Japanese is a phonetic language, and that makes it easy to learn some basic phrases. English is generally read and spoken by younger Japanese people; however, the differences between Japanese and English sentence structure can make conversation very difficult. Stick with the basics, carry a phrase book, and try to elicit the help of your concierge for directions and information whenever possible.
We found that many Japanese people were eager to practice their English on us. After your ears become accustomed to the sounds of Tokyo, you’ll find yourself easily picking out familiar phrases — many Western words have been repurposed in the Japanese language, taking on familiar sounds and spellings (though these tend to be creative).
Despite the language differences, we found that we could communicate very well. We navigated the train system, traveled outside of Tokyo, participated in business meetings, and manged to eat, drink, and sleep without difficulty.