Waiting for the Shinkansen in Tokyo Station

I’m off to Toyohashi. As this is my first unaccompanied trip by Shinkansen (bullet train), I’m early. Just to make sure. My anxiety is rising. Departures are displayed in Japanese and English overhead, but the Kodama 647 isn’t up yet.

If I am wrong, I have allowed more than enough time to fix a false turn. Unfortunately, this morning that’s also more than enough time to obsess compulsively over a station clock. I can’t see one anywhere.

Yamakawa-san’s voice nags in my mind: How will you catch the right train? The last time I was in Tokyo Station I got lost, and I’m Japanese. Perhaps there’s something about the sheer size and complexity of Tokyo Station and its constantly surging mass of people that breeds this neurosis.

Whatever it is, I’m feeling the fear at Shinkansen speeds. What if I’m waiting for the wrong train? I’ve been riding Tokyo city trains without difficulty all week. Why the sweat now over this one? What’s not right? The track and car numbers (I’ve checked repeatedly) match my ticket.

Without a travelling companion to help me get a grip, I’m at the mercy of the worm in my brain insisting that I need to know the exact time. Really? My mobile is off by two minutes. Isn’t that close enough? No. The worm does not let up. Oh please, where is the damned clock?

About to cave and ask someone, I look back to the departure times overhead. As if newly manifest, there it is. Right between the scrolling schedules where its implacable face has been marking the minutes for decades—that 10:10 looking quite like a giant smirk.

Suddenly everything’s cool. The worm is gone. I am in the right place at the right time, and I can manage a private laugh at my ridiculous state just moments ago. It’s not called blind panic for nothing.

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