If you are ever in a position to help, help in whichever way you can. Because it can really mean a lot to the person who has a problem!
This morning, I am that person with the problem. Thomas had helped to reserve round trip 4.5 hour bus tickets for me to go to Okayama, where I would take a train and then ferry to reach Naoshima.
Suyi had recommended me to visit this island set in Seto inland sea. It is an ambitious collection of contemporary art museums that bring art and nature harmoniously together, also popularly known as Tadao Ando island after the famous Japanese architect who designed most of the key museums here!
It is supposed to be an easy transaction, where reserved tickets can be paid and retrieved at ticket machines in convenience stores. But after trying several times at all convenience store chains – Lawson (you never used to fail me!) 7-11, Family Mart, they all didn’t work. The machine instructions were all in Japanese and even native speakers and store attendants find the instructions a labyrinth to navigate through.
After calling up Ryobi (the bus company), I am told that I can retrieve and pay for tickets at the counter at Hotel Keihan. It turns out to be untrue. The only way is through Lawson.
And this is the story of how a lady resembling the HK actress, 朱咪咪, rescues me from my predicament with her sincere concern and relentless tenacity!
She must be at least 50. In her high heels and business suit, she dashes back and forth to Lawsons with me in the rain, just to figure out how to retrieve my reservation. I am so impressed by her speed and more importantly, kindness! This is in contrast to the unhelpful and unsmiling counter staff at Keihan bus counter. I realize that several of the less-than-awesome experiences I had here in Japan were with bus/train station staff. Why? If I were a bus station counter staff, would I unconsciously end up like that too?
Finally, 朱咪咪 and I hack it together and she is so happy for me! She even runs back and forth to the Keihan counter again just to make sure everything will be ok.
Thank goodness I had arrived an hour early to settle the tickets. I only have 10 minutes left now! Running another amazing race across the behemoth Kyoto station in the rain, I finally get to my bus on time.
It feels really good to be helped! Let’s all help one another whenever we can and not take things for granted! Even the polite and efficient Japanese staff can sometimes reach the limits of their politeness and efficiency, leaving the hapless tourist stranded in limbo. Thankfully there are always more good people around to help make up for it!
The lady said this bus was fully booked but somehow there is an empty seat beside me. Oh no. Somewhere out there, there is probably someone else who had a reservation but did not make it. Poor thing.
I bought a book at Changi Airport – The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared, and finally on this long bus ride, I start to read it. It is so interesting! I cannot put it down. The 100 Year Old Man takes me along the wild adventures of the intrepid centenarian, as I myself embark on my own multi-transport maneuvers.
I reach Okayama station, which looks like a big city with bustling shops and well dressed people. The moment I set my eyes on Krispy Kreme when I emerged at Level 1, I know I have found my perfect lunch for today. Donut, latte and book. Yay!!
It is almost 6pm by the time I get to Naoshima, after setting off at 7am. It has been a long day!
On the ferry, I meet a local elderly man. He offers me one of his drinks from his shopping bag. Qoo! I have never had a stranger offer me a drink for no reason whatsoever. He does not speak English but he tries hard to explain what is around me as we take this incredibly scenic boat ride.
“Mitsubishi” he points ahead at the factories on one of the islands. That’s something I know!
I reach Rojitoakari, a quaint little house by the roadside, as the name suggests. It sits quietly opposite the sturdy Minamidera, a good piece of work by Tadao Ando housing an art installation by James Turrell. It is also a female only guesthouse, which is a first for me. It should be a very nice experience!
I step into the warm dining room where I check in. I am greeted by a staff slouching very lazily on one of the chairs. Her name is Utane, and she is the resident cat. Looking intently at me, she assesses if I am play quality or not. Of course, like all the other girls, I end up trying to please this real boss for the rest of the night as her humble subject!
But not before I try to check out this island that took me the whole day to arrive. I look at the map and there is a local attraction, a bathhouse designed by a Japanese artist and aptly named “I love Yu (bathhouse)”.
I decide that I love Yu too.