I started to dream about Japan in junior high when I watched for the first time my first serious anime: Hellsing, season 1. My previous experience was limited to typical for my generation titles (eg.: Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball, Captain Tsubasa, Pokemon, and others), and that’s why Hellsing was the real thing at that time. Another step in being in the know, which I owe to my cousin.
Later, thanks to the portals full of manga and physical manga volumes lent to me by my cousin, I lost my head for those Japanese works. To this day, I read a lot of titles on a regular basis. I love it as much as I love Japan.
Then, when a young human so nourished by it all, in his mind a somewhat correct idea comes to life, that a country issuing works of these great authors must be amazing. In the heart of a youngster sprouts a dream to get there one day. And when it comes true, and he/she is somewhere in Japan, and pays a visit to Tokyo, Yokohama, Kamakura, and other places, they already known where the authors of manga and anime draw inspiration from. Everything looks exactly as in those “animated stories and comic books”.
Even today I have no idea why does this movie look like that 🙂
Since that time, I believe that if someone wants to know the country, and its people, they should carefully study the crops from their fields of literature and art. “You will know them by their fruits”.
A bolt from the blue
It happened a moment before I finished working for a company, which I supported by almost five years. I was to move to my now-husband, to Wroclaw. It was the year 2012.
– You’ll never guess what! – he said to me by phone.
– What is it?
– I’m going on a business trip to Japan! The company sends me!
– Great, congratulations! – I said and thought that it would love to go there too.
– I hope you are going with me, at least for a while?
How could I have possibly refused?
Soon I found myself along with Jakub at the airport in Wroclaw, where he explained to me in details what, how, and where to do things required to enter the airplane’s board. Everything looked complicated and at the same time uplifting. It was all so, because I was preparing for my first flight, which was to happen in one and a half month. Moreover, I was going to fly to the other “end” of the world!
The second time I appeared at the airport when I had my first flight. Everything went smoothly and it turned out that the whole procedure is much shorter than I imagined. A little nervous wait, and I entered the plane. First start, first landing – incredibly positive emotions! Transfer in Frankfurt was very stressful, because it was also the first one. I get on board of the next plane, eat terrible food served there for the first time, and, after a few hours, I put first steps on Japanese land…
When I received my luggage and went through customs clearance, the officer was surprised that I had so little luggage. He asked me three times if these are all my belongings to make sure that this is my entire luggage. Compared to Japanese women and men (in whose gigantic bags I could hide myself) I did not have a luggage at all, hence his surprise. But I warn you – do not take too little luggage to Japan. A friend of ours once took only a suitcase and he had been carefully inspected 😉
Lost at the Narita airport
Before I flew out of Poland, I got from Jacob detailed instructions on where everything is, and what I should do after landing in Narita. And so with the action plan and dollars in my wallet, I went to the counter to exchange them for yens. In 2012 100 yen was worth 4PLN, and almost nothing was possible to buy for 100 yen.
Having exchanged dollars for the Japanese currency, I went to the tourist center to purchase a ticket for the Narita Express to Yokohama (where we stayed). There were no problems, the staff spoke English almost perfectly. I left the tourist center happy and delighted. I still had almost two hours to the train, so I pulled out a cell phone to call Jakub and inform him, that soon I will reach Yokohama. I froze… My phone did not work, it did not detect any network! And I had roaming*! What should I do now?
The first thing I noticed were phones on coins. Yes, I’ll call him that way! To call from those payphones one had to throw a few 100-yen coins. I had some, so I could use them! I threw the coins in, chose the number… it didn’t work. Therefore, I walked over to the information desk. Maybe the girls working there know the solution?
– Good morning.
– Good morning! – greeted me the Japanese girl with her sunshine of a smile.
– Do you know how I can make a call from these machines to a person from abroad, who is now in Japan?
There was a brief moment of silence. The girls looked at each other and began to speak in Japanese. I knew what may happen now, but I did not want to prejudge the situation.
– Sorry, but we can not help you.
When you hear the Japanese uttering the above sentence, you should react accordingly, and do it fast. Why? Because he/she may lose “face”, and the loss of face is a disgrace. On the one hand, the Japanese do not like to admit that they do not know something. On the other, they love to help and show how much they know. In this case, I thanked the girls for trying to help, and highlighted that all in all my potential phone is not so important, and it’s not a problem. However, my situation still remained unresolved.
Human beings, in a situation that seems to them to be a threat, become very creative. I remembered that I got from Jakub a card with photo and address of the place where we were to sleep. Maybe I could make a call to them and they would redirect the call to the appropriate room?
The printout did not have any information regarding phone number. Fortunately, I noticed a Korean man who had a laptop. He spoke English fluently, and had internet. He was happy to help me find the information I needed. Full of enthusiasm, I called from the payphones.
– Hello? – said a voice of an older Japanese man.
– Good morning. Could you help me in getting in touch with a room at the XX in Yokohama? It’s important.
– Ma’am, do you think that you called a hotel?
– No sir, I’m sure that got through to ZZ. Is there a possibility of such redirection of this conversation?
– Do you think that you have reached a hotel? – in the Japanese voice began to emerge a clear, growing annoyance.
In such situation, there is only one way out. Because it was clear that we will not reach an agreement (and my interlocutor did not even try to explain to me why such a connection is not possible), one should start to express how very sorry they are for the mistake and inconvenience. When the caller feels to have an advantage, and most importantly he is an older man, it is appropriate to be humble. It is possible that for confessing to be a stupid gaijin were extra points. I didn’t score them, however. And, most importantly, I still did not have a solution.
Stressed out, stopping the upcoming second attack of hysteria, I went to the platform. What if my Jakub will not find me in the crowd? How would I get to the apartment? How would I get to the building? Will I even get off on the right station?
Fortunately, at the platform were already a few tourists. I had to get out of my comfort zone, and start a conversation. I first approached an elderly couple. Unfortunately, their phone also did not work. I went to the next couple, and it was a great choice! They let me send a message! Now I was calmer, but still my head was flooded with hundreds of questions that began with “how”, “will I” and “what if”.
In the end, I got off at the right station. In each train and subway messages are broadcast in Japanese and English. Also above the door names of the stations are carefully written, and the next stop is always displayed on a screen. I got off in Yokohama, Jakub found me. I was able to relax, and he could cried with laughter after hearing about all my airport brainstorming 😉
Back then I did not know yet that I brought with me something more than a luggage…
Although the title is “because of”, what I really mean is “thanks to” 😉
* My husband explained to me later that GSM does not work in Japan, as the oldest supported by them mobile phone technology is UMTS. I hope that this does tell you something 😛