There are a lot of opportunities to get lost on this trip each and every time we set foot outside. But most frequently we get lost when we first arrive in a new place. It seems no matter how many times we take a look at the map or prepare turn by turn directions from the airport, a city doesn’t make sense until we’ve been in it for at least a day.
This was particularly true about Tokyo. In Bangkok, I watched Nellu work for hours researching our route from Narita Airport, more than 60 km east of central Tokyo, to our friends apartment in the neighborhood Setagaya, west of central Tokyo.
(Ok, to be honest I sarcastically nagged him that he was playing Farmville while I needed him to write a blog post he had promised. If you’re wondering why it takes us so long to get up posts, sometimes it’s because when we finally get good internet after a long stretch without it we turn into fiends, playing on the web like procrastinating teenagers. But it turns out this time, Nellu was doing what we really needed to get done, while I was reading Gawker.)
But despite all his prep work, we still got lost.
But it wasn’t even the train system that really threw us It was a far more basic misstep. We walked in the complete opposite direction for about 15 minutes after getting off the train. Nellu kept saying that we needed to pass a field or farmland that he saw when he mapped out our step by step route on Google Earth. So off we went into the cool Tokyo night looking for a farm in the middle in of the city.
I tried to maintain an upbeat attitude. Nellu did do all the leg work on this one and it had to be the most complicated airport to lodging transfer of our trip. God knows I’ve certainly gotten us lost. And I am sure he was questioning my sanity when I suggested we get into the beat-up, white van outside the Lima airport with only a few words of broken Spanish to the driver’s assistant. We obviously got where we were going, but there was a good 45 minutes when it really could have gone either way.
Tokyo was a new city for us and a new situation. When finally the straps of my bag started to dig channels into the flesh on my shoulders, I insisted he approach someone for directions. After much prodding, he did and we arrived at our destination a healthy four and half hours after we landed in Japan. (He actually tried to explain to me today that the cliched man who won’t ask for direction has to do with primitive gender roles, something about more iron in his system, and the preference to die trying rather than ask.)
When we recounted this story to friends in Tokyo, they wondered if we fought or if I got exasperated with getting lost. I chuckled explaining that I was just grateful that Nellu planned the route and we each take turns getting the other one lost so it was ok.
So you can imagine on our walk from Shinjuku to Shibuya two days later, I had the same upbeat attitude when we once again got lost. Nope. With words laced with attitude, I asked Nellu if we were looking once again for a field.
It’s a good thing that Tokyo is filled with street maps. Between the maps on almost every corner, our GPS compass Nellu uses to geotag pictures and a pdf of Lonely Planet’s Tokyo chapter stored on his phone, we finally found Shibuya and the famous Shibuya Crossing. We also walked by several really cool buildings.
We spent about a half an hour in the Starbucks across the street from Shibuya Crossing watching people go back and forth and then we crossed ourselves becoming two of the 100,000 people that traverse the intersection each hour.
By the end of our time in Tokyo, we felt pretty confident in our ability to get around. We even ventured far out east to Shibamata where we found a great little neighborhood full of temples and spent some time getting lost on our way back to the train station. I also shot another piece of video, one that I should probably visualize the next time I get snotty about getting lost.
I am also starting to realize that if it really is the journey and not the destination, then get lost is probably more important than getting found.