The Japanese transit system is quite an experience. The trip to and from any destination can be quite short – even a long distance trip seems to pass quickly – because of the efficiency of the trains and metro systems themselves. It’s point A to point B travel at its best.
Photo: © iStockphoto.com/Dansin
The only challenging and time consuming part of any trip is exiting a station through the right door. In some of the larger stations, a labyrinth of passageways on a number of levels makes it necessary to stop and ask for directions every several meters or so. One ascends or descends to the various levels depending on where you want to go. It’s rather Dante-esque with several levels of shops to tempt you – a shopper’s paradise if you’re up for it and hell if you’re tired or in a hurry.
Moving crowds in the Tokyo transit system are like a human undertow and if you’re not careful you can end up someplace else other than your intended destination. This trip, I was with my friend Masako, so I let her do all of the navigating while I did all of the looking. More than once I felt a polite tug on my elbow as she changed directions trying to find the closest exit to my hotel. She stopped often and glanced anxiously in my direction, worried that I’d get swept away in a crowd never to be seen or heard from again. She was my own personal life preserver, keeping me afloat in a roiling sea of people.
After a long day of sightseeing we had promised ourselves a couple of beers back at my hotel, and happy hour was upon us. I could see that Masako had a one track mind – the hotel bar or bust. The only sight she wanted to see was the bottom of a frosted mug and a bottle of Kirin. And I was right there with her. We were both parched and a little hungry.
Despite her best efforts, we had missed the exit and decided to go above ground to get our bearings. We used the neon-lit buildings to vector our way back to my hotel. Her vector points were Nakau, Uniqlo, and Takashimaya, while mine were McDonalds, KFC and a Pepsi logo atop one of the many business towers in the area. They may have been different names but the end result was the same.
We made it back to the hotel before it started to rain. It was the perfect end to a perfect day spent in one of the most amazing cities in the world. That I was able to spend it in the company of a friend was a bonus. Masako and I ended on a high note back in the bar – that note of course being Kampai! or Cheers! Different words but…
Photo: © iStockphoto.com/skodonnell