It dawned on me, as I was filling out an entry form for a movie ticket give-away yesterday (Attack on Titan live action, if you’re curious), that most Americans would find my address odd. In the sense that there’s no street involved. At all. In fact, I don’t even know what street I live on. I suppose it must have a name, but I sure as heck don’t know what it is. (I just looked it up now and realized it’s named for the park across the street … I will continue to give directions involving my bank and 7-11, I think).
Other than a handful of major streets in the ward — Nanotsu, Showa, Meiji, Watanabe — I don’t know any street names at all here. Don’t need to. In downtown Tenjin, aside from those major streets, there are a few named intersections — City Hall, Police Station, Kirameki — which are more useful ways of providing locations than “blah blah 1st street,” I think.
As you might guess from the title of this post, I am woeful with directions and maps, especially maps here, since “north” is a moving target, and not always at the top, where it rightfully belongs. I get lost less now that I have a phone and Google maps, but it’s never, ever street names that save me. It’s landmarks. I used to drive my friend Megan nuts by insisting on navigating by landmarks and ignoring directions and street names. It’s just that “go west” has no meaning to me, but “come up out of the subway between Parco and Solaria Stage, turn right, then cross the street by the McDonalds, and go straight” makes perfect sense.
My first day here, I took a taxi from Hakata station to the office, and was amused to note the driver’s GPS thought like me. Instead of telling him to turn left in 100 meters, it told him to turn left at the park, where there was a Family Mart on the corner. That’s my brain, definitely.
(I can only assume I would have sucked as a pioneer, since cacti make poor landmarks and moss surely doesn’t grow on any side of them, does it?)
Ironically, my friends here think I’m an awesome navigator, because I am very good at getting around Tenjin, particularly underground. And truthfully, I do pretty well here, after my first few bumbling attempts armed only with building names. In other cities, I don’t always fare quite so well, but Fukuoka is easy for me for some reason, and I feel confident enough to try alternate routes and new places. And if I do get totally turned around, there’s likely either a neighborhood map … or Google maps to the rescue.