Is it that the people of Japan are so helpful, or that I’m in such need of help? Probably both. Today I had a third encounter, not with the pavement*, but with near disaster.
I left my bag, a little Kipling backpack/purse, on the bus that was delivering us from the rail station to the waterfront in Kagoshima (way over on the left side of Japan. You can look it up).
We’d just arrived, our room wasn’t ready, and I did a quick change in the lobby bathroom to prepare for the afternoon’s sightseeing. Once we figured out the buses and boarded, I rearranged my purse, removed the camera, dug for change to pay for the bus, and probably removed and replaced my hat and sunglasses a dozen times. I don’t know. There was a sweater involved in the mayhem. I knew I shouldn’t have gone with the leopard print.
All I know is we had lunch down on the waterfront and were about to catch the ferry to get a closer look at the active volcano on Sakurajima Island. But where’s my purse?
a) Japanese don’t give directions; they show you the way. I told the restaurant I needed to go to the police, and a waitress walked me to the nearest police office, and even went in to tell them what was wrong. (I think that’s what she said.)
b) The police, using a picture form (point to the appropriate scene: “I’m lost,” “I’m ill,” ”I’ve lost something,” etc.) quickly learned that I’d left my purse on the bus, and that it was blue, like the guy’s uniform. I pulled out my map and told them where I’d boarded and where I’d gotten off.
Then I hung my head in my hands. Shit. Passport, JR Rail Pass, iPhone, a credit card.
c) So one cop gets on the phone with the bus company, and they radio the bus, and the other cop translates the responses with a little help from some program on his phone that Tom said was great, grammatically correct English. I couldn’t tell. My head was buried in my hands. Then the translator says, or mimes, or uses some Spanish words (it made perfect sense), “a little blue backpack?”
Everything was confirmed, and then another surprise comes my way: the bus will pass by the police office, so we don’t even have to go across town to retrieve the purse.
A bit of confusion ensues. Which bus coming from which direction will stop at which stop to hand over the bag? After a false start, my two cops start running down the street. Running! They aren’t running after a thief, mind you, they are running to catch a bus to get my purse!
All’s well that end’s well, they say. I told the guys they were my heroes, and they laughed, understanding hero, Super Hero, and my hero-worship. I thanked them and thanked them and thanked them, and still couldn’t say enough.
So we went on our way. Crossing the street to get to the ferry, I asked Tom if he had the map–the map I’d used to indicate our bus line. I’d left it on the counter in the police station. So back I went. The doors slid open and I just pointed at the map, still on the counter, and everyone in the office burst out laughing. Perfect. That was the moment I started feeling better. Thank you again, my police heroes, bus drivers, fellow-passengers, the city of Kagoshima, and Japan. I hope you continue to be so helpful to a klutzy tourist who so obviously needs it.
*Encounter #1: I have just a few scabs left after a fall onto my knees, and subsequent sitting on the floor of the nearest Seven-11 to bandage it up.
Encounter #2: Fell (again?) and gashed my chin. The train conductor who saw it happen mopped up the blood and finally just gave me his whole first aid kit. Hilarity ensues. I ended up at the Emergency Room on that one, again with the aid of a helpful Japanese hotel receptionist.