Travel guides and phrase books do help, but I wouldn't rely too heavily on them, as they can and will get lost in the shuffle of going place to place to try and fit in as much as one trip allows. So if wanna you know which way leads to what you wanna see, set your pride aside, humble up and get ready to ask some directions. When the time comes, find someone friendly looking(gut instincts should be trusted on this part), approach and say the following:
(Excuse me, but...)
To indicate you're looking for help, follow it up with this phrase:
If you're not lucky, they won't know enough English/have the time to help you out and will either wave their hand in front of their face (like this) or say something among the lines of
"(place) はどこですか。[note: since はis used as a particle in this instance, it's pronounced like 'わ'. More on this later]"
(where is [place]?)
[where is (place) at?]
To help make the place more apparent, here are a few general terms to fill in the blank and get you off on the right foot.
[both referring to a general toilet.]
[park, or more specifically public parks]
[convenience stores, much like your corner liquor stores and 7-11(of which there are many in Japan, with a wide variety of products).]
[theater(for plays and other such events)]
[theater, as in where they play movies]
[department store, like a Target or, if you know the brand, UNIQLO(Google it, if you don't. Definitely a place you'll want to hit on your trip)]
[cafes, like Starbucks and similar establishments.]
[restaurants serving foreign foods, which come in many varieties.]
[izakaya, which are restaurants where both the beer and food is of excellent quality, and quite varied in selection ]
[nightclub, of which are also plentiful, and may also card you, so bring a Japanese-fluent friend]
Japanese food, drink and fun is an entity onto itself, and there's a lot you'll want to know about it before you head there(for example, why there are two separate words for toilets in Japanese.). This much will be covered in future posts, and of course, be sure to check other places and ask around for what you're looking for.
Where, exactly, you'll want to go depends on your interests and should be studied appropriately, but with asking the question comes understanding the answer. If the things is relatively nearby, they may point over to a building and say this:
There are key differences between the three-the gist being ここ is near you , そこ is near them and あそこ is somewhere in the background(remember this, as you'll see it and similar stuff here again in future posts). However, when more detailed directions are needed, like what here, there and over there are, precisely, they will go into greater detail in their answers, which you will also need with you as your routes become more and more intricate.
(Stay tuned, folks! Next post covers directions and orientation, vital to relating and understanding location of stuff)