The guy behind the glass window waved me through when I ceremoniously and with a big smile showed him my ticket to Rinku Town.
I found my platform relatively easily. The signs on the platforms were both in Japanese and English (hooray!). I had to wait about five minutes before my train arrived. The train station was absolutley immaculate as we the train inside. It was a far shot from the degraded, dirty and dangerous trains stations in South Africa.
When the train arrived and I got on, I hoped and prayed I was actually going where I was meant to be going. I am always up for adventure, just not now. Imagine my relief when after the train started moving a voice announced something in Japanese which contained a clear “Rinku Town”. The ride was quick and painless and true to the ticket lady’s word, Rinku Town was the next stop.
There is something to be said for Japanese efficiency. Rinku Town station was connected to the Stargate Hotel. There was no problem finding the hotel.
The Stargate wasn’t what I expected. It was a tall skyscraper. Checking in was a breeze. My room for the night was located on the 46th floor.
The room was nothing spectacular, but it was much, much better than the 70s throw back I had in Doha. But it was stuffy. I couldn’t figure out the aircon (I am a self-confessed technotard – so what?!) and try as I might the windows were not going to open. There were no two ways about it: I needed air.
Just below the window was another window at floor level which had a little box with a lid that had Japanese writing on it. I lifted the lid. Voila! A latch with which I could open the window! Air!
The night air was crisp and cool and the view simply spectacular. Thousands of lights twinkled in the dark night. The window opened on to a ledge with a railing. It could hardly be called a balcony and being on the 46th floor, there was no way I was going to chance stepping out on the ledge – railinged or not. Besides, the window opened up at an odd angle and trying to climb out was going to take exceptional contortion skills. It was enough to have the cool air filling my stuffy room.
First things first – getting out of my stale clothes and in to fresh tracksuit pants and sweater. Efficiency is key when travelling: I can go out looking for food in a pair of tracksuit pants, come back, bath, sleep in it and change in to something comfortable and practical for my onward two and a half hour train journey to Kii-Katsuura in the morning. Unfortunately that meant another struggle with my suitcase. But I had plenty of time and no audience so I could really grunt, groan and swear to my heart’s content. With everything prepped, I could simply get up the next morning, do my thing and be wenting.
Suddenly there was a frantic knock at my door.
A dozen things went through my head in a split second:
- They have come to interrogate me.
- They have come to get me.
- The Yakuza will grab me if I open the door.
- Someone is sending me complimentary champagne which will turn out to be spiked and I will wake up naked chained to a bed in a dingy room with a single red light bulb.
- Someone is in trouble and it ain’t me.
- What if it *is* me?!
- The building is on fire and I am going to die.
- There is a bomb and I was going to die.
More frantic knocking.
I looked around for a weapon. Toothbrush! I can stab them in the eye with a toothbrush!
I tiptoed to the door. No peeping hole.
“CAN I HELP YOU?” I said firmly and confidently.
“Harro! Security!” The voice didn’t sound menacing, but that could be part of the trick.
I placed my knee against the door, readied my ‘stab hand’ which yielded my worn out toothbrush like a weapon, latched the door and opened it cautiously expecting a sudden and violent reaction as the person on the other side kicked the door in.
Instead, an apologetic, bowing gentleman in a uniform greeted me with a bow.
I unlatched the door.
Another bow followed by a string of unintelligable sounds.
“Hai!’. That’s helpful.
He shook his index finger towards the inside of the room. ”Hatch! Hatch!”
He shook his head. “Hatch! Hatch!”.
Just come in dude…. but no, no such thing. He bowed and repeated the finger pointing with more “Hatch! Hatch!”-es.
Again. Doesn’t make sense. No Japanese-oh. No matter how much I beckoned for him to come in to my room and show me what he wanted, nothing was going to make him enter. I took matters in to my own hands.
Grabbing him by the wrist, I pulled him in. I was bigger than him so it wasn’t all that difficult.
The poor guy looked like he was about to have a serious coronary. When I let go of him and put my hands up palms facing forward, he relaxed. Visibly.
He went over to my open window and pointed. “Hatch!”.
Ahhhhhh. We were getting somewhere. “Hai!” I said with a smile fanning myself.
He started to close the window.
“Oh no no no no! Hot! Hot!”
His face turned stern and he pointed to the sticker on the little box covering the latch.
And in red letters, just below the Japanese writing, in clear English it said: ‘Escape hatch. use in case of emergency. Once opened security will come to your room.’.
You have GOT to be kidding me. How did I miss that?! Mortification set in. I did the only thing I could think of. I bowed. Deeply. Over and over. He bowed back smiling and went on his merry way.
I was left standing in the middle of my room, pigeon toed, mouth agape, frown upon my face.