Ms. Direction

by

Sakae (栄) is a common stop on trips to Nagoya (名古屋) because it has many of the resources handy to a foreigner, a teacher of English, or a student of Japanese. Being all three, gives me reason to stop there. Also, my favorite Japanese cultural arts supply store, Kyouwa (キョウ和), is there along with a couple museums. As I mentioned yesterday, I was visiting one of those museums with my friend on Sunday. After the museum we ate a late lunch and shopped around a bit in Sakae until we decided to head back to Nagoya station. This is where today’s adventure begins.

We decided to walk to Nagoya station instead of taking the subway. My friend comes from Toronto where they apparently have a tradition of walking a lot. (I’m sure it’s because automobiles have only recently become available in Canada, so only the richest families posses them.) She recommended that we give this a try and was surprised that I so willingly went along. Of course, my thinking was that, at any time, if I became weary of the activity there would be a subway station nearby. No harm in trying, plus I have been on some incredible treks around cities before. (Oh how I wish my original blog’s entries were here, so I could link to the accidental cemetery break-in.)

When I travel by subway in Japan, I usually emerge from underground with no awareness of north and south. Partly, this comes from the huge underground shopping malls winding around the stations and the fact that the maps rarely have north at the top. When I emerge from the stairways of exit 17, I might as well be in a different world. My travel companion also is not the best with directions, so our first step was to pick an appropriate direction to head to the station.

My preferred method is asking passers-by for help. Our  first helper displayed many of the characteristics of an imbalanced person. She, like everyone we asked assumed that I had not meant to ask, “Which direction is Nagoya station?”, but rather, “How do I get to Nagoya station?” She very much desired to tell us to go down any nearby staircase and get on a train, since we were immediately above Sakae station. She could not believe us when I insisted we were walking there. Regardless, she confidently gave us the direction to head; which we now know was south.

In the back of my mind I was suspicious of following a crazy person’s directions, but my exit strategy above is not affected by direction and I assumed we could ask more folks along the way. Our second and third helpers struggled with our question, one had no idea at all and the other had a vague notion and guided us a little south and a long way west. Lack of directional knowledge of their own city is a side-effect of always relying on the trains.

We stumbled upon Village Vanguard. Having heard good report of this store, we stopped in for a look. Unfortunately, we found it to be more like a cross between a cheap version of Archie McPhee‘s and a head shop, rather than the book store it is purported to be. After a short visit, we continued on our mission. Spotting a Cosmo Oil gas station, I looked to them for clearer directions.

A very attractive female attendant, although wanting to put us on a subway, gave us very clear directions including how many traffic lights before our turn and an estimated walking time. I explained that I loose my way easily and asked if she could guide us there. While she didn’t say no, she didn’t really answer that question as she gave a polite chuckle. We set off on the last leg and discovered an English pub along the way, which I’m sure will deserve a visit on another trip.

The Cosmo girl’s directions were to head north and a little west. For those of you keeping track, that means that our initial direction of due south was a little off from the proper direction of due west. We actually could have stayed on the very road where we started and followed it all the way to the station. Estimated distance: 2.2 kilometers. Estimated journey: 3.6 kilometers. We wandered a bit, but discovered much.

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