I studied Japanese for about 3 years, and it's really not that difficult of a language to grasp. Even so, if you want to go to Japan and don't know even a single word of Japanese, there are ALWAYS bound to be people in the bigger cities who speak English. There are a lot of foreigners in Tokyo, many signs are written in English (as well as in Japanese), and there is even a daily English newspaper. Young high school students are always eager to practice their English skills on visiting Americans. It's not too hard to get by. If you visit a small city or rural village, there may not be ANYONE who speaks English, and you may struggle. Many people in small towns have not, in fact, ever even seen a foreigner and will look at you with a mix of awe, fear, and astonishment....as if they want to touch you to make sure you are real!