How Losing Your Way Isn’t Always a Bad Thing
I’m not the best at following directions or reading maps. You could even say I’m directionally challenged at times. I’ve gotten lost many times due to wrong directions, confusing transit systems, and not actually paying attention to where I was going. Over time I learned not to sweat it and ask for help when lost. Living in a metropolis like Tokyo, you can definitely expect to get lost once or twice (or a handful of times like I did). But one of the things I noticed when I would lose my way, were the amazing places I would encounter because I strayed from my initial destination. Had I not been lost, I would have never discovered some of my favorite places in the city.
I once got lost going to the grocery store upon first moving to Tokyo. The only thing I knew was: I lived in the Koto ward, there was a train stop directly next to my apartment, and a 7-11 at the end of my block. The prepared food at the convenience store was delicious but I was tired of going there at least 3 times a day for sustenance, and the store clerks seemed to notice my frequent visits. So I decided to venture out and find a real grocery store. Google maps said it would take approximately six minutes to reach my destination. So, with grocery list in hand, I made my way to the store. However, Google Maps failed to tell me there would be construction going on and thus the main street was closed. I ended up turning left on a random street, still determined to head in the right direction.
I walked down the tiny street and stumbled on a small red bridge and a little stream. It was a pretty, peaceful scene. I crossed the bridge and at the end of the path was something I did not expect to see. I saw big red gates, a small temple, and various lanterns on display. I let out a small “whoa”. The temple was almost hidden and not visible from the main street so I was taken aback. I couldn’t believe this was hidden right behind my apartment, across a small red bridge, and behind a residential building.
It took me another 8 minutes to reach my destination and while walking, I had a small revelation. “If I didn’t take the alternate route, I would have never seen this.” It made me think. Sometimes getting lost isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Straying from your chosen path can show you many things you otherwise would have missed. It was such an enlightening moment. My grocery bags weighed me down and dug into my arm. As I made my way home, I created a mental note to not forget this moment.
The small occurrence that day always pops into my head whenever I get lost. I was misdirected many times after that but I always ended up finding something new. There was something interesting around every corner. In Shibuya, one hot and humid summer night, I got lost among the many winding streets adjacent to the massive street crossing. But in doing so I ended up finding what became one of my favorite whiskey bars. I found a whole street full of tiny local cocktail bars all due to the fact that I had no idea where I was going.
On another occasion, I had the brilliant idea to walk to work instead of taking the train. It was only about 2 miles distance and of course, I misread the directions and took a wrong turn somewhere. However, I did find an amazing café that served the best Americanos. That café turned into a daily stop on my way to work from there on out. I passed a local flower shop, a 100 yen store, an organic bakery, and a small community park. The slight detour was definitely worth being 15 minutes late for work.
Case in point, straying from your path can introduce you to things you’ve never seen.
I learned that for every lost corner turned in Tokyo, I would find something new.