After spending many an airport layover trying to accomplish foolish things around the terminal like trying to get on “free wifi” or taking a nap, I finally decided it was about time I stop letting myself suffer and start taking advantage of being in a different country for even just a few hours.
In lieu of this decision, I found a flight from Singapore to Toronto that had a 9-hour layover (during the day) in Tokyo. I’ve always wanted to visit Japan, and naively thought I’d be able to make a quick trip from Singapore at some point during stay. However, I failed to realize that Japan is still an eight hour flight from Singapore and that there are about 5,000,000,000 other, closer places I also wanted to visit. In compromise, I decided to do a quick country taste-test to see if I would consider going back and visiting Japan “for real” later.
Next came the planning. After a week in Vietnam and Cambodia, I figured planning a few hours would be no big deal. This was wrong. Very wrong. With so little time, I wanted to make sure I saw the best, but with Tokyo being a crazy sprawling metropolis filled with signs I wouldn’t be able to read, I also wanted to not get hopelessly lost and miss my connecting flight. I eventually settled on visiting Narita, a (comparatively) smaller city outside Tokyo and closer to the airport. I decided I would take the bus with the simplest-looking route into the city from the airport and would try to see things that were close to the bus route – I was going to make this trip so idiot-proof, even my severely directionally challenged self couldn’t get lost.
However, if getting lost was an Olympic sport, I would be its Michael Phelps. Before even leaving the airport, I ended up at the wrong arrivals gate, wrong immigration line, wrong baggage check area and wrong bus terminal. Luckily, I had plenty of time before the bus actually left and realized that if I hadn’t gotten lost, I’d just be sitting around mindlessly browsing duty-free perfume, waiting for the bus anyways. I eventually made it with 5 minutes to spare before my super-tourist-y brightly coloured cable car of a bus turned up.
In a matter of minutes, I was in the heart of Narita and quite proud of myself for making it to the bus on time. Maybe a little bit too proud, because although all I had to do to get from the bus stop to the Shinsoji Temples I wanted to visit was walk down 18 street, I could see the top of one of the temples in the distance and decided that cutting through a little subdivision would probably be faster. This might have been true if I knew what I was doing, but alas, I did not. While all of the house were quite cute, they all looked the exact same and were lining increasingly more narrow and curving streets. After a significant amount of wandering, I was lucky enough to come across a street map and was able to re-orientate myself, eventually coming across signs for Happytown – which, even if it wasn’t going to take me to the temples, sounded like a hilariously-awesome place to check out.
From there, I soon made it to the temples and realized that I might not be as uselessly-directionally handicapped as I thought. If I could find my own way in a random city in Japan, there was nothing I couldn’t do!