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.
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.
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.
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.