A lesson in Japan on being kind to strangers

A Lesson In Japan On Being Kind To Strangers

I look back and forth between the map in my hand and the sign on the bus stop. I don’t why, the latter’s in Japanese and I have not a hope in hell of reading it.

I’d made grand plans to explore at least 5 attractions during my one full day in Wakayama yet had managed to get myself thoroughly lost at my very first stop. I’d caught the train from the city to Kimiidera first thing and that had been a breeze. Good old Google Maps has all the info you need to get to Kimii-dera Temple from Wakayama City, down to what platform your train leaves from and how much the ticket costs.

Early blooming blossom at Kimii-Dera Temple

Early blooming blossom at Kimii-Dera Temple

Google is not any help when it comes to buses though. Knowing this might be a problem I’d stopped at the information desk at the train station to ask what buses I could take to continue my journey from Kimiidera. The lady was very helpful and jotted down on my map what bus routes I could catch. I just hadn’t fully understood the bit where she’d told me where I could get on said buses. After 20 minutes of directionless wandering around Kimiidera I’d come across just 1 bus stop with one lone lady standing next to it.

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Most of the lady’s face was covered by one of those germ masks you see often on commuters in Japan. She was concentrating, noting something down in pencil, and I wasn’t even sure if she’d registered me behind her. Mercifully she turned around and asked without prompting,

“Can I help you?”

Could she ever! I explained my problem and when the lady realised the bus I wanted wasn’t leaving from the stop we were standing at she said,

“I have time. I’ll take you.”

I don’t think I’ve heard someone say they have time in years.

Young girls walking themselves to school in Tokyo

Young girls walking themselves to school in Tokyo

I think of all the times I’ve been asked for directions in Sydney (apparently I have one of those faces – whatever that means!). In some cases I did not even slow the pace of my walk to give them their answer. I (cringing now) think of the times I barely raised an arm, telling some poor lost soul that they need to go ‘left a bit, right and bit and then they should see it’ before marching on with whatever non-urgent task I was dealing with.

My new-found friend in Japan not only walked me to my bus stop 10 minutes down the road but offered to wait with me too when she realised the next one was due in 15 minutes. She was (rightfully) worried that I would not be able to identify the bus I needed when it was approaching so, apologising for the cold wind and suggesting we move out of it, she stayed and chatted with me in rusty English.

We spoke a little about where we each were from. I learned she had been on her way to the movies before meeting me and that she’d spent 6 months studying in Canada but speaking mostly Japanese.

We said a lot of things that the other didn’t grasp fully. We had a big miscommunication about her grandmother who I thought had just died but apparently passed away years ago. Thankfully she laughed at my awkward condolences.

I didn’t catch this stranger’s name, it didn’t seem necessary, but we spoke about what had bought me to Wakayama and she asked for my web address.

So maybe one day she will read this and know that her kindness stayed with me. Maybe she’ll know that she not only saved me that day in Wakayama but has potentially saved lots of lost tourists in Sydney through the new, more helpful me.

16 Comments

  1. Reply

    Megan Dingwall

    March 30, 2017

    Oh I love this so much. I had many similar experiences when travelling there and now whenever I try to help lost tourists, I always think back to the kindness shown to me in Japan. It’s funny how some things just stay with you.

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      March 30, 2017

      This really has. I popped into town shortly after hitting publish and was asked for directions. I didn’t know what she was looking for but rather than say I don’t know I stopped and we worked it out together. Felt good to pass that good karma on 😉

  2. Reply

    Lisa // Fjords & Beaches

    March 30, 2017

    Wow, hearing ‘I have time’ sure is rare! How kind 🙂

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      March 30, 2017

      I know right! Bit sad really that it was such a shock to hear those words!

  3. Reply

    Dannielle

    March 30, 2017

    How lovely, I would appreciate that so much too! I chickened out of visiting Japan solo last year because I felt like it might be harder to get around with such a solid language barrier, but this is reassuring.

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      March 30, 2017

      Most of my recent trips to Japan have been on my own and time and time again locals have come to my rescue. If you have a wifi dongle google maps is a lifesaver in most situations. It’s just the buses you have to ask for help with. Def consider giving it a go!

  4. Reply

    Lisa

    March 30, 2017

    This was so lovely to read. It makes the world seem a bit of a kinder place when people share things like this. Hope you enjoyed your trip to Japan, the photos look gorgeous!
    Lisa | http://www.whatlisadidnext.com

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      March 30, 2017

      Thanks Lisa – I really did and my memories are all the more sweeter because of encounters like this 🙂

  5. Reply

    Beverley

    March 31, 2017

    This is so lovely! Not quite the same thing, but when I was taken ill at Singapore airport (and subsequently not allowed back on the flight I was on from Melbourne to London) I met a man in the doctor’s waiting room who said that if I couldn’t afford the meds I was going to be subscribed that he would happily cover the bill for me. I could afford it, though, so it was fine. I never got his name, though, in all the confusion of maybe/maybe not being allowed back on the plane, and I wish I had because I would have loved to have thanked him properly. Encounters like this make me realise that, for the most part, everyone is kind and wants to help other people 🙂

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      April 2, 2017

      That is a lovely story too. I read your post about it and it was so kind he offered to help despite not knowing the circumstances – it is reassuring to know people like that are out there. We so often hear the bad experiences that it’s nice to share the small acts of kindness.

  6. Reply

    Therie

    April 21, 2017

    I’ve been reading all of your Japan travel posts and this is by far my favorite! That lady was so lovely!

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      April 21, 2017

      I think she will become the thing I remember most about that trip <3

  7. Reply

    Becky

    June 10, 2017

    I love Japan and all the people. Their culture is quite different and fascinating. I love how kind and helpful they were. It’s not often that strangers take the time to help each other.

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      August 15, 2017

      Me too. This is something I’ll always remember about Japan now.

  8. Reply

    David

    July 28, 2017

    That must have been great experience. Not many people can be that helpful and yet again give you their time.

    • Reply

      Jayne Gorman

      August 15, 2017

      It really was.

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