Friday, September 16, 2016

Finding My Way (Ethan)

Finding and mapping my way around Hirakata, Japan has been a very interesting experience.  I consider myself to be someone with a pretty good sense of direction.  If I’ve been somewhere once I can usually find my way back there again and I can usually tell East from West wherever I am.  In Japan, however, I feel very lost.  Even after two and a half weeks I still have trouble figuring out where I am sometimes because the layout of Japan is so drastically different from the way American cities and towns are laid out.  I’m not one to just stay in one place and be content only knowing a few of my immediate surroundings, though, so I’ve been exploring as much as possible.

I started finding my way around on my second day here.  It was the only day I had before orientation started so I figured it was my best chance.  With the help of my phone gps I went walking everywhere and decided to find the nearest arcade (which is only about 1km away).  I also went for a few more walks after this one, including walking to get dinner with some other students.  The only landmarks for me were places I’d been inside of, and even some of those were lost to me.  The location of the restaurant I went to is still a mystery to me because I let someone else lead the way there.  Even so, after 2 or 3 days I was starting to become more comfortable.
My most used route: the path between my dorm and school.
A few more days in I bought a bicycle.  This was an excellent investment in my mapping process and has helped me explore way more than I could have without it.  Now, instead of going for walks I was going for rides for fun.  I was able to make my way to places that are a little farther, like a local mall and the edge of the town I’m staying in.  I was still using my gps to help me get to these places but I’m fairly confident I remember the routes without a map now.  This is partly because I stick to main streets, which are easy to navigate.  I’ve started to explore some residential streets and they are a maze to me.
My map after 6 days.
I’ve continued my exploration and found many new places in town but I still feel like the majority of Hirakata is still a mystery to me.  There are so many places I haven’t been and so many places still feel strange to me.  As I mentioned, I’ve been trying to take some side streets and have actually found a couple good routes in them (which shows a little bit on my last map in the area labelled “side streets”).  Still, the majority of them feel like elaborate labyrinths designed to trap anyone that isn’t from the area.   I’ve ended up having to turn back many times because I’ve reached randomly placed dead ends and streets that circle back on themselves.  Exploring these streets is an ongoing process and I don’t think I’ll ever fully get to know these areas.
My map after about 2 weeks.
I’m still finding my way around Hirakata and while I’ve mostly gotten to know main streets and shops that I regularly use, I plan to get to know more as I continue exploring the area.  I know I’ll never completely know my way around the city but I think that by December I can become fairly knowledgeable about local geography.  I continue to explore every day and will keep doing so every day I’m here.
The maze of a city I am learning to navigate.


Emma said...

Getting a bicycle seems like such a good investment!!! I'm slightly worried about buying one myself because Tokyo is such a train based city, and I feel like I won't use it enough to make it worth it.

Hannah said...

I wish I could get a bicycle, but you can't take them on trains so the point would be moot. There's a really good ramen place outside the main entrance and to the right a couple blocks, and if you show your student ID you get a discount large ramen.

Millie FAN said...

It's good for you to get a bicycle~ I am so jealous all of you can have lots of opportunities to explore your local area because your campus is really big!! For me, ONLY car can works well in my local areas hahah.