Japan is one of the most fascinating cultural encounters I ever got the chance of experiencing. Of course, the linguistic difference makes the experience difficult; however, Japan makes it easier by ensuring that any foreigners stay would be comfortable through its highly developed infrastructure and transportation system.
When I visited Japan with my friend Ariane, we had no definite plans or itinerary. Besides, our main destination was Hiroshima so we did not really took much effort in fixing our itinerary in Osaka other than planning to visit Dotonbori. In addition, I love traveling in anticipation of surprises. However, when we arrived in Kansai International Airport, we realized that it was not too easy to navigate Japan because not everything is translated in English. Thus, we had to spend some time figuring out how to go to Dotonbori.
Good thing, though, that the airport – other than being top class – is designed with relative ease in terms of directions. We found the bus that would take us to Dotonbori, but it took us few more minutes to figure out how to use the bus ticketing system. I guess, it was not too difficult for anyone to recognize that it was our first time in Japan. The bus conductor was nice to us, so he taught us how to buy our tickets. It was a work of magic how we understood each other given the language barrier.
We found relief when we already boarded the bus. Though we were nervous because we could not understand the bus announcements. We were afraid we might get lost.
The bus dropped us to what the driver said as the nearest stop to Dotonbori. Alas, we were lost again! We had to walk a few kilometers to search for the exact famed tourist destination. We asked some people, but we could not understand each other. So, we had to trust our instincts. We walked again, and just enjoyed the views. I told myself, “Wow! I could get easily used to this kind of place.” Osaka is really nice. It was a busy city but it did not feel congested at all, perhaps because my point of reference was Manila or Quezon City.
After about two hours of walking, we finally found the train station. This time, we were already tired and we just wanted a place to sleep. And yes, you may have already guessed that we did not book any hotels prior to our arrival. I was sure we looked confused and tired, so someone taught us how to buy a train ticket. This is the manner we met Ayami Taniuchi and Shigeru Miyamoto, a couple based in Osaka.
Both Ayami and Shigeru looked worried that we did not book any hotel because it was difficult to find a hotel at 10 PM. We boarded the train together, as they said they could drop us to nearby hotels as their route was just the same. We got the chance to talk a bit, though it’s a shame I did not look enthusiastic talking to them because I was already too tired. Luckily, my friend Ariane still had the energy to talk to them.
For a while, Ayami and Shigeru talked to each other. Afterwards, they offered us their place so that we could have a decent bed for the night. It felt great that we could finally sleep, but we also felt anxious about it. Ayami and Shigeru assured us they were not bad people. They sure looked nice, but of course, the Filipino instinct in me to not trust easily bothered me. But Ariane and I decided nonetheless to stay with them for the night. Maybe it was the immediate connection we established with Ayami and Shigeru that made us give our full trust and confidence in them.
This is probably the best moment of my Japan visit. I am sure many travellers would agree that immersing with the locals is one fascinating adventure anyone could ever ask for. In Ayami and Shigeru’s house, we experienced living in an authentic Japanese home. They prepared delicious dinner for use, and we enjoyed the night just talking to each other about our own countries. I gave them dried mangoes, and they said it tasted great. We really felt at home. It was a mutual feeling: we let strangers invite us over, and they let us – fellow strangers – get in their home.
When it was time to leave, Ariane and I felt sad because it was too soon a goodbye for friends we just met. Shigeru took us to the train station and taught us where to go.
Shigeru and Ayami taught us many things about Japanese life and culture, as well as directions in going to certain places. However, the best lesson I got from them was trusting especially in times of cultural confusions. With Shigeru and Ayami, my faith in humanity has been restored.
We got lost in Osaka, but we sure found good friends worth keeping for the rest of our lives. Now, I cannot wait till I return the favor by touring them in the Philippines if they ever decide to visit my country.