Japan had excited me since my childhood, and a few years ago I did get the chance to spend some time visiting Tokyo, Nara, Osaka and Kyoto. And during that trip I came to experience the Japanese kindness.
On my last full day in the country, I secured my luggage in a locker at the Nippori Station in Tokyo and paid for it with my Suica Card – a prepaid smartcard used to pay to use the transit system as well as buy groceries and other goods from certain stores – and went on a shopping spree.
I was flying out of Narita the following morning and had booked the night at the 9 Hours Capsule Hotel in Narita – as staying in a capsule hotel was one of the items in my bucket list (see my review here).
My plan was to return to the station late evening after dinner, pick up my luggage and take the train to the capsule hotel which was within walking distance of the Narita airport.
Somewhere along the shopping route I lost my Suica card so I purchased a new one to use the transit system to return to the station.
After a splendid dinner, and with my newly bought stuff like a new tripod I returned to the Nippori Station’s locker room.
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Woes of Lost Suica in Japan
Alas, the locker would not open, and then I realized the problem – it wanted the Suica card that I had used to pay and lock away my luggage.
It was getting late, my Japanese language skills did not go beyond a few words to seek help and my luggage was stuck inside a locker – I was dumbstruck, choking in frustration and panic, and felt like banging my head on the locker.
A Local Turns Up
At this point a local passed by me with his cart and noticing my distress, asked me what the problem was. He knew no English, but the desperate mind in me tried its best to explain my predicament and in that process even creating new Japanese words laced with English.
But I understood that he was telling me I need to use the Suica card while I tried to tell him I have lost the original one.
After a few minutes of back-and-forth in two different languages, the man, who I assumed was an employee attached to some office or store within the station, took me to the station supervisor who told us that we should call the locker company.
We came back, and the employee showed me the phone number printed on top of the locker system and left.
My rented mobile hotspot had only data package but I had some Skype credit to make calls. The question was how to overcome the language barrier. Meanwhile, the time was ticking to catch the last train to Narita and then to the capsule hotel.
As I mulled how I was going to solve this crisis, the employee re-appeared, took out his phone and started calling the lockers company himself.
And Stays Until the End
I could gather what the locker company was telling him – use the Suica card that was initially swiped to store the luggage and my new friend still did not understand that I had lost it. A few passers-by were stopped and one of them, an elderly gentlemen, was courageous enough to do the English-Japanese translation to convey my dilemma.
There ensued some sort of rapid fire discussion between the employee and the locker company – I had this intuitive feeling that he must be, as polite as the Japanese are, insisting the company help this poor foreigner who gave every sign of being beyond desperate.
To help him out, I also showed him my Canadian passport and the key to the luggage’s lock. That seemed to have turned the tide in my favour.
The locker company promised to send their representative within 45 minutes.
Only then, and this was after about being on the phone – at his own cost – with the locker company for more than 30 minutes, the gentleman left me.
Eventually, the luggage company representative came and my passport and the key to the luggage’s lock got my luggage back.
To date, whenever I think of Japan, this act of kindness comes to my mind.