case.
However, compared to most other places in Japan, Tsukuba does have an enormous range of services in English. If Tsukuba is the first place you have ever lived in Japan, you might not have an idea of just how lucky we are. (When I first came to Japan, I lived in a town of 14,000 people -- and basically one foreigner. The possibility of receiving English service in that town was a little on the negative side of zero. So, needless to say, I am really impressed with Tsukuba!)
That said, a lot of people come to Tsukuba for a very short time, sometimes even in days or weeks, and they are in need of some guidance on the kinds of services they can access in English in our city. Juan, a member of TAIRA, recently wrote an article to the list asking for people's input in compiling a list of places where one can get service in English. A few other people piped in and added their findings, making the list look something like this:
I usually speak to the staff in Japanese so I can't speak from personal experience, but I think that if you speak English slowly and very clearly, you can be understood in a number of stores. The business owners will not usually advertise that they have staff that can understand English, but many of them can understand if you are patient and gentle.
"In Ishimaru, Digix Wonder, Kasumi, Foro, and Hanamasa the staff is often far from speaking English. In Yamada-denki there is one English speaking person selling cameras but for other items, they do not speak English either. In the Toyota on Higashi Odori, they do not speak English either. At the Shell station on Nishi odori, they try to say a few words in English. In Jusco there was a Russian person working there who spoke English. I never spoke to the other staff. I think in Yamaya they do not speak English, but the shop is so small that I never had to ask for anything I did not know in Japanese. I guess that's most of the shops I go to (and speak) in Tsukuba.
"I have been told that at Joyo Bank in Tsukuba center they might speak English. For sure they don't in the Oho/Hojo branch (North of Tsukuba) and in Matsushiro 5. Same for the post office: none of Matsushiro, Hojo and Tsukuba center have English speaking staff (at least when I went there). But, as the International Postal Union official langage is French, they speak and have some document in French at the central post office.
"Also, IACE, a travel agency on Higashi Odori has staff who can speak English. And I think you can add Gold Rush where there is an Australian waiter. For many shops the english availability might depend a lot on the day you go there as it depends on who is on duty."
"In most shops I found staff members who can understand English and even speak it. Somehow they try their best to understand and help you out, provided you speak to them slowly and in simple English. Some staff in Jusco, LaLa garden - a cafe named Tully's, in Joyo Bank - Matsushiro can speak English. I don't think there is any place where your work can get held up because of language problem. That is my personal experience. I cannot speak Japanese and communicate to the staff in English and I find someone or the other staff understanding what I actually want."
"I experienced the frustration of not knowing where to go to be understood (in English) when I first arrived. So it was a relief to find that there is someone at Joyo Bank (first floor) at Tsukuba Center who can understand English and speak it fairly well and she is very helpful! I did not find a good one for obtaining keitai, and that would certainly be helpful to many new residents, especially since there are a range of options that need to be sorted out, depending on length of stay in Tsukuba. The wrong choice can be expensive!
"I was lucky to meet someone who recommended signing up for Taira, but this was a month or more after I arrived. It would be nice if there were were ways to advertise Taira to newcomers. For example, I came to work at Tsukuba University. Perhaps the Foreign Visitors office could be provided with a brochure or flyer about Taira, for distribution to newcomers at the University."
And finally, Andrea offers this:
Ritzn organic vegetarian/macrobiotic restaurant on Nishi Odori, just north of R354 has English menus. I never tried speaking English to them but one would presume slow and easy would be okay given that they purposely have English menus and signs in English.
Tully's staff might speak English. One guy certainly does cause he delights in using it every time I or another foreigner go there! He works at least on weekday mornings.
The International Women's Network (IWN) is a group of women who enjoy chatting with people from all over the world. We hold a monthly potluck dinner where we exchange information about the local community while eating a variety of foods. No reservation is needed to attend the potluck. Just bring one dish of food and show up at the meeting. Newcomers are always welcome! Take advantage of this unique opportunity to enjoy the international city of Tsukuba with us!
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