A new adventure: Japan!

A new chapter in my life has just begun! On Monday I arrived in Tokyo, where I'll be living and working for the next six months, doing another internship with Google. I'm only starting next week, so this week I have time to walk through the city, register at the ward office and the Swiss embassy, open a bank account etc. First impression: Tokyo is awesome!!!

I'm full of new impressions and observations, it is a dream come true for me to finally be in Japan! I've been studying Japanese and especially their writing system (similar to Chinese characters, and worth a blog post on its own - this is a promise) for some years, and now I'm surrounded by Kanjithe Japanese symbols, originally imported from China! I'm still keeping every single piece of paper that has Kanji on it, but hopefully I will overcome that stage soon (I am a packratdt. Hamster after all).

Navigating in Tokyo is easier than I thought, although that is partly due to the fact that I am able to recognize Kanji. Even though I often don't know how to pronounce a Kanji (see separate future blog post about the language and my learning system), I am able to do the graphical pattern matching, for example to find a name on a list of stations.

In general, there are many English indications too, especially in the subway. Because of the size of the stations, there are usually several exits, and long lists that contain the points of interest for each exit. If you use the right exit, there will be signs guiding you to your destination, if it is important enough. So once you're on the right path, finding your destination becomes easy. I don't have a phone contract yet, so I can't use Google maps, but that will be a great help, especially because of the chaotic Japanese address system.

The city is divided hierarchically into wards (~25km², I'm part of Shibuya), then districts (Hiroo), blocks and finally the house number. But: if you don't know the layout of the district, you don't know where your block is. Then, once you've found the right block, you'll have to walk around and through it, because the house numbers inside of a block have been assigned chronologically, and therefore follow no clear system. For this reason, a paper map of Tokyo has only limited use for the last meters, but Japan is an amazingly organized country, and there are detailed maps of the surroundings at every subway station, for a quick check on the walls and even available on paper, for free! Usually, they are either written in English or Japanese, and I often ended up needing both: first I had to find out what the Japanese name of my destination was, and then for navigation in the streets use the Japanese version, since small street signs are only in Japanese.

2 responses to “A new adventure: Japan!”

  1. New life on your site!

    It's great to see your site come alive again.

    Have a good start in Japan and at Google!

    P.S. When you look for a phone contract for yourself, please look around for a prepaid contract (with data!) for us, too.

    Submitted by Hans

  2. Kanji kannini

    Ha, dein Blog ist wiederauferstanden!
    Gruselig, all die Kanji-Monster, die sich in undefinierbaren Strassen und Hauseingängen verstecken, aus der Metro quellen. Geh mit keinem mit! Ohne Telefönli-San können sie dich an jeder Ecke in die Ver(w)irrung führen.

    Andererseits, warum auch nicht? Parzifal hat ja auch was davon gehabt.

    Submitted by Suzanne