Summary: Make sure to look for the north arrow (compass rose) every time you look at public map in train stations or out on the street while traveling in Japan. North is not always at the top of the map.
While just about every traveler has a smart phone these days with Google Maps, it can’t do everything. I often find tourists very lost in Kyoto because they are only using Google Maps as their guide, which is not very good for giving geographical context.
In and around train stations and other public places in Japan, there are very useful maps of the local vicinity. These maps can show you things that that you can’t find on with your phone.
But there is a catch: north is often not a the top of the map, as you may be used to in your home country. These public maps are usually oriented to the direction you are looking. For example, if you are looking at the map facing west, then west is a the top of the map. This can be very confusing if you are accustomed north always being a the top of a map.
So, always look for the north arrow every time you look at public map in Japan. This can save you a lot of time and confusion.
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