My husband and I are experienced independent travelers. We have been visiting Japan for over 30 years. It is one of our favorite destinations, but even so we know only a few words in Japanese — thank you, good morning, delicious and cute. We have always been able to maneuver with English, gestures and politeness. Our last trip was different. At Benesse House on Naoshima Island in Kagawa Prefecture, my husband injured his back and could not walk. We had to cancel our next stop on the Izu Peninsula and instead fly to Tokyo to see a doctor.
But our travels from Naoshima to Tokyo were daunting in light of my husband’s mobility issues. Before we left the hotel, we were touched by the help we received from the staff: providing a wheelchair and help pushing it by the receptionists and waiters.
Before we got to the plane, however, we had to take a boat from Miyanoura to Takematsu. We weren’t sure how we would manage that transfer, but we shouldn’t have worried. The people at the Miyanoura information desk provided a wheelchair and escorted us to the boat ramp, but they did more without our asking. They called ahead to Takematsu and two people were waiting for us at the dock — to push the wheelchair and carry our luggage to the taxi stand.
Through all of our travels from Naoshima, people ran to help us before they were asked. And it didn’t end once we got to Tokyo. As I tried to push the wheelchair over a difficult curb, a young man appeared from nowhere and took over, leaving before I could thank him. And every cab driver picked up the wheelchair and fit it into the trunk of his cab — not always an easy task — without a word and then took it out at our destination and handed it over to someone else who just appeared out of nowhere to help. And finally, I can’t forget the waitress who took an umbrella and went outside to get us a cab after dinner so we wouldn’t have to wait in the rain.
We have been touched in many ways by the kindness of so many Japanese people during our recent visit. Most of them left before we could say “arigato gozaimashita” and tell them how much their help and concern meant to us. This is my effort to thank them all.
The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.
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