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Getting lost in Japan

Some 15 years ago my wife and I were on a vacation in Kyoto, Japan when we decided to get out into the countryside. We decided to visit Takayama in the Japanese Alps. Well, we purchased our tickets for the train the night before our departure and were told the time and platform we would be leaving from.

Very early the next day we arrived at the station; walked to the platform we were leaving from; and waited for our train. Five minutes prior to our departure time a train pulls up at the platform and we crawl onboard for our trip. Shortly after we are safe and cozy in our seats, the train pulls out of the station. We are on our way to the mountains....

Now we were perhaps 10 minutes from the station when the conductor begins his pass thru our car checking tickets. Dutifully we hand over our tickets to find a look of confusion cross his face. Excitedly he begins to speak to us in Japanese and frantically wave his hands.... unfortunately our 20 word Japanese vocabulary does not help us much. Slowly it dawns on us that perhaps we are on the wrong train speeding away from the city center.

Just then the train pulls to a stop at another station and the conductor quickly waves us out of the train. We find ourselves standing on an empty train platform somewhere in the suburbs of Kyoto. A bit confused and bewildered we make our way into the station. We find a ticket-taker there and proffer our tickets in hopes of some guidance. Unfortunately he also speaks no English and we feel even more lost.

As we turn away a well dressed businessman approaches and exchanges words with the ticket-taker. He asks us in English if he can be of assistance. We again show our tickets and there is a quick exchange of Japanese between the two men. He then asks us to follow him. We rush across the floor of the station and out of the front door. A taxi is hailed and we are directed into its back seat. Again there is a quick exchange of Japanese; the businessman passes him some money and with hardly a word of explanation from our newfound friend we are off on an early morning taxi ride through the half deserted streets of Kyoto.

Taxi ride is perhaps the wrong word....taxi race is perhaps better. Like some chase scene from the movies we race up and down streets and thru back alleys.....our destination, to us, quite unknown. But within 5 minutes we pull up in front of another railway station. The taxi driver shushes us into the station with a flurry of Japanese.

We show our tickets to the ticket-taker and are ushered to the outgoing platform. Seconds later a train arrives and with but nods of encouragement we climb onto our train to Takayama. We never fail now to help a stranger looking lost.....for in Japan we were lost and then found in just 20 minutes...thanks to a stranger.



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