It happens to us all; you’re sure you saw that landmark before, then you look around and everything begins looking the same. You look up and around trying to get your ground, because you realize your spatial perception is all wrong. Even with maps and GPS, it can be disorienting to look around and realize you’re not sure where you are anymore. Nobody likes getting lost or the disorientation, anxiety, and stress it puts on us.
When you realize you’re not in Kansas anymore, you’ll find in addition to being in a foreign country with a different city layout and landmarks, that you’re also hindered by a language barrier and large crowds. Getting lost can be a frightening experience, but can be common when looking for a hotel, restaurant, or even navigating the train systems. I fell asleep on the BART in San Francisco one time and realized I was lost, but not before encountering some stress!
Here are some guidelines for you to keep in mind in case you find yourself lost in Japan:
- Identify the problem and if with others, address this to your party. In order to prevent getting lost any further, it is important for everyone in your party to be on the same page. Try to remember the last place where you knew with certainty that you weren’t lost.
- Calm down if you find yourself getting upset or stressed. When getting lost, frustration, stress, and fear often come with it; even if you’re upset, you still need to find your way back, and the stress and sense of urgency that comes often with being lost will not always help you. Stop and grab a coffee, sit down for a moment, or do something to take your mind off of the stress for a moment.
- Make sure you have written information of the place you’re staying at. Take a business card from you hotel with the information in Japanese. There are always taxis around the city and you can hand the information to them, regardless of your ability to speak Japanese.
- Always keep cash (in Japanese currency) safely hidden away, such as a jacket pocket, or one of those zippered pouches on pants. Whether you’re doing something at your own leisure, or there’s an emergency, cash is always king.
- Have a spare copy of your passport safe (and out of plain sight) in your place of stay. In the case that your passport is lost or stolen, having a form of legal government identification is very important. Getting stuck between customs and the embassy is NOT something you want to experience.
- Find your own (very distinct) landmarks, such as a shopping mall or a statue that you’ll remember. Just like anywhere else, Japan has many rustic places, which you may find your wifi and GPS do not work. During this time, it’s important to make landmarks, so you can navigate without the assistance of technology.
- If you feel all other options have been exercised and you can’t seem to find your way back, you can always find a Koban (Police Box) to ask for help. Police in Japan are very kind and helpful, and will make efforts to ensure that you find your way back on track.
- After you find yourself back with your grounds, try to identify where you went wrong, so you do not repeat this error. As much as a hassle it is finding your grounds and going whence you came, you really don’t want to have to do it again!
Edit: You may also wish to consider renting a pocket wifi and access google maps in places that you may not have the best signal. Thank you, Christine Chirolas for suggesting this idea!
Stay safe, travelers.