Home > Japan, School > Getting Lost in Japan

Getting Lost in Japan

One of my schools is about a forty minute bike ride from my apartment. Last Thursday, Kusano-san, my supervisor, took me to all the schools to get introduced. It was also to be my guide as to how to get to the schools I was teaching at. We were in a car, though, and we went from one school to the other, not from the apartment to each of the schools. Can you see where this is going yet? I was given a map of the area, with my schools highlighted in yellow and my apartment in pink. Even so, what’s written on a map and what’s real generally does not translate well. On Monday, I set off on my way, having planned my route carefully. At the second traffic light on the road, turn left. Then it’s a straight shot from that road to the school, though it will take me about 20 minutes after turning. On the map, it looked like quite a distance between the two traffic lights, so when I arrived at the second one, which was nearly immediately after the first one, I was confused. Perhaps the map forgot to add an intersection in between, I thought to myself. So on I biked, until I reached the next set of traffic lights. I already had an inkling by then that something had not gone quite right, because the road was winding in a way that was most certainly not depicted on the map. Nevertheless, I pedaled on. Turning left at the traffic lights, I was slightly encouraged by what looked at the time to be a familiar setting: the 7/11 Convenience store across the street. On I biked. (I should have realized, of course, that that’s like saying I was encouraged by seeing a Starbucks in the U.S. I could have biked all the way to Hokkaido and seen the exact same 7/11 and been encouraged.) Finally, at 8:10 AM, the time I should have been at school, I arrived at a big road, with signs telling me I was biking towards Kitakyushu and Buzen. Certainly NOT the way I wanted to go. I didn’t know much about the correct way to school, but I knew this much. Kitakyushu and Buzen are both in Fukuoka prefecture. My school is most definitely in Oita prefecture. So, swallowing my pride, I called my supervisor.

Me: “Kusano-san, it’s Dash.”
Kusano San: “Hai, Dashie-ru-san, how are you?”
Me: “Etto…kyou watashi ha chotto michi ga…mayotte shimaimashita.” (Quick translation: Umm, today I kind of…regrettably lost my way.)
Kusano San: “Hahahahahahahaha. Where are you? I’ll come pick you up.”
Me: “Well, I’m lost… But I think I’m on Route 10, at the entrance of some park.”
Kusano san: “Route 10? a park? I don’t know where that is. I will come find you.”
Me: “Thanks! I’ll stay here.”
-10 minutes later-
*Ring ring*

Me: “Hello?”
Kusano San: “Where are you?”
Me: (To myself) “Oh crap.”
At this very moment, one of the other supervisors, Asagi-san, drives by in her car, on her way to pick up Natalie. Complete coincidence.
Me: “Ah, Kusano-san, Asagi-san just drove by! Call her, she’ll know where I am!”
Kusano San: “Oh thank God! Ok, I’ll do that.”

Five minutes later, both Kusano-san and Asagi-san show up at the corner of the road where I am waiting. They then lead me (they are driving, I am hauling behind by bike) to my school, approximately 15 minutes away from the position I was. Apparently, as you may have guessed, I overshot the street I was supposed to turn left on by about 15 minutes, and ended up, as was discussed with much mirth by the teachers at the school when I arrived, off of the map, somewhere down south. I arrived at school at 9:00 AM, a full 50 minutes late, though the school did not seem to mind much. There is nothing to do there anyway. After the school lunch (half a fish, literally, head and all, eyes staring back at me, rice, some chicken and miso soup) all the teachers got together and hand drew me a map with the best route to take to my apartment. (I’m not entirely sure what this accomplished, because this map was even more off scale than the one Kusano-san had printed off the internet, but it’s the effort that counts I guess. This once and for all shows the helpfulness of the Japanese people, sometimes to their own detriment. If you ever ask a Japanese person for directions, 90% of the time instead of just telling you, they will show you the way, even if it’s not the way they were originally going. And even if they are themselves not 100% sure they know where it is. In conclusion, know your way. And if you do get lost, at least pick a Japanese person who is walking in the way you are pretty sure you should be going, to inconvenience them as little as possible.) After drawing the map, the vice principal took me for a ride, showing me all the possible routes to school. Apparently not only did I get lost, I also took the longest of all the possible routes.

It’s these kinds of adventures that make living in Japan so much fun. Being in a foreign country, getting lost, and everyone loving it because you’re a foreigner. Some people would take offense to it, but I am just taking it in stride. There have been many more times where I have impressed the Japanese people with my knowledge of Japanese (Saying: “Osaki ni shitsureishimasu”, rough translation: I’m being rude for leaving before you, at the end of the work day as you leave and others stay gets great reactions. Quite frankly, being told how amazing you are at a language gets tiring after the first few days…) than there have been times where I have acted like the crazy foreigner they expect me to be.

I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun doing something entirely wrong in my life. Getting lost anywhere else in the world is scary as hell. In Japan, everyone laughs, and you get an expertly hand crafted map of the area, complete with more information than is humanly necessary for you to find your way, for example, that one shrine that you should really visit at some point during your stay.


Here are some pictures of a trip Natalie and I took. We just started driving and ended up in Usa somewhere. It was a lot of fun.

More on the web, as usual

  1. August 15, 2009 at 9:19 am

    Haha I laughed at the “It gets tiring hearing how great you are at a language…” Yes…pretty exhausting being awesome, isn’t it Dash? 🙂

  2. Dash
    August 15, 2009 at 9:48 am

    It is!

  3. dickie
    August 17, 2009 at 12:46 pm

    I’m really appreciating the travelogue and observations and I know you’ll be very happy, some day, to look back on these notes.


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