It’s funny how life works. The things you do not want to happen or try avoiding somehow happens anyway. I dislike getting lost on my own. I have a tendency to memorize one path and stick to it. Though, that does not always happen. It also does not help that I am a very petite person barely reaching 5 ft and look like I haven’t left high school. So for our excursion my group companions decided to go to Tokyo for the weekend. For you see, it happens that every five years there is a sumo tournament and it’s very popular in Japan. Our group decided to stay in a hostel since it is very economical. It is like a dormitory bunk bed style where you have one level that is for females and the next is for males. The bigger the group the more likely you’ll get a discount. So for that weekend I stuck to my group like glue. On of my culture shocks was the amount of people you see! There were millions and millions of people constantly walking all over Tokyo, same hair color, height, and uniform thus I needed to keep an eye on my group.
So on that bright Sunday morning at 6:00am, we went to make a line to see if we were lucky to get admission tickets to the tournament. After two to three hours of waiting we finally got our tickets! Since the tournament didn’t start till later we decided to split with our program leader and agreed to meet at the sumo place at 2:00pm. So we took the JR train to Shibuya, one of the busiest and trendiest places in Japan. Once we had reached our destination we came across an eight floor building with Starbucks in it. Since we were all still sleepy we decided that coffee looked like heaven. In each level of the building it had different entertainments. The first floor was of movies and music, the second was the Starbucks coffee shop, the third was books and magazine, and so forth. Well we spent a couple of minutes on the first floor then one by one each scattered across the building. Somehow, I found myself ALONE! Also take into consideration that we had NO cell phones because the US cell phones doesn’t work in Japan. The options that you have are rent a cell phone, buy calling cards, or use a pay phone. There was no form of communications with our group except for a pay phone to contact our program leader. So I decided to take the elevator in which I kept pressing the wrong buttons so instead of closing the doors it would stay opened. I felt like the biggest idiot on the planet but with much perseverance I finally got to the second floor. I check around but nobody was there, so I got right back into the elevator and check each floor; and I still didn’t see anyone. I figured that they might be outside waiting for me so I went outside in the rain hoping that they were there. Nope, that did not happen either. After waiting for them for an hour and half I was in a position where I had to take charge and decide what to do. I was assuming that they couldnt find me and were tired of waiting and left. It was a perfect conclusion at that time plus I look more Asian than Hispanic. As I stated before I am very small, I have black hair and brown eyes so that didn’t help in finding me! Consequently there were two options for me, one is I could get down on my knees and cry, which wouldn’t do me any good or I could ask for directions! In that moment I finally understood my parents struggle when they came to the US. But then I look at it in a new perspective I was like, “wait a moment I’m in Japan for crying out loud there is no need to cry over spilled milk!” I had my backpack with me with extra set of clothes, money, and my map so I was okay! Somehow through my broken minimum Japanese dialogue and facial expressions I was able to ask for directions. I remembered that in my ticket it had the name of the place where I needed to go. With that in mind I felt much calmer and more in control of the situation.
When I was asking for directions I looked for someone who was my age, friendly, and a female. It is in those situations where you have to be street savvy and not book savvy! Always pay attention to your surroundings especially when you are alone. The poor girl didn’t know how to explain it to me so she drew me a map and pointed to me towards the direction of the JR train. With much gratitude and bowing like crazy I took off. Once I got on the train I paid attention to the places it was mentioning only to realize that I was going in the wrong direction! So like before I looked for someone friendly enough and approached three high school girls with my map and pointed where I needed to go. Each girl was trying to find a route in which I could take. Since they couldn’t communicate to me very well they decide to personally take me there. I finally got to the sumo tournament with two hours to spare! After my bout of nervousness and anxiety disappeared I decide to enjoy the two hours I had left. With that in mind I went to eat, my poor stomach was growling in hunger! All around me was vendors and shops that were advertising for the tournament. As I finished eating and shopping around I bumped into my program leader at the gates. She took me toward our group which wanted to strangle me for the worry I caused them. It seemed that they had been looking for me over two hours! Even though I caused much distress over my group I felt very proud of myself.
I was so worried of getting separated from my group that when I got lost, I felt disoriented and unsure of what to do. I was in Tokyo the busiest district, it was raining, couldn’t speak the language, and felt small with masses of people walking around me. So when I was able to find my way back, I felt empowered and was no longer afraid. I overlooked my shyness of asking for help and felt very independent. I took it for what it was, an adventure! It’s perhaps one of the most memorable times I had in Japan. Now that I looked back I can find the situation with some humor in it. It is also a common joke within our group before we leave to any place they ask, “Is Gina with us?” No matter the situation that is thrown at you, you cannot let it control you. I knew that this would not be the first time that I would get lost nor the last. In that moment that I got lost I found other things such as kindness from other people, the thrill of finding neat shops, and my independence from my group. This was once in a life time opportunity and I wasn’t going to let it sour my trip!
This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question, and stay up to date with current events to ensure a safe and successful trip.