Written on June 24, 2018
My first trip to Japan has been incredible so far and I wish to write some more about this lovely country once the trip ends.
But meanwhile, I felt an obligation to share this story, so that everyone can know more about Japan and its fantastic people.
It was my last day in Tokyo and I had just checked into my hotel near Omori, only to be told that the hotel allows check-in from 3 pm, which meant I had more than three hours to kill with nothing planned beforehand.
When I asked about nearby attractions, the hotel front desk informed me about an aquarium near Shinagawa, not far from the hotel. Since I had ample time, I decided to take a walk rather than avail some form of public transport.
Unfortunately, Google map’s directions were a bit misleading and I was somewhat uncertain if I had taken the right path. I took this opportunity to ask a young lady bystander about the directions to the aquarium. Despite her best efforts with maps in Japanese and a compass app, initially, I struggled to understand clearly, the direction to be taken. She sensed my uncertainty and tried her best to guide me.
While we were still at it, a male friend of the lady showed up and she introduced us to each other and explained the little difficulty I was facing, to her friend. The lady spoke very decent English while the guy was not used to a conversation in this foreign language.
They discussed among themselves for a while in Japanese, and then the lady turned to me and said;
‘let us walk with you and take you to the aquarium’
I was a bit hesitant, since I knew the aquarium wasn’t just a few meters away, but they insisted together and I gave in, after declining it a couple of times.
So we started to walk together, the three of us, towards the aquarium. On our way, we learned each others’ names, where we come from, what we do in life, what are our interests etc. and soon became pretty good friends. Both of them were so warm and friendly, that it took little effort from my end to feel comfortable in their company.
They walked with me to the Shinagawa aquarium, which was about 1.3 kms away and the walk took more than 25 mins. They even helped me buy the tickets and made sure I had no difficulty whatsoever and once I was all set, they asked for my permission to take their leave. When I asked where they planned to go from here, she smiled and said;
‘back to Omori station, where we met you’
As I bid them goodbye, I was still grinning in disbelief.
Where I was born, in India, we always talk about how guests are like God (atithi devo bhava) and if some foreigners would have asked me for directions to someplace (and it has happened before), I would have done my best to help them too. But my help would be limited to being nice to them, explaining to them the right direction and making sure they were headed the right way. I am pretty sure, I would feel very proud of my benevolence and the idea of walking with them for 25 mins and taking them to their destination, would not even have crossed my mind. In fact, now that I think of it, among all the countries I have visited, I don’t think this would happen anywhere else.
I instantly remembered one of my closest friends, Arif Cemil Ozcanlar, who had shared his experience in Japan a year or so back, where he asked for directions to a local Japanese, who decided to give him a ride to his destination, which was not really on the way to his own destination.
This is Japan! And this is how the Japanese find it normal to take that extra step to make a stranger feel at home.
I am touched and humbled and I promise to keep this incident in mind whenever a stranger asks for my help.
Miki-san, Yuichi-san… Arigatou gozaimashita!
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