Japan – Homeless for a night

Leaving Otsu

Due to a very bad series of events that happened (see my last post), I had left the house in a hurry knowing if I stayed it would prove toxic and ruin Japan for me!  Thankfully at least I’d already had my bags pretty much packed which meant I could make as swift exit as possible.  However having left the house meant I no longer had a place to stay, and I hadn’t budgeted for any hotels when the original trip was planned.

After storming away from the house I figured the first thing to do was get away from Otsu and head to as near to Kansai Airport as I could get, it wasn’t a great plan but at this point I was upset, angry and not able to think clearly!

At this stage it was around 1am I think, so I knew it was unlikely I’d make it to the airport as the trains would stop, but I hoped to at least make Osaka for the night as it was far enough away from Otsu.

I got my ticket from the automated machine at the train station, got to the platform, then saw all the signs which might has well have said ‘tough luck!’.  It was quiet evident there would be no more trains out of Otsu tonight!  I can’t describe how horrible that feeling was inside me! I managed to get enough strength to haul my case back down the platform steps and to the station office where a loan station office was working.

I showed him the ticket and all I could manage to say was ‘Osaka?’ feeling defeated and slightly welling up in my eyes.  He looked at the ticket and just said ‘trains closed’, not knowing what to do I just pointed to the platform and asked ‘can I stay here?’, which was met with folded arms and ‘no stay!’, he then gave me back the money for my ticket and pointed me out of the station.

Having no choice I left and tried to get my mind thinking of what options I had, I knew for a fact that I had to get away from Otsu to not think about things, and in my mind I figured with Kyoto being a bigger station maybe they’d have a train to Osaka, this meant either walking to Kyoto (about 6 miles) or taking the hit on a taxi outside the station.

I weighed it up and figured by the time I covered 6 miles with a backpack and suitcase there would certainly be no trains!  So I asked a taxi driver how much to Kyoto station, he seemed surprised and after a bit of hesitation replied with 5000 yen! (the train cost 200yen), granted it was 1am, but that’s about £35 for 6 miles!  Feeling I had no choice I went to the cash machine in 7/11, drew out the money and got in the cab.

I just slumped in the back of the taxi watching the street lights go by, hoping I’d be able to get a train.  The journey probably didn’t take very long, but it felt like forever before I was finally dropped outside Kyoto station, as soon as my bags were out of the boot the taxi speed off leaving me standing in the road outside the station.

Leaving Kyoto

Turning to look at Kyoto station my hopes of getting a train tonight took an immediate blow as there were no signs of life and most of the lights were out.  I walked toward the entrance hopeful something would still be operational, but again I was met with a station worker who signalled the station was closed.

With no more plans left I found a 7/11 and had a quick scan of hotels and hostels, it was a search in vain as I knew being around Sakura season they would pretty much all be booked or overpriced.  I was correct in that the only rooms available were about £350+ per night!

Now starting to lose my mind and tear up a little I had no other ideas so I simply started to walk toward Osaka!  I have no idea what I was hoping to accomplish as that’s over 20 miles! And I was in a condition barely able to drag myself along, let alone the backpack and suitcase I had with me!

I started heading toward south Kyoto, occasionally asking passers by or road workers ‘Osaka?’ and pointing around hoping they would point me in the right direction for the main road, I got a lot of strange looks but most people did point me onwards.

I found a trail of road signs with pointed toward the highway to Osaka and continued through the empty Kyoto streets.  Outside a Lawson convenience store I found a bit of cardboard, I borrowed a pen from the assistant inside and wrote ‘Osaka’ on it (which in hindsight maybe I should have wrote in Japanese!), before buying a cold drink and moving on.  I figured if I was going to walk down the main road then I may as well try and hitchhike it.

I continued walking along the streets following the road signs for Osaka, my pace was slow and whenever I heard traffic I turned around and held out the sign for Osaka with the hitchhikers thumb raised.  Every car that passed by just felt like another punch to the gut! It was soul crushing!

