At first—and even after some experience—deciphering Tokyo’s transit map can be much like navigating a Jackson Pollock painting.
Fortunately the subway I need to take on my virgin run is the Ginza line from the Tawaramachi stop—a 10-minute walk due south of my hotel.
Using the English option on the vending machine to buy a ticket is pretty straightforward as well. That said, in large stations with multiple lines converging, it’s easy to confuse service providers and purchase a ticket for the wrong line if you fail to pay attention. However, if you screw it up an alarm goes off when you insert the ticket and very pleasant uniformed people will run to your assistance or wave you over to the ticket booth. It’s their job to fix it—all win-win.
Without a map or an app the greater challenge may be finding my destination. The very sweet people in the Asakusa Tourist Information Centre in the Taito area did not have information about my destination. No one had heard of the Nezu Museum. It’s not a tourist hot-spot and Minato-ku is outside Taito.
All I know is that it’s an 8-minute walk from Omotesandō Station Exit A5. Fortunately, I am in the zone. While climbing the steps, I spot a small white plaque in English with a blue arrow pointing straight ahead: Nezu Museum. (If someone’s head or shoulder had blocked the view for even 1 second, I would have missed it.) I gamble that in 8 minutes there’ll be another sign or pleasant helpful person.
Of course, since I have to keep an 8-minute focus I have to forego the tempting shops along the way. But luck is in my favour. Across the street is a neighbourhood map. I check the time and cross. Alas, no English and no other cues I can use.
Never mind. A gracious gentleman in his 60s stops to offer assistance. Sumimasen ga Nezu Museum doko desu ka. He points toward the next intersection. Asoko desu. Nexto righto. We can see it from where we stand–all win-win.