Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Getting Lost With No Translations

If there's anything a foreigner can do better than the Japanese, it is get lost. We got lost on the subway, lost walking down the streets, lost even in a department store.  Since a lot of Japanese do not understand English (I think it is common American thinking that everyone should speak English), we had to ask for directions every 10 feet to make sure we were going in the right direction (most of the time we weren't).  It's not that the Japanese people were not helpful, we just had a lack of communication. Everyone tried their hardest to show us directions, even when they didn't know.  They'd rather tell you something (even if it's incorrect) than to tell you, "I don't know."  

The Japanese are extremely helpful and polite people.  This is my 2nd time to Japan and I can not get enough of this city.  I love Tokyo!  Of course, there are some districts I love more than others. All those districts have one thing in common: they are impenetrable with western ideas of address and space. The Japanese "address" consist of the neighborhood,  then the ward, then town, then area (a cluster of blocks). Not all streets have a name so this makes this even more difficult. If this is confusing, try actually navigating through it.  It would drive Garmin nuts.

Unlike getting lost in Los Angeles, finding your way around becomes part of the adventure. There is so much going on that on your way to your destination, you might linger around in these new found areas. Kinda like finding your own piece of Tokyo. I've never felt unsafe, so getting lost is all part of getting there.