At one point I just collapsed at the side of the street and had a cry for about 5 minutes, not proud of it but that’s what happened.  I just couldn’t work out why I’m the one who hadn’t done anything, reported what I knew, yet I was the one having to leave while the others stayed back at the house.  More than that I just couldn’t handle how having been fantastic, it suddenly felt like Japan was turning against me!

Thankfully the streets at whatever time it now was were empty of people and no one was around to see me.  Eventually I picked myself up and carried on my trudge to Osaka.  Having no perspective of time or distance I had no idea where I was, in my mind I was about halfway to Osaka, probably in Takatsuki the city between Osaka and Kyoto.

A bit further on I came across a small police station, I spent time outside hesitating weather to ask for help thinking if I was near Osaka then maybe they would take it upon themselves to drive me the rest of the way, the thought of finally getting somewhere won and I went in!

Still in Kyoto!

I entered the station in quite a state, still red eyed from my roadside break down! I tried to use my Japanese to communicate how far to Osaka, but ended up asking half in Japanese half in English.  I think they actually understood what I meant but didn’t think they did because they probably assumed a foreigner couldn’t be asking for directions to Osaka!

They called some English speaking police officers who I was then able to explain where I was going and how to get there.  They were shocked when I said I’d walked from Kyoto station, I took this as a good sign as it meant I must have come a long way.  However another soul crushing blow was then dealt when they informed me ‘no you can’t walk to Osaka, it’s to far away’, I was shocked thinking I was already halfway there.  They explained I was in fact still in southern Kyoto and had walked just 5 miles from Kyoto station!  Which they were still shocked I’d walked that distance with my case and pack, but it was a defeat for me as I though I’d walked at least double that!

There was some checking of my passport, lots of them talking to each other, more shock when they saw my cardboard Osaka hitchhiking sign, then them explain to me another 2hours and the train stations would reopen, I asked for directions to the nearest station but they said they would take me back to Kyoto station.

It was kind of them to do so and I ended up climbing into the back of their police car with my things and was being driven back to Kyoto station.  All that walking and I was going back to square one!  The car ride back didn’t take long and the officers were just talking to me about Kyoto, it was nice actually as it got rid of any awkwardness.

I thanked them once they dropped me off and watched them drive away, they had dropped me on the opposite side of the station to my original taxi, so at least it didn’t feel exactly the same!  With the best part of 2 hours still to go before I could catch a train I found the stations 7/11 WiFi and started to think about what I would do, I managed to get the next soonest flight back to England in 2 days time, that meant I still needed somewhere to stay for two more nights.  I searched a radius from the airport and found a cheap hotel in Wakayama, booked it online and headed for the station.

The main shutters were down but there was a small section of the lobby that was open, a few other people were in various corners either sleeping on the floor or propping themselves up against the station pillars waiting for the station to open in what was now about and hour and a half.

I decided it was as good place as any to try and get some rest after the night I’d had, I ended up finding a spot on the floor away from the others and managed to rest my eyes for a bit, I didn’t manage to sleep much as I was weary of sleeping to long.  As soon as I heard the others starting to get up and head into the station I knew it was time to finally get a train!

To Wakayama!

The first train of the day to Osaka was a local only, this meant it stopped at every stop.  I was actually glad of this as I wouldn’t be able to check into my hotel in Wakayama till at least 3pm, so taking a slower train meant I could get more sleep on it.

I think i fell asleep after a few stations, I’d have been worried about my bags in England, but being Japan I was sure they would be safe, and to be honest at this stage I didn’t really care.  I woke up just before Osaka station, I ended up having to wait on the platform about 20 minutes for my train to Wakayama.

Once on the train I planned to stay awake as I didn’t know how far it was, however I fell asleep twice!  The first time I was woken up by a lady opposite me as she pointed to one of my bags showing it had fallen over.  The second time I woke up must have been by instinct because it was as the train stopped at Wakayama station!  Who knows how far away I’d have ended up if I’d not woken up at that point!

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