The maze of Shinjuku Station and beyond may just be a maze for everyone.

Certain central parts of Tokyo are known for their confusing train stations and streets, such as Shinjuku, Shibuya, Ikebukuro, and Tokyo Station.

Most first-time comers feel overwhelmed, and even some who have lived here for a while may break out into a nervous sweat when asked to make a transfer at Shinjuku Station or to “meet outside Ikebukuro Station”. Hardly anyone can get around without Google Maps.

But what about someone who has grown up in Tokyo? Luckily, we have a couple of born and bred Tokyo-ites in our office, Yoshio and Go Hatori. We asked them both the simple question, “As a Tokyo native, do you ever get lost in bustling areas of Tokyo?”

▼ Our first contestant: Yoshio, our boss.

Yoshio grew up and still lives in northwest Nerima ward. He said:

“I’ve been going to Ikebukuro since I was a kid, so I know my way around. I’ve lived in Nerima for nearly 40 years, and people from Nerima go to Ikebukuro a lot since it’s fairly accessible by train. A lot of Nerima residents know Ikebukuro like their backyard.”

▼ The next city boy: Go Hatori.

Go Hatori grew up in the southwest ward of Setagaya — Nakameguro, to be exact — and he said:

“Same, except with Shibuya. I went there a lot growing up, so I don’t get lost there.”

The fact that they went to hot spots like Ikebukuro and Shibuya often as kids would amaze people from more rural parts of Japan, but these are true city boys.

Still, do they know their way around other areas as well?

▼ Yoshio sure looks like he knows his way around.

Yoshio: “I know my way around stations I frequented growing up, but I don’t know my way around others. I only recently became familiar with Shinjuku since our office is here, but I had no idea where I was when I first got here. I still don’t know my way around the west side of the station.”

Go Hatori: “Outside of Shibuya, I’m totally lost. I’m probably more lost than people who aren’t even from Tokyo. I think it’s more about how your sense of direction is than whether or not you’re from Tokyo.”

Aha, so apparently just being from Tokyo doesn’t mean you automatically know everywhere like the back of your hand.

▼ Imagine being asked by Go Hatori for directions.

Another question: Are you able to transfer trains to some of the more confusing private lines without looking it up?

Yoshio: “I could probably do it, but I might end up taking a roundabout way or spending more on train fare than I need to. I feel nervous traveling by train without looking it up on my smartphone.”

Go Hatori:Absolutely not. I cannot transfer trains without checking my train transfer app.”

So that’s where they get tripped up! We don’t blame them, considering there are all different kinds of trains line like local, rapid, special rapid, and more, then there are some trains that have different destinations altogether despite being on the same line.

▼ Don’t even get us started on Shinjuku Station.

And then we thought, wait, these guys were kids before smartphones were even a thing (sorry for exposing them). So we asked, how did you look up train routes before smartphone maps were around?

Yoshio: “I asked the train staff how to get to my destination. I also asked other people a lot. I still do it now, even though I have my smartphone. Sometimes it’s faster that way.”

Go Hatori: “I walked around with a paper map of the train routes. Then I would check the train station maps, go for a little bit, check the train station maps, and so on. The only places I don’t have to do that are the ones I’m super familiar with.”

▼ A beautiful photo of a young Go Hatori having no idea where he’s going.

“When I was younger, I had a part-time job at a soba restaurant,” Go Hatori continued. “Even though I knew the area around the restaurant well, I often had to go out to deliver the noodles. I had no idea where I was most of the time, and there were times that even though the restaurant closed at 7:00 p.m., I wouldn’t find my way back until 9:00 p.m. I got punched for it once.”

We were surprised that Tokyo natives like Yoshio and Go Hatori did things like asking people for directions and even carrying around a map, but we guess it really does depend on your sense of direction.

▼ Bonus round: Seiji Nakazawa, the Osaka native.

For comparison, we also asked Seiji Nakazawa, who is from the slightly smaller but equally bustling city of Osaka. Did he get lost in his native Osaka, even central areas like Umeda? He said:

“Umeda is impossible even for Osaka natives. The station and the area around it are super confusing. I can get around the area I grew up in just fine, but I need a map to get anywhere else.”

▼ Whoever planned the are probably wanted to confuse people.

In conclusion, Tokyo is as much of a labyrinth for some natives as it is for visitors. The same goes for Osaka… well, based on the one person we asked.

Either way, it’s still impressive to say you were born and bred in Tokyo, right? At least the Shibuya Scramble Crossing doesn’t seem to overwhelm them.

Images: ©SoraNews24
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