When it comes to sense of direction, only the voice of TomTom is more belligerent than me. Despite being fully aware that my insistence that we’re going in the right direction often rubs up friends and travel companions the wrong way, rarely do I care to admit that my inner compass has gone haywire. It’s an infuriating trait that I need to stamp out over the next few months,that’s for certain.
And today, having marched off the Tokyo subway in a haze of jetlag at 1pm, I busted out my largely useless Google map and set off in search of our hotel. Japan’s bizarre street numbering system wasn’t going to flummox me, no sirree.
Fast forward 30 minutes and Keeley and I are strolling from block to block, luggage weighing heavy on our backs, me desperately claiming that ‘that brick building up ahead looks just like the hotel does on Google Street View’. Of course, I was wrong.
Riding to the rescue, however, were the citizens of Tokyo. Having asked two incredibly polite women where the numbers-only address of our hotel was, they directed us to the kind of hotel that I’ve only ever stayed in on press trips. Large, pricey and very western. This was most definitely not where we would be sleeping tonight, but they said the staff would help us.
And boy were they right. Directed to rest our weary bones on cosy chairs in front of the managers desk, we were handed maps, more printouts and detailed directions to our destination. No hard sell, just a smile and a chirpy parting shot: “Hopefully next time you can stay with us.” I tried to imagine any hotel in London ever being this friendly. Frankly, I couldn’t.
Hitting the road again, we made progress but were again soon lost in the Tokyo backstreets. With businessmen heading back to work after lunch everywhere, one kind gent took pity on us and not only gave us directions, but walked us to out hotel, where I’m now battling fatigue and writing this post. He spoke no English, we spoke no Japanese, but his willingness to help has already shown me how welcome the Japanese make strangers. Not to mention proving once and for all that I should always seek a second opinion when it comes to getting from A to B.