A new Japan story…

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 delivered Chisato and me to our hotel in Yokohama, a suburb of Tokyo. When you think of a “suburb”, think Brooklyn is a suburb of New York.

Mariko navigated from Narita with a Japanese-speaking GPS. She keyed the name of our hotel in it, and a display panel showed the road ahead and the path she was to follow. It turns out that 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. There was nothing to be seen but very tall buildings, neon lights in all directions, and a million cars on the road. Suddenly, she was speaking Japanese that sounded like swearing, and hitting her steering wheel in disgust. I asked, with some trepidation, what had happened. It turns out the GPS “lady” had said to her: “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!