Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Street wise

The street naming system in Sapporo is confusing.

The most confusing thing about it is that is it on a grid and therefore should not be confusing.

Yet it is.

It is confusing and makes you feel like an idiot for being confused. See, just like that it gets you twice.

Contrary to popular opinion, just because I am British does not mean I can't handle a grid system. I did well in New York until I hit Broadway and I was fine in Florida until I found that 38th Street was followed by 38th Terrance followed by 38th Drive. America tried to confuse me. She failed. I just had to do a bunch of U-turns. Japan, however, saw me standing on a street corner utterly flummoxed.

On paper, Sapporo's street system looks amazingly ordered for a Japanese city. It is a strictly adhered to grid divided into quadrants by the long Odori Park which runs east-west through the city and the river which runs north-south. Addresses then have the format 'North X West Y'. Easy, no?

So how was it I was standing on the street corner of a road labelled '5-South, 12-West' which was being intersected at right angles by another road also declaring itself to be '5-South, 12-West'? What was more, the previous road that had intersected '5-South, 12-West' a block back was ALSO called '5-South, 12-West'.

My new apartment, incidentally, was at '5-South, 12-West'. I had previously visited the building by car (driven by the real estate broker) back in July, but now I had signed the contract and picked up my keys and I was excited to see my new home. Or at least, I had been until about twenty minutes ago. Now I just wanted to kick something.

Since I seemed to be in some kind of crazy magic mirror maze, I decided to scrap actual addresses and go for deduction. I had to be close and my apartment was on the ninth floor. That ruled out all the buildings in my immediate vicinity apart from four apartment blocks.

The first one of these was pink. I would not have picked a pink apartment. I dismissed it.

The second building had the wrong name. My building's name is "Classé", written "クラッセ" in Japanese, and this one was called 'Helio'.

The third building had the name "グラッセ" which is frankly just being mean.

Finally, I went to the forth building. This high-rise was one street over and as I walked, I realised what the street numbering system meant. '5-South, 12-West' wasn't a road or an intersection, it was a block. The roads on three of the block's four sides have the same name. This means that the street address actually marks out a region, not an individual road, and sometimes quite a large region since blocks can be big. It also explained why the taxi driver turned down a street too early when driving me from Sapporo station. I had just thought he was incompetent.

At this stage, I probably would have just broken in but fortunately my key fit the forth building's lobby lock. I walked into the bare apartment and went to sleep on the floor. Directions are too hard; I need a smart phone again.

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