Saturday, November 20, 2004


Legends of the 4th floor

On Wednesday, I had the onerous task of sorting out a plane fare to Vancouver for the New Year's break, to be reunited- albeit briefly- with my long-lost girlfriend, Heather.

Buying an air ticket at this time of year in Japan is a big pain in the neck. I trecked around several travel agents, the majority of whom dangled tempting carrots in front of my nose, in the shape of cut-price Thai airlines, etc, only to whisk them away with an apologetic announcement that said tempting carrots had already been sold to more organised donkeys than myself and would I be interested in buying an expensive turnip instead?

No, I said, I wouldn't. Nice try, though.

So, in my copy of Kansai Scene (or similar) I found an ad for Legend Travel, a company so low-budget that they hadn't even sorted out the customary half-page advert with a map of how to track down their poxy HQ. This is pretty much standard in Japan: all flyers, adverts and whatnot show maps of the place being promoted.


Because Japanese addresses are crap, that's why.

If you're mooching around the streets of Japan and you want to get directions to somewhere, mentioning the address is an exercise in futility. Most Japanese people simply use local landmarks as navigation points to find where they want to go. It's just easier.

Anyway, all the Legend travel ad said was: 4F Nikko Building, 3-2-11 Minami Hommachi, Chuo Ku, Osaka. Despite the fact that I had never been able to find something by its address alone before, I decided to give it a shot.

My first stop was Hommachi station, then to the station exit guide and look for "Minami Hommachi 3-chome" (a chome, pronounced choh-may, is a group of blocks, or something.) Following that, I had to find the 11th building on the second block of chome number 3.

A birds-eye view of my progress would not show a linear path to Minami Hommachi 3-2-11. I think my voyage would look like a series of concentric circles, punctuated by the occasional spike as I took a tomfoolerous wrong turn. Eventually though, undeterred by the caprices of Japanese civic planning and the vile weather, I rocked up outside a building which looked like it might be the right one, judging by my limited ability to read Japanese. Yes! I thought, I've successfully deciphered the address, Lord be praised. When I got to the 4th floor however, all I found was a katakana sign, saying "Project planning."

Slightly disheartened, I headed back down to the ground floor, where I found a sign proclaiming the presence of Legend Travel on the 5th floor, as clearly NOT stated in their advert. Dullards.

As might be expected from such a cowboy outfit, they weren't as expensive as their competitors. They still weren't exactly what I'd call cheap, though.

I bought the ticket anyway.

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