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Japanese Jewels

Train System and Okayama Countryside

JAPAN | Tuesday, 12 May 2015 | Views [144] | Scholarship Entry

It was cold, it was dark, and I couldn't speak Japanese.

We had spent an emotionally grueling day exploring the harrowing atomic bomb museum in Hiroshima, followed by a trip to the venerable island of Miyajima, with its solemn wild deer. Now it was home time, and a problem presented to me that morning was back in the forefront of my mind.

As I left the cramped apartment of my host family that morning (my host brother had told me he lived in a "mansion", which, unfortunately for me, translates as "small apartment block"), the brooding father of the family had informed me that I would be making my own way home from Minami, the hub my school group would end up at.

As I realised when we all arrived at the station, there are about 50 trains that leave from Minami. Still, I was unperturbed.

I stretched my back like a recently awoken cat. I had to do this a lot as the room I was sleeping in wasn't as long as I was when I lay down, so I ended up sleeping like a crumpled crab. I pranced confidently up to the inspector and said, in fractured Japanese, "sorry sir, Bitchu Takahashi platform where?" He stared blankly at me for about 10 seconds, before gracefully replying in perfect English that I needed platform 9. I gratefully bowed and trotted off to discover that 25 of Minami's 50 trains leave from platform 9. And the destinations of the train were in indecipherable Kanji.

I gazed indecisively at the trains for about 10 minutes, before checking my watch and realising it'd actually been half an hour. I was shocked, and devastated that it was now past dinnertime. I took my life into my own hands, jumping into the next train that pulled up. I was instantly floored by a rush of relief as I saw the familiar faces of the Bitchu Takahashi commuters - I had ended up on the right train after all.

Blissful, I took a seat and gazed out into the dazzling moonlight, and the different cities and lives I could've ended up in had I taken a different train. Before we had arrived in Japan, my teacher had told me that it's a place singing with history and fragile beauty. It is never more on display than in the mountainous terrain of the Okayama countryside. Sitting atop a deep fault line, it is a place that underscores the fragility and exquisiteness of life. I stared in awe at the sheer, uncompromising toughness of the austere mountains and mossy paths. In that moment I felt more at one with nature than ever before. When we arrived, I stepped out into new possibilities.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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