Pre-departure I confess that my solo venture through Japan worried me. When Yamakawa-san realized I planned to travel around Western Japan for 33 days without a tourist agency, he asked, “How will you catch the right train? The last time I was in Tokyo Station I got lost, and I’m Japanese.”
“I’ll ask,” I said with more bravado than I felt. Previously expats or locals guided me through train stations and subway lines. Will I figure it out? Will I get lost, lonely or sick?
Kindly, a friend reminded me of a Harvard study. Apparently 97% of what people worry about never happens. Ha! Easy for him. He speaks Japanese. I don’t. A few phrases. That’s it.
The locals routinely rely on GPS to get around. Even that guarantees nothing. I’ve known them to wait on the wrong platform for a train that’s about to depart and dash in panic after realizing it.
Signs are often small or ill-placed or only in Japanese. Guidebooks routinely read: From the station walk across the river. Or from the station walk 3 minutes. That’s just dandy if you can walk on water or intuit which way from the right exit.
However, after a good sleep worries evaporate. The thrill of being back kicks in, and I am confident, unperturbed. The plan: be patient, be mindful and be open to the adventure in a wrong turn.
Besides, if the enterprise goes sideways, 150 bucks buys me the next available Air Canada seat back. That’s the up-side of impermanence.