Tokyo: A Life Lesson Learned

Tokyo: A Life Lesson Learned

Anyone who knows me knows that my sense of direction often leads me on interesting detours.  My directional instincts fail so regularly, in fact, that my husband, when unsure about which way to go, will ask me, and then proceed in the opposite direction to find our way.  Thus, the family consensus: I’m directionally dyslexic, as in map-reading is not my forte.

Normally, my off-beat orientation isn’t a big deal. When I’m in a new place, I embrace the fact that I’ll get lost.  A lot.  And to me, that’s all part of the adventure.

However, I’m married to a guy who is basically a human GPS.  He can study a map once or twice, and BAM, he knows (with confidence! and accuracy!) where he is going, how long it will take to get there, all of the sight-seeing hotspots, and even where there might be a snack place or two.

Autumn in a sea of people making the Shibuya Crosssing.

Autumn in a sea of people making the Shibuya Crosssing.

Not only that, but in the last week I’ve watched him enter Tokyo’s metro system (a transit network determined by a bunch of mathematicians and theoretical physicists to be the third most complex subway setup in the world) and master it in minutes.  I’m not kidding.  Even with a sea of people rushing at us from every direction he has been able to scan the signs and get us to the correct train and subsequent connection every. single. time.

A panoramic shot of the beautiful Tokyo Station.

A panoramic shot of the beautiful Tokyo Station.

Clearly, Mitchell’s directional gifting and my lack thereof earns him the position of navigational master for the FAMtastic4.  It’s actually best if don’t interfere in the process, haha!

When we’ve traveled to foreign countries in the past, I’m usually the one who deciphers signage because I’m pretty good at languages.  After a week of practice, though, I’ve learned *only* to say hello (konnichiwa), thank you (arrigato gozaimasu), excuse me (sumimasen), and water (mizzu).  And I am still unable to read anything.  As in zip, zero, zilch.  {Curse you, Japanese language with your Hiragana, Katakana & Kanji alphabets and character sets!}

You should see us in the store.  We just stare at the packages guessing what might be inside. And then we stare at them some more.  You know, because maybe the longer we stare, the more likely we'll be able to figure out what it is we're staring at?

An aisle of seaweed wraps. You know, for sushi.  But why so many varieties?  What differentiates them from one another?  Hmmmmm...

An aisle of seaweed wraps. You know, for sushi.  But why so many varieties?  What differentiates them from one another?  Hmmmmm...

So right about now I’m feeling like my skill set is failing our family, which for a bit had me feeling a little fragile.  In fact, I was a whole lotta snippy.  (Which went over well.  As you can imagine.)

I’m over it now, though.  Because I *did* figure out how to use the washing machine.

Nevermind that I had to message a kind, English-speaking stranger — someone I stalked in a Facebook worldschooling group who lives in Japan.  I sent her pictures of the machine, and she walked me through the control panel. 

{For the record, I’m still calling it a victory.}

See why the non-Japanese-speaking girl needed a little assistance with the control panel?  And why she also needed help identifying which bottle was laundry detergent.?

See why the non-Japanese-speaking girl needed a little assistance with the control panel?  And why she also needed help identifying which bottle was laundry detergent.?

At any rate, my deep thought today is this: choose to lean into one another’s strengths rather than lament personal weaknesses.  If Japan has taught me anything so far, for example, it's to stop focusing on my deficient directional capabilities as we travel, and instead, to thank God I’m married to the human GPS.

It makes for a happier day, and can even lead to a fun adventure or two.

Case in point: in the last couple of days, we’ve finally kicked jet lag to the curb, enjoyed sushi at Uobei, urban hiked up through the Shibuya Crossing, explored all around the Shimbashi district of Minato, Toyko, attended the Grand Sumo Tournament, and relished several city parks — much the result of leaning into the strengths of Mitchell, the master planner/human GPS extraordinaire.  But more on all that in my next post. 

In the meantime, thank you, Tokyo, for a life lesson learned.

Cheers!

Tokyo: Sleep-Deprivation, Slow Travel, Sumo Wrestling and Sushi

Tokyo: Sleep-Deprivation, Slow Travel, Sumo Wrestling and Sushi

Travel Writing Is Weird

Travel Writing Is Weird