Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Exploring the Underground Shopping Mall in Fukuoka Tenjin with Echolocation - エコーロケーションで天神地下街を散策する

Like most other blind people, I was not confident with walking the underground shopping mall because there are so many pillars along the paths, the repetition of stores and crossing aisles easily make us confused.
Before learning echolocation, I was only comfortable using the underground mall for crossing streets, which is safer than crossing streets at the street level, and never thought about walking along the strip of mall, but how the echolocation made me changes???



Going Downstairs to Tenjin Chikagai

The Fukuoka Tenjin underground shopping mall features the European atmosphere with dark bricks layd whole way down the strip, making sighted people feel it is dark inside. For people in wheelchairs would make it hard to roll their chairs whth rough surface. Furthermore, blind people find themself getting confused due to the lack of aids like sounds and brail, not many people are happy to come down unless they must... like to take subway lines which are connected by the mall.

What I did as soon as going underground is... click my tongue to study what:s around.
Before, I was told to follow close to the shops to orientating myself. In the past, with a short white cane, I tried my best tracing the edge of the shops with my short cane.

This time, I started clicking my tongue and immediately found three pillars on my right. I also found the glass windows of the shops, so I started walking right in the middle of the pillars and shopping windows, sliding my long white cane!




Me Standing in Tenjin Chikagai

As I started walking along the aisle, I started finding out lots of thing I have missed in the past... as I was concentrating too much on walking, I never paid attention to what's around!
I noticed someone selling cheesecake, from what she was saying, she was selling a whole cake for take-out at a cafe. I also find some cafes and restaurants along the drag, and some boutiques that salespersons talking with customers. While clicking my tongue as I proceed, I also enjoying hearing people shopping as I smell some bread and coffee, all of the perceptual mobility makes me think the underground shopping mall is not a bad place after all!

With echolocation, it seems that I started walking down the mall like, as if I am seeing these shops, and I had no problem finding the entrance to Fukuoka City Subway station with 'active sonar' of echolocation for finding opening space... and knowing it's a station even if trains are approaching or departing!

Later, I found some coffee shops like Doutor, Starbucks and Saint-Marc under the shopping mall, then I found the way out to the ground level...

Cheers to echolocation!

今まで敬遠していた天神地下街が、こんなに楽しいところだったとはl・・・ ということに木津させてくれた舌打ちエコロケーションに乾杯! って感じですかね。

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