1 BUS. To Birmingham New Street.
1 TRAIN. Birmingham New Street to International Station.
3 PLANES. 15 hours. Birmingham to Dusseldorf, to Tokyo, to Osaka.
1 COACH. Osaka Itami Airport to Kyoto Station.
1 MORE TRAIN. Kyoto Station to Enmachi Station.
Kyoto: 20:30, 27th June 2016.
Weather: heavy rain.
I arrived at Kyoto Station late, with 2 reasonably heavy suitcases. It was dark, the rain was awful, and nothing was familiar. It took me 30 minutes to get my ticket and figure out how to get to the right platform (it’s a huge and confusing place for someone new to it, particularly if that person has had ONLY TWO HOURS sleep in the last 30 hours!).
When I found the platform and train, I found it totally packed… which I had not counted on after arriving that time in the evening. It was my first experience of trains in Japan, and turned out in fact to also be the very busiest I would experience, BY FAR, across my whole 3 weeks stay in Japan.
Although it looked impossible, I squeezed on, with my hefty suitcases. I had to stack one suitcase on top of the other, and for the whole train ride was literally hugging my luggage tight against the wall of the train – trying to keep out of others’ way as much as possible, and, equally as much, trying not to get pushed out of the train doors by passengers trying to get off. I did see one man basically grab another guys shoulder and push him out of the train to get off, and the man wasn’t the slightest bit phased by it (but I must say I would later discover the Japanese are extraordinarily polite in general).
Arrival at Enmachi Station: 9:30pm.
By now the rain was even worse, torrential even. 8 years of dreaming about coming to Japan, and here I stand at the exit of the station in Enmachi, Kyoto, a suitcase in each hand, looking out into the dark and rain. Had I stopped to think, I might have really sunk my spirits. But, I took out my printed paper map, looked where I had to go and headed on out.
20 minutes later, after several wrong turns and retracing of my steps, I was soaked through, and a little lost.
Dragging the suitcases behind me, soaked through with no umbrella (not that I had a hand free to hold one), a soggy map tucked into my jacket pocket, and struggling to see with the water dripping down my face into my eyes, I walked on. The lack of sleep and the rain didn’t stop me being thrilled to see Japanese architecture, thrilled enough to stop in the rain and take a couple photos! =D
I finally arrived at the volunteer machiya at about 10pm utterly shattered; dripping wet from head to toe, my suitcases soggy and my map almost in half, partly illegible from the running ink. I stood in the doorway of the volunteer house a complete mess, with the eyes of several strangers on me; a stranger come to live with them for the next 3 weeks. French, Americans, English and Swiss.
I went to bed feeling pretty awful. Worried, anxious, nervous. No doubt I was simply in serious need of a good sleep.
Adventures lay ahead, and this journey was an adventure in itself.