The other day I went grocery shopping to a nearby supermarket. I had a description of where to go from my housemate: “Two roads further from the convenience store, turn right; it’s between the first and second road then.” Sounds easy enough?

It took me two and a half hours…

Apparently I didn’t walk far enough the first time, and I have learnt now: A “road” only counts as such if it has a name and admits two way traffic. The roads – at least around here it appears – are on a rectangular grid. In between, what is probably the equivalent of an American city block, there are narrow alleys, without names, where at most a single car can pass, and often not even that.

This probably explains the difficulties even Japanese have in finding an address. An address here rarely has a street name, they zoom into the city block of the building, and the number of the house is arbitrary – by building sequence rather than by proximity. When invited somewhere, you usually get the name of a street corner, and a small map (often on the back of the name card) which, using carefully selected landmarks like convenience stores, show the location of the house.

In theory, I knew all that before… But being faced with the practice of it is very much different.

In any case, on my wanderings I have found a German bakery. I cannot say whether they are owned by a German, as the staff are Japanese, but the taste of their bread is authentic, just as it should be. A dangerous shop! Unfortunately it is very expensive, so I should go there only on special occasions. Oh well, I have survived without before…