Written by an anonymous Gap at CET Japan student, Spring 2022
Coming to Japan, what I was most excited for was exploration. Socially, academically, and literally, the chance to break the monotonous days of American quarantine never failed to motivate me. As expected, actually arriving in Japan and navigating this exploration was terrifying. I found myself on my first day of class, needing to go to school and back by train on my own. I took the only route I knew, one that I practiced with my father the night before while taking extensive notes. The entire time I was nearly petrified by my own fear of getting lost. Not a relaxing start to the day. Yet the relief of first realizing I took the correct turn, then another, then the correct train, and finally reaching what was my mental destination –- the long alleyway by the train station – could not be matched by any amount of fear. I entered the first class similar to my morning journey: curious, insecure, but with a new notion that I would make it through.
This is the big alley!
In the second week, I decided it was due time for a new exploration. It seems small, but I went to the grocery store by myself. Unlike last time, I didn’t have notes on how to get there, just my memory from when I went for a class assignment.
This picture is taken at the university entrance. Walk straight from here and you reach the store!
Naturally, this led to some awkward routes. After exiting the store and feeling utterly lost, I knew no other way to the train station than going all the way back to the school. In hindsight this is one of the longest ways I could’ve gone. Feeling a little inefficient and definitely silly, each time I went to the supermarket I tried a new way back.
This street connects to the big alley!
As my familiarity with the surrounding neighborhood increased, I noticed myself changing ever so slightly. While my routes to the train station became shorter, I was able to hold longer conversations with my friends. My confidence in blending in with Japanese locals grew more automatic just as my new shortcuts became automatic. Soon I found myself comfortable enough to have a mental map ready to go no matter where in the neighborhood I was. I found routes that don’t even go to the train station, the fastest route, the quickest route, and unfortunately on my first try I already found the most inconvenient route. While my Japanese may not be nearly as fluent as my way around this area, I feel as if I’ve gotten used to a little neighborhood in a city of new language.
This street is parallel to the last picture but leads directly to the train station.