So, today I decided that I wanted to have an adventure. Matt and Hiroko went out for a jog (pfff) and left me a key and a cell phone in case I decided to leave the house while they were gone.
Well, I decided I DID want to leave. And I was going to take a train somewhere and have an adventure.
If you've been following my blog, you know that Japan's train system is scary as hell:
That's just the Tokyo area. Also, it turns out that it's even MORE confusing than this looks. Can you believe that? I can. After today, I CAN.
My adventure started with me going to the train station. Easy enough. Matt and I had gone to it frequently enough that I knew I had to take a left out of the house and...well, it was a little fuzzy after that left but I KNEW it was somewhere on the left. So I took a left out of the house.
After that left, I took another left and then paused at an intersection before deciding I knew where I was going (hint: I did not know where I was going) and went left again. After going down the street for a while, I knew I needed to take a right, and so I did...and the neighborhood was nice, by the way, as I made a fifteen minute trip to a station five minutes away.
When I made it to the tracks where I thought the station should be, I realized I should stop being stubborn and ask for help, so I stopped a woman and asked in Japanese where the train station was. She pointed down the road where, sure enough, about a block and a half away was the station. LITTLE DID I KNOW THAT I SHOULD HAVE STOPPED THEN. But, due to my nature, being unable to navigate the little neighborhood did not dissuade me from believing that I could navigate an entire train system.
I went to the station and, like Matt showed me, looked at where I wanted to go. The closer a stop is to where you start, the cheaper it is. I decided to go to a stop about 5 stations away, Hamadayama, for 130 yen (around $1.60), so I got my ticket from the machine and started on my merry way.
As I was walking up to the station, people were all getting off the train and it left before I got there. But really, I didn't know if that was the train I wanted - that is to say, I didn't know if it was going one way to Kichijouji, or to Hamadayama, which is where I had decided to go. Mostly because I recognized the last two of the three characters in its name (浜田山）。Just in case, I took a picture of my destination (which at the time I thought was brilliant, and as it happens, it helped me out a lot in the future).
The beginning of a journey gone wrong.
I'm at the red area, and I was going to the place on the far right. SO CLOSE.
Right. So I waited for the next train. It came in and that was when I realized I didn't even know which direction I needed to go. (Note: There are computerized boards everywhere saying which train is going where, but I was oh-so-naive at the time that I decided to just guess and do it). So I hopped on the train and hoped it was going the right way.
Weeeell, it wasn't going the right way. Fortunately, it was only going one stop away, which was the last stop on the line before it was going to turn around (if you look above, it went to the stop on the far left). So I waited for the train to get to the stop before it started back in the direction I had just come.
On the train, too, there's a little computer screen over the doors that says which stops it'll be headed to. It quickly became apparent that Hamadayama was not actually one of the stops it was going to. It would be passing it and go to a few stops after it. In hindsight, I now know that train was an express train, which only goes to a few stops for convenience.
Anyway, I was like, "well that's just fine, I'll just get off at this stop and explore this area instead." So I do as my brain decides and go to the ticket gate, where you put the ticket you bought from earlier into the machine and it eats it.
Nay. It didn't eat it. The gate doors shut in front of me and a woman ran into me and suddenly I was FLUSTERED.
So I just decide to go back to the trains and try to catch one back the other way to get to my first goal, Hamadayama. So I hop on a train that I think is headed the right way and wait for it to start moving.
NAY. I am now, in fact, at this point, moving in the same direction I had been moving earlier; which was, as it happens, farther in the wrong direction.
So inside I'm kinda laughing and suppressing worry because I have cash and a phone and millions of people to ask for help if it comes to that. I decide to get off at the next stop and ask for help.
So I rehearse the lines in my head as I go to a station attendant and I ask him in perfect Japanese how to get to Hamadayama, because I'm still determined to get there. And then he answers. And because I am American and have already decided before he even answered that I could figure it out better than he was telling me, I didn't actually listen to him. Hai, hai, yes, I understand, wakarimashita. HA NO. I wish I could explain why listening to people is impossible for me (though, if you've ever met my mother, perhaps it's the apple not falling far from the tree. Hi, mom! Love you!), but it was like before I even asked I had decided I could do it myself.
So I go in the direction he was roughly pointing to and decide to board another train more or less blindly.
No, Haley. Wrong, Haley. YOU'RE STILL GOING THE WRONG WAY.
So it's at this point that common sense starts to kick in and says, "Haley, you're a college student. You studied at one of the best (read: the best) schools in Wisconsin and studied in one of the best Japanese programs in the U.S. Stop dicking around ("Dicking" doesn't count as a swear, dad) and actually try to go in the right direction."
So I get off the train. I take a deep breath. And I open my eyes. I decide that I will do this. And even though I could call ask and Matt, I decide to do it on my own.
I follow signs that tell me how I can get back to the station I started at and go up an escalator in the right direction.
Well then all the signs were different and I didn't know where to go. So I went back down an escalator. I took a picture out the window.
A picture of desperation.
I find another sign.
A sign that may lead me in the right direction.
So, using signs and common sense, I navigate my way around the huge station in Meidaimae and actually get on a train going the right way.
This is when I learned about express trains. It was going the right way, but it was actually skipping the stop I needed to get off AGAIN.
I take the train to the end of the line, all the way back in Kichijouji, the first stop I had made on my adventure. As everyone gets off the train as it has come to it's last stop, I stand on the train, torn as to whether or not I should get off the train because I don't know if it will skip my stop again.
A picture of lies and deception.
A woman comes on the empty car and I ask her in Japanese (great practice, by the way) if the train we were on was going to stop at the next station, Inokashira-koen station, where I started my journey to blindly and naively go to Hamadayama. She says yes, I nearly hug her in gratitude for being so kind and smiley, and then I sit down. Soon enough, I'm at the right stop, and I get off and am super duper happy that even though I didn't get to explore the city, at least I was able to navigate my way back to my original station, even if it took an HOUR.
(My journey started in Inokashira-koen, went to Kichijoji, passed Hamadayama to go to Nishi-eifuku, then Eifukucho, Meidaimae, and finally back to Kichijoji before I could end at Inokashira-koen, precisely where I began)
The computer on the train telling me I was in Kichijoji and that the next stop was the one I could get off at. A picture of hope. A picture of success. A picture of an hour gone by spent on the train line. But as you can see, I went like ten stops out of my way, as I made it all the way to Meidaimae before starting over.
I tried to get through the gates again but they shut me out again, so I just went to the attendant, explained my situation (again, great practice), and he let me pass without a problem.
I navigated back through the neighborhood, using my knowledge of where the tracks lay and the park Matt and Hiroko have taken me a few times lay, and made it back to the house virtually unscathed.
And that, my friends, was my attempt at an adventure in Tokyo.