Listen now (23 mins) | In this episode: Finding our way around Tokyo's underground and final thoughts on our Lindblad coastal cruise (recorded 9/8 in Tokyo)
Just got home from Tokyo a few days ago. The train lines can be quite confusing. Google maps did a great job of helping us figure out which ones to take and where to get on and off. Once back above we used google live view to get back to our hotel with very little trouble. Don't know if we just got lucky but Tokyo was amazing.
Getting lost in Tokyo is easy. Japan is definitely a unique place in the world. The only place I regret getting lost was Beirut several years ago. When I got to the the hotel I was told there were areas I walked through that were probably not safe.
I thought it was funny to hear that the boys had blamed each other for getting lost in Tokyo. Since I travel alone, I haven't had that option. I'm usually pretty good about figuring out which direction to go in, and another option is always to say "Siri, where am I?" One one trip I arrived at 6 am in Oslo after an overnight trip from east coast US. Was proud of myself for figuring out how to take a train from the airport to the city main station. Went to the information booth to get a map, and told the man where my hotel was, and asked him if he could point out which way to go on the map. He was very helpful, and it looked like the hotel was just a two blocks away, so an easy walk even though it started to rain a little. I was a little concerned when the hotel didn't appear where it seemed it should be, but continued walking. Checked maps on my phone, and that indicated that I should go about 6 blocks in the opposite direction. Rather than believing this, I continued walking in what became a random search for the hotel. Finally, decided to give up, and got a cab which after a two block ride deposited me at my hotel. My feeling of complete idiocy was assuaged by the fact that in turning the map upside down so it was facing toward me , the helpful man at the information booth had drawn the directions wrong. My walk back to the train station three days later was so much easier!
I feel for you. I was in Sapporo for a conference a while back and my colleague and I went out for a walk. The signs were all in Japanese (no dual language signs there) and we couldn’t have gone that far from the hotel but realized we had no idea how to get back. We walked around for 2 hours until we finally recognized a park near our hotel and finally made it back. It’s a challenge all right.
My getting lost story was also in Tokyo. We were visiting my son and his wife who were living there at the time (he is an American but speaks fluent Japanese; she is Japanese), but they were working the day that this happened so we were on our own. My husband was in the process of restoring a certain Japanese car back home, and was looking for a part that was impossible to find in the US. So he asked me to search Google and see if I could find a Japanese auto parts store where he might have a chance of finding a Toyota part for a car that hadn't been produced in some years.
I found what I thought was a suitable store, but of course things do get lost in translation:-) We didn't have the Japanese skills to call the place, so we decided our day's adventure would be to go there. The ad I had read said it was at XYZ train stop, so we started by taking the train there (using as it turned out a very circuitous route:-). We finally got off the train, and quickly located the street we were looking for. But as any Tokyo regular knows, the Japanese often use mysterious coordinates for addresses and not street numbers. The ad had implied it was only a few blocks from the station, so we decided we would just start walking and see if we could find it. We must have walked up and down that street a dozen times , but no auto parts store. So I finally had the brilliant idea of asking at a FedEx store we saw on the street; surely they would know the location! We showed the ad to someone there, he nodded, and signaled that he would show us the way! Great! So we walked out of the FedEx building and the young man literally pointed to the building next door!! OK, great, but it was a tall office building with no storefronts. The guy pointed to the elevator and held up seven fingers to show us that it was on the 7th floor! OK, that seemed odd for an auto parts business to be on the 7th floor of what was obviously an upscale office building, but we decided we might as well check it out.
We got out of the elevator on the 7th floor and were greeted by a smartly dressed receptionist in a beautiful office. No auto parts in sight. But she didn't speak a word of English. So she signaled for us to wait, and soon a well-dressed gentleman came to greet us (We later learned that he was the owner of the company we had stumbled upon). But his English was limited as well, so we struggled to communicate our mission (which at this point we realized had probably failed:-) Somewhere along the line my husband (who had immigrated to the U.S. from India as a teenager) realized that even though the gentleman was obviously Japanese, he had some Indian ancestry. So my husband switched his language to Hindi (which I do not speak), and next thing I knew the guy and my husband were chatting away (in Hindi) like old friends, and we were brought tea and crackers and made to feel totally at home. It turned out that the guy had a Japanese father and an Indian mother, and he had spent his summers growing up at the home of his maternal grandparents near Mumbai, where he had learned Hindi in addition to his native Japanese.
It also turned out that the business (I can't really call it a store) didn't sell auto parts but rather dealt with (high end) entire automobiles, and specifically high end cars equipped for left-hand traffic such as they have in Japan. Think Lamborghini's and the like; but with the steering wheel positioned on the right hand side. So like I said, lost in translation. The gentleman we met that day couldn't help us find the part, but at least we made a new friend in Tokyo. And we had a great story to tell my son and his wife when they returned from work that evening:-)
I got lost in Tokyo, actually. There were two subway lines that I could take to reach International House. One required a walk through Roppongi, which is a bar district and crowded at night. The other left me out in Azuba-Juban, a posh neighborhood, but required a walk up a steep hill. This night, I chose hill over drunken salarymen. When I got to Azubu, however, I got turned around and went out the wrong exit. I was under a freeway overpass in the dark and it looked like a scene from the Matrix. I simply did not know where I was. I decided to hail a taxi to get home. I was three blocks away. I apologized for the short fare and the taxi driver said no problem, it happened all the time.