Google Maps sent us to a forbidden exit from one of Tokyo’s major subway stations
Written by tokyoclub on June 6, 2021
Exit B3b is not an exit?!?
At SoraNews24, our jobs take us all over Japan. We might spend one day dashing out to see a shopping mall getting attacked by giant monsters from Attack on Titan, only to spend the next picking up bread from a bakery run by a campion sumo wrestler followed by getting our hair cut at Japan’s oldest barber shop the day after that.
So before we head out the door on an assignment, we usually fire up Google Maps to check the quickest, easiest route to get where we’re going. And that’s what our Japanese-language reporter Ahiru Neko did the other day for a trip to Tokyo’s Minato Ward as part of an article he was working on.
Granted, Minato Ward is right in the middle of downtown Tokyo, and the subway he’d be getting off at, Kasumigaseki, is a pretty major transportation hub. Still, he wanted to know what the closest exit to his intended destination was, since sometimes getting out at the wrong one can add several blocks’ walk once you get up to the surface. Thankfully, Google Maps told him that Exit B3b was the one he should take.
After his train got to Kasumigaseki Station, Ahiru Neko hopped off, walked out of the ticket gate, and checked the directory, where he quickly saw an arrow pointing him towards Exit B3b.
▼ 出口 are the Japanese kanji for “exit,” in case you’re wondering.
Some Japanese rail stations are such a massive tangle of twisting tunnels that they’re hard to navigate, but that wasn’t a problem here. Signage was clear and ample, and Ahiru Neko had no trouble spotting the next indicator of which way he was supposed to go.
For the first part of the walk, he was simultaneously getting closer to Exit B3a…
…but eventually their paths diverged, and it was just straight on to Exit B3b!
At this point, Ahiru Neko glanced down at his phone to remind himself of which way he needed to go once he was outside the station. Suddenly, though, he heard a stern-sounding voice asking “Hey, where are you going?”
Ahiru Neko looked up, and saw a man in a security guard’s uniform looking at him. Having no idea why the man would suddenly want to know where he was going, for a second he thought the guy might have been talking to someone else, but they were the only two people in the hallway.
So Ahiru Neko told the guard where his destination was, and added “Exit B3b is the closest exit, so I’m just trying to go out through there.” The guard didn’t seem satisfied with this explanation, though, so Ahiru Neko showed him his smartphone with the Google Maps directions, which clearly said to go out through Exit B3b. However, the guard sternly told him:
“This isn’t an exit.”
Now completely baffled, Ahiru Neko took another look at the sign, but there it was, labeled in no fewer than three different languages: Exit B3b.
There was even an overhead sign…
In addition to the name/number of the exit, Tokyo subway signs also sometimes list a couple of the landmarks or major destinations you’ll find outside them. As he followed the signs for Exit B3b, Ahiru Neko had noticed that some of them mentioned the Government Offices No. 5 complex, which is used by the Ministry of the Environment and the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. But it wasn’t until now that he saw one with the additional information “connecting passage.”
Apparently Exit B3b provides direct access to the complex for the officials and politicians who work there, but you need a special clearance pass in order to use it. That said, Exit B3b is still technically an exit, whether it’s one Ahiru Neko is allowed to pass through or not, so he was pretty frustrated that the security guard had simply said “This isn’t an exit” (he had to guess the reason, and later confirm it via the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare website, on his own). At the same time, though, he was equally frustrated at Google Maps for essentially telling him to break through a government security checkpoint (especially considering some of our past experiences).
▼ “Neither one of you is right in the head!” he says.
In the end, Ahiru Neko had no choice except to use a different exit, then make the slightly longer walk to his destination. Sadly, the inner halls of the Japanese government are beyond the realms where our name carries much clout, but at least there are some other exclusive areas we do have access too.
Reference: Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare
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[ Read in Japanese ]