Saturday, January 13, 2007

Getting Lost in Tokyo...

Ashley's Tokyo Metro Line Adventure (coming soon to a theater near you).

So, I leave Shibuya (somewhat frazzled as an overly friendly Starbucks patron had spent 2.5 hours randomly staring at me) and walked into the wrong entrance. By wrong entrance I mean, I entered the station building, but no where near the subway entrance. These stations are structural mazes meant to test one’s lateral thinking or animal instincts: okay so I’m able to feel wind on my hands and smell cigarettes...there must be a way out.

I stared at the Japanese characters for awhile, and realized that IF I had brought the English transit map that Linden had given me I would be able to figure this out. Realizing I wasn't close to the subway I thought...Okay, well “Yamanote Line” sounds familiar. I paid the same fair as getting to Shibuya, surely that’s enoughDid I mention that I was doing this at rush hour?

Inadvertently, and not-surprisingly, I traveled the “wrong” way. I’ll explain what I mean by wrong. I didn’t realize this, but Yamanote goes in a circle. My destination, Ueno, is on the other side. There is no wrong way. However, there is a sliding price scale depending on your destination. You pay your fair at the beginning. Fare adjustment (if necessary) consists of a relatively simple conversation with a ticket agent if you’ve overpaid, or underpaid. It was rush hour...I didn't feel like conversing with Police or Ticket Agents.

The Tokyo Subway Map (Left)

The JR (Trains) Map (Right)

These maps are my 2 best friends when without my sister.

Realizing I needed some time to re-think my plan home I jumped off at Harijuku (Lind loves this area).

Before trying my luck with the Tokyo Transit for a second time, I did some sightseeing down a funky alleyway reminiscent of an exotic version of Toronto’s Queen St. West).

My trip home on the JR line was comfortable, having successfully won my battle for a seat. (I had to compete with an elderly woman for my train seat – For those who might think less of me I'm told this is common in Japan…the elderly are surprisingly spry, as Linden and Mhairi have warned me).

Getting into Ueno I was again confronted by the rush hour river (Think: Finding Nemo and how the turtles had to swim into the Gulf Stream…similar skills at merging apply when entering into rush hour left-leaning lanes.) I nearly smashed my head against the ceiling of one of the tunnels. They have painted yellow warning strips for tall people. At the last second I saw the concrete and ducked.

Finally, the subway arrived.

I gaped.

The people were squished so tight a man’s cheekbone was pressed against the glass doors.

I’m supposed to get on one of these cars?!!

Gob-smacked I backed up and decided I’d try my chances with the next train.

Next train was the same; oh my God I need a picture of this.

I held my breath and shoved my way on. I felt a decided push from behind. Unbelievable, the train station attendant (complete with white gloves) was shoving someone behind me on to the train. A moment of feeling crushed and then I had arrived in Iriya (Pro-nounced eel-ee-ya). Relieved, I let myself fall out of the subway car and chuckled all the way home.

Linden had Mhairi have scolded me for evening daring to leave home without Linden’s cellphone number or my English map. They have even funnier/scarier stories depending on how you feel about crowds.

Ah well, I feel like I’ve passed some Tokyo test. It’s exhilerating.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Too scarry for me!