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On a Train in Japan


Michael near a mountain range in Japan

If it wasn’t for the help from two complete strangers, I would never have gotten to Kagoshima as smoothly as I did. In part, I’m writing this to thank them (even though they’ll never see it).

 

I want to tell you about two people that I met on the train from Kumamoto to Kagoshima (which, on the advice of a friend, I was doing via a local line rather than bullet train). 

Michael beside a train in JapanThe first person was a middle-aged Japanese man traveling for business. I hindsight, I realize that I have no idea what his name was, nor what kind of business he was traveling for. I do remember his face quite well, though—faint creases around the eyes and mouth, probably from laughing and smiling all the time. As many Japanese people do, he tried starting a conversation in English, though we quickly switched to Japanese. 

We talked for a while, until the train conductor came by, checking everyone’s tickets. I reached into my pocket to get my ticket ready and found my pocket completely empty. My ticket was nowhere to be found! The conductor seemed unperturbed. I panicked. Even after pulling everything out of my backpack and triple checking my pockets, I still couldn’t find the ticket. 

Meanwhile, my new friend was assuring the conductor that he saw me get on the train at Kagoshima, and trying to think of what to do about my lost ticket. Eventually, he said absentmindedly, “Did you check your back pocket?” 

“Of course I checked my….oh…found it.” It was in my back pocket all along. If it wasn’t for that guy, I don’t know what I would have done. So thanks, stranger. Never learned your name, but you saved me. I owe you one. 

The other person I met on that tumultuous train trip was a conductor. She had been watching with a worried look on her face while I frantically tore things out of my backpack. Afterwards, she approached me to ask the usual things—where are you from, what brings you to Japan, how long have you been studying Japanese, wow your Japanese is really good. And eventually, “Why are you going to Kagoshima?” 

I told her about how I was going to look for my grandparent’s old apartment building (that’s another story). I already knew the address but not the specific location, so she offered to look it up for me. Even using her phone, she couldn’t find the exact address, but she found the right neighborhood much faster than I would have on my own. 

If it wasn’t for help from two complete strangers, I would never have gotten to Kagoshima as smoothly as I did. In part, I’m writing this to thank them (even though they’ll never see it). I’m also writing as a reminder that a random act of kindness—even just starting a conversation—can make someone’s day. Or their week, in my case.  

A view to a village in Japan

 

Going Abroad
Japan
Arts & Sciences
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