As we’re passing the halfway point of the fall semester here in Tokyo, I took the occasion to do something I’ve always wanted to do while abroad: travel by myself. I love exploring with other people, but I’ve found that traveling alone is completely different and equally essential. It’s easier to strike up a conversation with a stranger in Japanese when not traveling with a pack of other Americans. I feel freer and more present without others taking the initiative, since I have to be responsible for working out where I’m going and how to get there. You learn so much more when you travel by yourself. It’s also a lot scarier…especially when you almost miss the train you booked a week in advance.
With no one to remind me to keep an eye on the time, I lingered in my dorm finishing my toast and left at 10:30, forgetting that it took 24 minutes on three different trains to get to Asakusa Station. I have never moved so quickly and so desperately between transfer stations before. When I finally arrived–legs aching from running up and down escalators–I couldn’t figure out where my train platform was. I found myself frozen in the middle of the train station, people rushing past me in every direction, looking around desperately for a sign. The one way that seemed the most promising was through a set of subway card readers–but I took one look at the long line in the information booth next door and knew that if I went through and had to turn back, I wouldn’t be able to get the charge on my card canceled in time. If this wasn’t the right way, I would miss my train.
Steeling myself, I swiped my card and went through.
It was the right way. The station attendant glanced at my ticket and calmly directed me (probably with wild desperate eyes and frizzy hair) to the train. I slid into my seat with a sigh of relief. As we pulled out of the station and picked up speed, pulling away from Tokyo and into unknown land, the adrenaline still running through me made the view outside much more interesting. I was glad I’d finished my toast.
It was an exciting start to an exciting trip. To be continued in Part Two!