Written by Lorna Shapiro
I was lucky when I arrived at Tokyo’s Narita airport to be met by Chisato, with whom I would be travelling, and Mariko, the 50 year old teacher who had lived with us for many months while studying English in Vancouver. Mariko had her car and was delivering Chisato and me to our hotel in Yokohama, a suburb of Tokyo. When you think “suburb”, think Brooklyn is a suburb of New York.
Mariko navigated from Narita with the benefit of a Japanese speaking GPS into which she had keyed the name of our hotel, and a display panel that showed the road ahead and the path she was to follow. Turns out no one drives in Japan without this gear in their car. After about 40 minutes of driving, Mariko turned off the freeway into what seemed like downtown Manhattan… nothing to be seen but very tall buildings, neon lights in all directions, and a million cars on the road. All of a sudden, she was speaking Japanese that sounded like swearing and hitting her steering wheel in disgust. I asked, with some trepidation, what had happened. Turns out the GPS “lady” had said to her in Japanese “Destination reached. It’s around here somewhere.”, and stopped giving directions. We drove round in circles, the cars around us impatiently honking and zipping by us, while Chisato and Mariko searched for and finally located the hotel!