One of the things we learned in Japanese class was how to express uncertainty that something is going to happen. One of the examples that was used a lot was weather, including that we were weathermen. Until I'd heard a weather report, I assumed that was just a simplistic example. In the US, I know there are usually percentages attached to chances of precipitation. But (and it's been a while since I've paid attention) I don't think they make statements like 'it will probably rain tomorrow. It will probably be hot, too.' In japan, they do.
After class, I went with a group of people to get sushi. We we looking for a restaurant that had been marked on the maps we got the first day of school. We had some issues finding that, which made me feel real dumb, because, stereotypically, it should not be hard to find a sushi restaurant in Japan. (In point of fact, it wasn't, and we'd walked past it in the search.)
I knew some of what to expect. For instance, I did not freak out when I saw a conveyor belt, and I knew that they'd be charging by the plate. (I even managed to see prices before I took a plate.) Other parts were more confusing. Like the tea.
Fortunately, I was sitting at one end of the group, so I had a seat next to a Japanese person who had experience with sushi restaurants. (And foreigners. He spoke to me in English from the beginning.) Without him, I would have either had nothing to drink, drunk hot water, or burned myself. Probably at least two of the above.
After someone at the other end of our group (there were only four of us, but it felt like a great distance) got herself a liquid, I wanted to try too. So I took a cup, looked at the spouty thing next to me, held up the cup, and tried pushing something.
The person sitting next to me told me to put down my cup and handed me a spice shaker filled with green powder. I powdered my cup and glanced at him.
Him: Yes, you add one shot.
I'd already been so emboldened by my success at using something that looked like a salt shaker but brought out powdered tea instead that I'd done it again.
Him: Or two. That works.
Then I tried up the cup and tried pressing the faucet again. He told me that wouldn't work, and showed me which button did work. Then he stopped me before I pressed it and showed me that you press the cup against the button, thereby allowing the hot water to go into the cup. I thanked him, then tasted my hard-earned tea.
The next cup was much easier.
Apart from that, the sushi restaurant was fairly straightforward. I tried new things, and didn't always like them. But, contrary to what I'd been warned, the prices were not unreasonable, and it was one of those experiences that I should have while in Japan, so I'm glad I went.
Today, I was tired of not finding yarn stores, so I took a drastic new measure- the subway. It was a new experience, in that it was the first time I needed to find a new place completely alone. It wasn't as bad as it could have been- I knew from maps on the internet exactly what station I needed to go to, and how to get from there to the yarn store. But I needed to find the right line to go from Shibuya to there, and that took time and a working internet connection. (I tried to find it on subway maps, and couldn't.)
If I want to fall asleep on a train in Tokyo and still get to my destination, I found the perfect line to do so. I boarded the train at the first stop and stayed on until the last station. Which means I got a seat both directions, and could literally not miss my stop. (I wish I'd realized that earlier. I also wish I'd thought to take an express train on the way out- it made a difference.)
I realized there would be some issues in not speaking the language, but I didn't expect it to be too bad. My standard strategy for stores in Tokyo is to put the item I want on the counter, and then pay for it. Straightforward enough. My ability to read yarn labels would be diminished, but I typically buy yarn based on color and softness, not name (or even fiber type.) So a yarn store would be a challenge, but not much more than a grocery store. (And less of a chance of buying dried octopus.)
I'm not sure if this is true of most yarn stores in Japan or just a quirk of the one I went to, but yarn didn't come wrapped up in nice neat (or even easily-tangled) balls to buy. Instead, you bought it the same way you buy potatoes- by weight.
I don't pay attention to how much my yarn weighs. That's never been important to me. I've occasionally noticed when labels mention it, but that's not the sort of thing I ever pay attention to.
There were four things that allowed me to judge how much yarn I should get. I found them in reverse order of usefulness. The first was that each yarn had a grams-to-meters ratio. This was slightly more useful, because I paid slightly more attention to length then I played to weight. The second was kit, that came with a pattern and the required amount of yarn. If I'd felt like making anything shown, I could have, but that would only be procrastinating on certain issues (like the fact that I can barely make a sweater if I'm following a pattern in English, and there's no way I could do it in Japanese.) The third was pattern books- by glancing through those, I could get the idea of how much yarn some projects took. Not any projects I was interested in, but some patterns.
Finally, there were a couple of swatches around. One in particular caught my eye. It was a bit short to be a scarf, but about the right width, and was made up of 8 different colors. It also included weight. Coincidentally, I ended up buying yarn of that type.
And then on the way back I got lost. I made it to the train station, I made it onto the right train, I did not get off early, and I made it to the same point I'd already been twice this week. I knew two different ways that, if I followed exactly, would get me back. I took a third way.
From that point on, I had a very concrete method for dealing with forks in the road. I'd get to a road, make a decision, walk until I saw a sign, and usually end up turning back, retracing my route, and going the other way. Eventually I got back onto streets I recognized and did not deviate from those.
At least I wasn't sorry I could not travel both and be one traveler.