I love, love, love it when people complain about living in Japan. Often it’s a symptom of homesickness or culture shock and they’re just lashing out at anything to compensate. Sometimes they’re just cynical.
There are no trash cans. Wah. Trains stop running so early. Wah wah. There are no hand towels in the bathrooms. Wah wah wah, motherfuckers.
One of my all-time favorite complaints is the fact that Japan doesn’t have street names. People who voice this particular complaint are in such a state of blissful ignorance that they are unlikely ever to get used to it. I once met a German guy who was complaining about how hard it is to find things in Japan because of the lack of street names and numbers. I asked him for his address and showed him where he lived in less than 30 seconds. I was equipped to do this because I was carrying my trusty map:
The 2009 version just got released, so I upgraded from the version I bought three years ago. There are a number of different pocket-sized maps, but Mapple’s is the most popular. It has tons of useful information in the front.
Detailed subway transfer information (which car to stand in for the easiest transfer):
But the most useful part of all is its main function – maps. To find a place, all you need is the 区 (Ward, although recently I’ve seen “City” used frequently), the neighborhood name, and then the address number. The number is a three-digit number in the format 1-2-3, where 1 is the neighborhood number, 2 is the block number, and 3 is the building number. As an example, let’s find the Sword Museum. Its address is 渋谷区代々木4-25-10.
Generally you can look for the ward first on the map. Shibuya is pretty easy, but Yoyogi, the neighborhood name, is actually a bit far from Shibuya Station, so it’s easiest to track down Yoyogi Station’s page from the map in the front, which tells us Yoyogi Station is on pg 88:
Here’s pg 88 around Yoyogi Station:
Clearly not on this page, so lets check one page south:
There’s 代々木4. Now you track down the light blue 25 closest to it, and that will be right about where it is. On the map it’s marked with 刀剣博物館.
Rather than doing everything street by street, Japan takes a grid approach, which is actually a lot more manageable when you think about it. Get used to it. Once you do, you should be able to find anything. Mapple – don’t leave your tiny ass apartment without it.
Oh, and you can forget visiting the Sword Museum – it’s crap. Small display and zero English.