Yes, ladies and gentleman, it’s time for another travel mishap story! I’m running out of titles for these things. Luckily, this should be my last tale of this kind—for a long while if not for forever, I hope! As I have no pictures associated with this trip, enjoy looking at some Japanese food!
When I studied abroad in Nagoya, I heard about the opportunity to participate in a research project taking place in a nearby town whose name I never knew well and couldn’t recall for you if I tried. If I remember correctly, the research project focused on learning or knowing multiple languages. Specifically, I think, they wanted people who knew English and Japanese. They would give us various language tasks or questions as we underwent a fun little scan of our brains.
As I had some intermediate Japanese and I could earn a bit of pocket money, I volunteered. Another guy from my class also participated, but he went at another time, sadly. Or perhaps not sadly, since you’re getting a story out of this now.
The gist of it is that I had to travel from my homestay town to a nearby town, then I was to follow the map to the research building. I took a photo of the map, which was about as basic as it came, and went on my way on my scheduled Saturday.
I followed my usual route to the main station where I would transfer to a line I had never taken before. Hesitantly, nervously, I asked a station worker what train I needed to take to get to the town. He was extremely kind and helpful, showing me where on the map my stop would be and telling me which platform to go to so I could catch the train.
I bought my ticket, boarded the train, and kept my eyes and ears peeled for all mentions of my stop. I was and still am anxious about missing my stop—for instance, by not hearing it announced or by accidentally boarding an express train and overshooting the stop entirely.
Luckily for me, neither of those situations happened, and I got off at the right location. Pulling out my phone, I walked to the station exit and found my map. Unfortunately, I couldn’t read it. As I recall, there were hardly any labels at all to follow. That was when I really learned that some streets don’t have names in Japan. For example, back in the U.S., I could turn onto pretty much any road and see that it was called “Western Road” or “5th street” and so on. From my limited experience with Japanese cities, main streets are named but other streets may not be, particularly in residential areas. (Someone correct me if you know better.)
So I was faced with essentially nameless streets. Good thing I left early enough! I had about half an hour before my meeting, and it wasn’t supposed to take but a few minutes to walk from the station to the research building. Opting against the two streets that looked residential, I headed to the right, towards what looked like the main part of the city.
On and on and on I walked. I crossed a large bridge. I passed convenience stores. Ultimately, after ten or fifteen minutes—maybe even twenty—I stopped at a library or some such building for information. They had no idea what this place was or where it was, so I was forced to backtrack and return to the station.
From there, I looked at the map again and tried the road to the left. I hardly walked down it for two minutes before I decided it didn’t look like the correct path. I returned to the station.
Pressed for time and anxious beyond what I had experienced to that point in my life (this was a few years before Terror in Tokyo), I finally pulled up the researcher’s contact information. He told me to wait there and he would meet me. In no time at all, he arrived, and we went up the middle street—the only one I hadn’t tried. He led me up some stairs along a hill, and it seemed that we entered the research center from the back way.
The research experience itself was fine. The did their fancy scans on my brain while I answered their questions and read things for them. Afterward, they showed me the brain scan. Their English was good enough that they could tell me what they were looking for and where on the image they might find it. Partly to forewarn them in case it was relevant and partly to see if anyone in Japan knew about it, I mentioned my synesthesia to them. I quickly found out that they hadn’t heard of it before. I managed to communicate the gist of what synesthesia is, but our conversation didn’t last much longer after that. We had said what we needed to say, and they had another participant coming in soon.
I left the research building and found myself among a couple other buildings. I didn’t remember which way we had come so I could retrace my steps. After wandering around like a fool and finding no one at the information desk (it was a weekend and not many people were around as it was), I decided to chance it. I chose a random direction.
This time I chose correctly. I walked down the driveway that was the main entrance, and in less than five minutes I was back at the station. It had been almost a direct route! I felt silly for not understanding the map before, but primarily I was relieved I hadn’t gotten lost again. I made it back to my homestay with no trouble.