Plain sail­ing with a help­ing hand

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - DENA JOR­DAN

Our cruise liner docked in Kobe, on Ja­pan’s main is­land of Hon­shu, for the day and we de­cided to take a trip to Ky­oto rather than go on one of the ship’s shore ex­cur­sions. We trav­elled on a lim­ited ex­press train to Ky­oto and ar­rived an hour later.

Af­ter a pleas­ant day in the old cap­i­tal, we caught the 6pm ser­vice for Kobe, ex­pect­ing to be back at the ship well be­fore its mid­night de­par­ture. When the train pulled into Osaka, about half­way to Kobe, ev­ery­one got off and sig­nalled we should too. The plat­form was crowded about 10 deep with dis­grun­tled lo­cals. There were loud­speaker an­nounce­ments in Ja­panese but we had no idea what was go­ing on.

Look­ing around, I no­ticed a young cau­casian man and asked him if he spoke English and he an­swered, “Yes, I am Amer­i­can.” He told us he wasn’t sure what was hap­pen­ing be­cause he was un­fa­mil­iar with some of the words in the an­nounce­ment. He spoke to a rail­way em­ployee in flu­ent Ja­panese and told us that there was a se­ri­ous prob­lem with the trains and there were no more run­ning to Kobe that night. Hor­ri­fied, we sug­gested re­turn­ing to the Osaka Shinkansen sta­tion to take the high-speed train, but he said that would be ex­pen­sive and we should change to another rail line. We agreed and scur­ried af­ter him to the other sta­tion, which we would never have found our­selves.

He told us that his name was Arthur, that he was a post­grad stu­dent at Osaka Univer­sity, liv­ing in Kobe with his Ja­panese wife. He said he had been in Ja­pan for five years and trains were never late and cer­tainly never can­celled. With Arthur’s help we bought tick­ets and waited for the next train. It was very crowded, but we man­aged to squeeze aboard. The trip seemed to take for­ever as the train stopped fre­quently, but it fi­nally ar­rived at Kobe.

But we weren’t quite home free as we had to take the Port Liner train to the cruise ter­mi­nal. Even though he wasn’t go­ing our way, Arthur helped us to buy tick­ets and showed us the cor­rect plat­form and where to alight. We thanked him pro­fusely and made our way to the plat­form.

The Port Liner ar­rived soon af­ter­wards and we were back on the ship by 10pm, very tired and so re­lieved. We will be for­ever in Arthur’s debt. Send your 400-word con­tri­bu­tion to Fol­low the Reader: travel@theaus­tralian.com.au. Colum­nists re­ceive a pack of Maine Beach prod­ucts cre­ated us­ing cer­ti­fied or­ganic ex­tra vir­gin olive oil from the McLaren Vale re­gion of South Aus­tralia; in­cludes Olive Oil Duo (hand and nail cream; body mousse) plus mini hand and nail cream and body wash. $84.90. More: cocco.com.au.

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