Lost in Japan
I did not sleep well that night. I had laid down and tried to close my eyes, but the curtains were drawn by a sliver. The silver moonlight was a welcoming reverie of that horizon. I closed my eyes as the sun began to rise, then Sean woke me soon after.
We got breakfast at the 7-Eleven, both of us craving the onigiri, then walked to the station down the same road and the familiar cemetery. The children and teachers from the day before walked up the sidewalk hill. Instead of looks of wonder, we were greeted with familiar smiles as we exchanged bows. Although we had come across them only twice, you could say we had established a routine for our Tokyo mornings. We let them pass again, and when we diverged towards the overpass bridge, it felt like a final goodbye to a place well-lived.
“This stupid suitcase,” I said, hoisting it down the station stairs, “it’s tearing my arm off.” My sleeplessness had made it hard to cover up my weakness of strength.
“At least it’ll be on the bus all day,” Sean said from behind.
“The bus?” I said, stopping halfway down the stairs. “We’re not taking the bullet train?”
“Did you want to?”
“YES!” I cheered, letting go of my suitcase in the excitement. Sean reached over my shoulder and grabbed it by the handlebar. His chest was pressed against mine. His hair tickled my ear. We were almost hugging. I had only ever hugged my family before. It was foreign to me but I suppose to him must’ve been so common, with his large family, it was nothing. “Uh, thanks,” I whispered, and looking nowhere in particular, reached for the handlebar.
“Yeah,” His voice cracked. He took a few steps back. “If you’re that excited,” he said, coughing into his hand with a smile. “I could order tickets now, but…”
“If it’s expensive, don’t worry about it,” I said, wanting him to turn and see his face, “I can bite the bullet.”
He started laughing. So did I, once I realized. “Ha-ha! H-how do you--ha ha!” he tried to speak, crouching over his stomach, kneeling on the stairs. “Ow, ow,” he said, turning my way. There were tears streaming from his closed eyes. He whipped one away with the same finger from the night before. I stopped laughing as he took some deep breaths in and out. “Sorry,” he said once he could walk down the stairs, “That was really funny.” It seemed like he might start again.
“You’re a big pun guy, huh.”
He shrugged. We continued down the stairs. It was more crowded than the day before, but we were still able to find seats together. He bought us tickets on his phone while I made sure to keep my mouth closed.
My impression of Tokyo station was not the massive brick Versailles I had seen in anime. The train pulled in underground where the ceilings were low and dimly lits as suits scurried like ants to and fro with seemingly no particular destination. There were large maps posted every twenty yards or so, but if one read it for more than a few seconds they would be scolded by the well-seasoned eyes behind them. The natives grasped all with a glance.
We wandered through the shopping centers and congested halls to a somewhat unimpressive gate. I was expecting something large like the airport TSA, but there were the same number of gates here as at other generic stops in Tokyo. “This can’t be it, can it?” There was a security box to the left and a ticket station on the right. Sean stared at the monitors above the gates that floated both Japanese and English across the screen. “Well, even if it is, I need to find an ATM to pay you back. How much was it?”
“Um, let me think,” He said, pulling out his phone and scrolling. “It was about eight thousand yen for the two of us…”
“Should we ask someone about an ATM?” I pointed to the ticket station.
“You’d probably want to talk to that lady over there.” Sean pointed to a woman who was standing in front of the door outside. She wore a business suit and held a wooden sign reading, “I’m here for all your troubles!” in English. At the moment, she was helping someone, pointing down the long corridor they had come in from. “I can go ask her for you.”
“No,” I said, tugging on his sweatshirt sleeve. “I want to do it. Or, at least, I want to try. It’d be cool to ask if you could tell me how.”
“Uh, you just say, ‘Hi, I’m looking for an ATM.’ or something.”
“In Japanese, Sean. In Japanese.”
“Uh, okay? Say something like, ‘ATM wa doko desu ka.’”
We rehearsed these lines a few more times before I approached her. “Shitsureshimasu,” I said in full confidence. “ATM wa doukou desu ka?” She stared at me, no doubt confused how a foreigner such as I could wield her language so fluently. She repeated my question and I said, “Hai,” a few times. Then she started speaking faster as she pointed abstractly towards the outside, miming with the sign, like it were glow lights at a concert. I thanked her, making sure to use the long ō, and walked out the doors.
There were some stairs. “Did she say to go down or…” Sean wasn’t there. Nor was he inside when I turned around to the glass wall of the station’s rear. I ought to have been more worried, but Sean wouldn’t abandon me in some foreign country. I went down the stairs and at the bottom was an ATM. I withdrew ten thousand five-hundred yen.
When I returned, Sean was inside inspecting the monitors. I tapped him on the shoulder.
“Did you find it?” He asked, watching the screen.
“Yeah,” I said, confused how he knew it was me, “Where’d you go?”
“Sorry, I really had to go to the bathroom. I would’ve told you but you walked right out. Sorry, I thought you’d wait.”
“It’s fine,” I said, getting a ten-thousand yen bill out. “Here.”
“Woah, this is way too much.”
“Just take it.”
“It’s fine. I’m forcing you to pay more anyways since you wanted to take the bus.”
“If it’s too much, think of the rest as a processing fee.”
“Oh my gosh, dude, just shut up and take my money!”
“If you insist then,” he took the bill and shoved it in his sweatshirt pocket. “Should we go?”
“Before we do,” I was conjuring in my mind another relic of anime. “We need to get bentos.”
“You’re right,” he said, “I’m not sure if they’ll be a spot after the gate. I’ll ask.” We walked back to the woman with the sign. “Excuse me,” Sean said, and the woman looked at us again with that confused face, her eyes wandering between Sean and me. “We were wondering if there was a place to buy bentos after passing through the gate or if we had to get them before.”
“Obentō, hmm. There’s only one place after the gate,” she began to speak with fluid English, the only hint of an accent was her rising and falling intonation, “but if you want more, um, variety there are a few places on the, um, lower levels, but they’re kind of far, I think.”
“Oh, okay. We’ll just cross over then. Thank you very much.”
“Of course! Enjoy your trip.” I was too surprised to bow. She bowed twice. Sean nudged me before I gave one in return.