So. I was in. I had no cooking clue where to go. It was close to 6pm and there was no train to Kii-Katsuura which meant I needed to find a bed for the night.
When joining up as a Cove Guardian and get accepted in to the program, you are sent an information pack. One of the points covered is accommodation in Osaka. It is recommended that if you arrive after a certain time, you overnight in the city and get a train out first thing in the morning. The Best Western came highly recommended. Problem was the Best Western was fully booked on the night of the 3rd of December. I found this out when I was planning my trip from South Africa. Fortunately, the info pack also mentioned the travel desk at Kansai Airport which assists weary travelers such as myself. Worst come to worst, I was fully prepared to find a quiet spot on the floor somewhere at the airport and sleep until the next morning.
I grabbed hold of someone in uniform who looked like they belonged and was luck would have it, they had a semi grasp of English and directed me to where I needed to be. I also had no yen on me as the foreign exchange counters at Cape Town International Airport sold none of the required currency.
The lady at the travel desk didn’t understand a word of English. I communicated through an elaborate display of charades. Yes, the Best Western was full, but ther was room a the Stargate Hotel in Rinku Town which was one train stop away.
I smiled quietly to myself. How synchronous! Absolutely meant to be. I am a HUGE Stargate fan!! (For those non Sci-Fi geeks, Stargate is one of my favourite television series which features Richard Dean Anderson who happens to be a visible supporter of Sea Shepherd!). If you are a believer in signs as I am, it doesn’t get any better than that!
The room was a little over my budget, but hells bells man! A girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do! Plus, it sure beats sleeping on a cold, dirty airport floor, right? I also managed to change my money to yen right next door to the travel desk.
the kind, very non-English speaking lady directed me to the train station with sign language. The station was connected to the airport so it wasn’t exactly brain surgery. I knew two things: I knew the destination town and I knew it was one train station away.
Finding the train station was easy enough. Figuring out the train lines? Not so much. And here I thought the London Underground lines were difficult! Try figuring out a criss-cross of lines in a foreign language when more than one train company has a finger in the pie.
I was ready to just pack it in and find me that cold, dirty spot on the floor somewhere. But I paid for my hotel room already with donour money and I will be buggered if I was going to waste those funds given to me in good faith.
I tried what I did at London’s Kings Cross station when I found myself utterly lost and confused: stand still, pigeon toed, mouth agape, frown on the face. Someone was bound to come up to me and say “Are you okay love?”. Not in Japan. I must have looked like a right royal tit standing there looking like an escaped mental patient. No one gave a hoot. No one came to my aid. I was on my own.
Eventually I gave up my Oscar winning lost foreigner performance. I went to the little window next to some turn styles and offered a handful of yen to the smartly dressed guy behind the counter.
“Origato! Rinku Town!”
“Japanese Japanese Japanese”, the man replied and pointed to an office where people stood in an orderly queue.
I had absolutely no idea what he said but the queue was a definite clue. Dear god. This was more difficult than I expected. For pete’s sake – who in this day and age doesn’t speak English? I had nothing better to do so I went over and joined the line. I was in the right place.
“Origato! Rinku Town por favour!”
No problem. I was issued a ticket and paid.
I took a chance.
“Also, Kii-Katsuura por favor”, making signs for what I hoped the lady understood as ‘tomorrow’ and ‘return’ to Kansai.
“14 December see voo play.”
She nodded. I then gave her the same sign which she understood as ‘tomorrow’, pointed at my watch and threw my hands up, shrugging my shoulders while sporting a quizzical look on my face. Again she nodded, typed furiously on her computer keyboard and was kind enough to write down the times and stations for my train journey there and back. I could have kissed her.
There were two options. I could either travel Rinku Town – Hineno (station) – Kii-Katsuura or Rinku Town – Hineno – Wakayama – Kii-Katsuura (and back). It was a no brainer. Stick with easy. Lost in Japan is not something I wanted to be, especially not when a) I was on a budget and b) I wanted to get to my destination as soon as possible.
As a parting shot the lady pointed back in the direction of the turn styles and showed me three fingers.
With a “Kanitchiwa” and a couple of bows (as I saw everyone did) I went walking to train three.