After carefully studying how to get to the Apple Store and even writing down some notes, I strode out into the rain. I eschewed the clear plastic umbrellas made available by the hotel and brought my sturdy but garish folding umbrella I’d bought at Wimbledon two years ago.
“Harmony of the group” turned out to encompass many things, including umbrellas. Ninety-nine percent of the thousands of umbrellas I saw in Japan were clear plastic. So in case I didn’t already stick out enough, my umbrella helped. It held up beautifully under sometimes driving rain that killed the clear plastic ones. Viva Umbrelica Britannia!
However, I had made a big mistake with footwear. As a Minnesotan plagued by cold weather for so many months of the year, I always jump at the opportunity to wear sandals. I had checked the weather in Japan—it would be warm enough. But the rain … it formed puddles everywhere. My flip flops were soon filled with water and it was like I was wearing a pair of the proverbial banana peels. I would have to pick my way carefully to avoid standing water and slip-sliding right out of my shoes.
Getting to the Apple Store seemed pretty straightforward. I just had to take a train to the Ginza and walk northwest from the station about 20 minutes. Unfortunately, I had a strong sense of which way was northwest, but I was absolutely wrong. I walked the streets of a rather dodgy-looking area (for Japan) for two hours, in unrelenting rain. I walked up and down the same blocks; I walked in circles; I consulted street maps, I walked in circles again.
I asked strangers for directions. Two couldn’t seem to understand what I meant by “Apple Store.” I showed them the logo on my phone. They nodded and smiled, then shook their heads. Another person knew what I meant but insisted there was no Apple Store in Ginza. The third person knew where it was—but I was unable to execute his directions because he kept mixing up left and right. “Take a right at the next big intersection … no, I mean left! My English is so poor,” he apologized. He must have said left when he meant right, or vice versa.
Whimpering, and back at the station for the 8th time, it occurred to me that I may have made a slight misjudgment in direction. I walked in the opposite direction from the one my gut told me to follow and with the help of only one additional stranger, found the store.
As most Apple Stores are, this one was sleek and modern. I stood in front of it trying to figure out where the door was. I almost broke my nose trying to walk in what appeared to be a door. I walked around the side of the building, no dice. I walked back to the front and waved my hands around, hoping they would activate some hidden sliding door.
“The store is closed,” said a man’s voice behind me. “It opens at 10.”
Ah, that was the secret to getting inside. The store must be open.
He explained that he was a security guard, that there would be a long line of people waiting to get in by 10, and indicated where I should stand to be first. We chatted a bit and when he pulled out his phone I said, “Ah, not Apple!” He grinned and held up his phone, “I am loyal Japanese—Sony!”
Ten o’clock. The doors slid open and employees placed umbrella management equipment just outside. This consists of umbrella stands and plastic bag holders you can slide your umbrella into before entering. The bags are terribly wasteful; you generate an un-reusable plastic bag for each store, museum, or restaurant you visit. But god forbid you should drip water on a floor.
Finally, the moment came. I entered the store. Twenty employees stood arrayed throughout, and they broke into vigorous applause. What the hell? Was this normal? I laughed and bowed—a reflex—and they all burst out laughing.
Twenty minutes later I had a new power cord for $18. Whew! I was back in business.