Tuesday, April 5, 2016

deciphering Tokyo's railway system

Krishna and I embarked on a Japanese hanami adventure during this year's sakura season. And we hit a few hilarious road blocks. Here's one of them...

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On the first night we arrived in Tokyo, we dropped our bags at our hotel in Kisarazu and then went to the train station to catch a two-hour train ride to Shinjuku. We thought that it would be a good idea to see where we were supposed to meet the tour group for the next day's tour. 


At the airport, there were many people who could tell us the direction to the trains (because it was crowded) but in Kisarazu, we didn't find anyone; we were pretty much on our own. And so when we needed to know what trains to take, we had to rely on Google Maps (thank you, Google Maps!!) and on the timetable posted at the station. It looked something like this (although I took the photo at the Mitsukoshimae station, a stop along the Ginza line).


With time pressure on us, it was difficult... this must be what it feels like to be in the Amazing Race in a country where you don't speak the language, but without the race pressure, of course. Anyway, as we were looking at the timetable, deciphering which platform to take and such, trains continued to pass by. Because I tend to wing it when things become challenging and I like to solve puzzles, I approached deciphering this language puzzle as an exercise for my brain... with a time limit. At some point, I blurted: 

Kaya natin yan. May MS ka, may PhD ako. 

At least I didn't have to mime my way to communicate with others; I did that in Hong Kong and my cousins still laugh about that. Language barriers and being new in a city is not an excuse not to explore it on the first night in it. Thank you, Sherry Lou, for teaching me that very valuable lesson 10 years ago in Sydney!

Anyway, at first, we were quite limited to the recommended itineraries generated by Google Maps. A few rides later, I thought we had the hang of the Tokyo train system that it was quite easy to take alternative train routes if we didn't catch the train we intended to take. After all, there would be a next train all the time (within Tokyo itself). The suburbs were a different story though, so we really had to stick with the timetable's schedule.

I think that if I were living there, I'd eventually learn the route enough. Even if I can't read Japanese.

PS: There still are people who push people into the trains to make sure everyone's aboard. I felt two palms at my back actually pushing me into the train! Haha!