Trains and no idea – My Spiritual Home
On the train ride from Roppongi to Shinjuku, I declared my love of the precinct to Emma. “These are my people,” I stated. “Shinjuku is my spiritual home in Japan,” I added.
The universe has a wry sense of humour, so naturally two things were destined to happen after such a declaration: 1 – the first person we saw was a homeless man (my people indeed), and 2 – I got us lost almost immediately.
I had been to Shinjuku twice before, so I was aware of the significant homeless population around the park.
Nevertheless, having spent the past few days watching Ferraris, Teslas and Rolls Royce drive past on the streets of Roppongi, I had forgotten that there were such significant issues in parts of the city. I guess I had just assumed that all of Tokyo had somehow become filthy rich.
Getting lost was a little more embarrassing, especially in this day and age of GPS-enabled smart phones. We had emerged from the Metro on an unfamiliar street. I had immediately consulted Google maps and quickly gathered my bearings. The map informed me that we were just a short walk away from the main park of Shinjuku station – a landmark I know well (thanks in part to countless hours spent playing Metropolis Street Racer (WEY HEY!)).
I put my phone back in my pocket and set off confidently in the direction that I knew was correct. The only problem was that I assumed the subway had spat us out on the other side of the street. I was now walking in the completely wrong direction.
Level Crossings – Tokyo Style
We reached a level crossing (yes, an actual level crossing for trains in one of the busiest parts of the busiest city in the world). The boom gates had lowered just before we arrived and we watched the train full of commuters roll past.
It was interesting to see, and even more interesting when another train came from the opposite direction.
Both trains completed the their crossing and we waited patiently for the boom gates to rise.
They didn’t. Instead, they stayed lowered, with warning bells ringing, for about 20 seconds, before another train appeared. Then another. Then another. We stood at that level crossing for a full ten minutes.
In total, twelve trains came and went. Hannah didn’t seem to mind, she was sitting comfortably in her RECARO stroller. She just watched on with interest as the trains went past. For Emma and I, however, it quickly became tedious. Seen one train? Seen ’em all.
I joked with Emma that we were actually going to wrong way, and that we would shortly have to turn around and go back across the level crossing, thereby wasting another ten minutes of our lives
The Truth Hurts
Finally the barrier lifted and we were once again on our way. We walked along happily, taking in the sights and sounds. Then an alarm went off in the back of my mind. We were walking past Yoyogi station – a station that we had gone through on our journey into Shinjuku.
I consulted Google maps. Something definitely wasn’t right. I stopped walking and Emma asked what was wrong.
“There’s something wrong with the maps,” I replied, lamely. “I think they are playing up.”
At times I can be stubborn, and the reality of the situation was slow to dawn. I was reluctant to admit that I had got it so wrong in the place that I had declared “my spiritual home in Japan” just minutes earlier. But the truth of the situation couldn’t be ignored, and soon enough I had to face up to the fact that the maps weren’t the problem – I was.
With great embarrassment, I informed Emma that I had in fact stuffed up. We need to walk back the way we came, and worse, we need to face the level crossing once more.
We trudged back up the road. Thankfully, the boom gates remained upright and we were able to get through without any further delays.
In no time at all we found ourselves in the heart of Shinjuku. Neon lights, skyscrapers, electronics stores…
I was home.