How Do I Get To… – Kakegawa, Japan, Asia

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Finding a place with no street signs or addresses, and no knowledge of the language might seem difficult, maybe even impossible. It certainly is daunting. We humans, though, being resilient and creative, devise our own directional system. If it works most of the time, it is a successful system.

I'm in Kakegawa, Japan, a small green-tea-growing town, teaching for a year, and I'm looking for a fresh produce store, ka, recommended by a fellow American. A few factors need to be considered before starting out for that neighborhood, vegetable, fruit and reasonably-priced ka.

Put time aside for the inevitable wrong turn, indistinguishable road from lane, mistaken house for a restaurant, or even an antique store that actually may be a beauty salon (by the way, Tokyo has more hair stylist shops than New York City, and there are an abundance of them in this out-of-the-tourist-path-village also).

Never ask a Japanese for directions. You may approach one who doesn't know how to reach your destination, or even where you want to go. Losing face is not an option. You will be given incorrect information in a lengthy manner making you think and feel you are in the presence of someone who has this valuable information you seek. If you do break this rule, and succumb out of exhaustion or laziness, be prepared to see another town, another city!

You can reach out to non-natives, but only if they've been in the area a year. Their errors will save you precious time, lower your blood pressure and stress level, and show you as a person at one with your surroundings. However, should this foreigner speak Japanese, stay away from them. They may resort to asking a Japanese!

Here's what I suggest. Get specific, exact directions with clearly-marked signs, names, distinguishing indications that require no literacy skills or superior intelligence. Be adamant about this. Pride and ego will only get in your way, and cause you further delay. Watch those "searching" Japanese (in this case, cyclists) getting around using the same mode of transportation as you. If you get lost, memorize where you are in the event you need to direct someone to this very spot! Always enjoy the ride. It is in the "searching" that we create our own adventures, make discoveries – even about ourselves!

Once you find this precious and popular ka, refrain from grabbing, pushing and generally acting like a starved maniac. Gently take what you want without excessive handling and verbiage, pay the reasonable price as though this is the standard cost, and wait until you reach your living quarters before devouring the items. Should you not be able to control yourself (Americans are noted for this deficiency!), perhaps because you have become lost once again, fold your body in half, preferably in a cemetery or some other secluded, unpopulated spot, and enjoy the fruits of your labor! ——–

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