About Me

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I'm an American living in Japan for three years while my wife is on assignment here. (Three years has come and gone so I should probably say three years and counting.)

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Back To It

Yesterday Marcia went back to work and I started the new year with the idea to get out more and let the whole Japanese environment teach me instead of staying in the house so much. With that in mind I took the car for a drive to find a local athletic club that we may join. I've been driving the car about once a week but, I always had Marcia for a navigator. I figured it was time to go it alone. The car, a Toyota Corolla, is equipped with GPS, but all of the buttons, directions and vocals are in Japanese. So I'm driving on the left side of the road, trying to figure out the GPS and listening to a woman's voice give me directions in Japanese. Not to mention that everyone walks in the streets on the less traveled roads because there are no sidewalks. My neighbor, David, says driving these streets is pretty much like walking except you're sitting down. The club I was looking for is in a residential area on a hill with narrow winding streets. I found out that the GPS does not like narrow winding streets in residential areas once you make a few wrong turns and stops telling you to turn left or right which are the only two phrases that I recognize on the GPS so far. She, the GPS voice, does continue to talk to me but she's probably just telling me what an idiot I am for passing the same intersection for the third time. I drove through some streets that were so narrow I thought my mirrors were going to scrape the buildings on both sides of the car. When a car is coming the other way, both vehicles immediately look for wide areas to pull into to let the other car pass. Anyway, my ten minute drive took an embarrassingly long time. The good news is that I did eventually find the club and I learned a lot about the GPS and now know how to recognize when I'm lost. The drive home was less eventful with only a couple of wrong turns. You might ask how this is helping me to learn Japanese. I stopped people in the street (at least six times) while I was driving and asked directions. Sumimasen, YCAC wa doko desu ka. (Excuse me, where is the YCAC?) The directions given to me were in Japanese with a lot of pointing. Every person I stopped was very friendly and quite willing to help. So GPS + friendly locals + my limited Japanese + luck = success. One thing I've learned while living in Japan is that attempting any new task (even ones that seem quite simple in the States) usually turns into an adventure and definitely takes a lot more time than planned.
Ja mata

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