Imagine trying to meet a friend in West Edmonton Mall on a busy day, perhaps during the Christmas shopping season. Now imagine that you’ve never been there before, you don’t know exactly where you’re supposed to meet and you can’t read any of the signs that surround you. That’s pretty much what our experience last evening was like!
We were supposed to meet Matt and Robin’s friend, Kumiko, for dinner. She suggested that we meet at the South/North gate of Namba subway station. South/North? That doesn’t make sense, I told her when we made our plans over the phone a couple of days earlier but she assured me that such a gate existed. I’ve seen enough of the crazy use of English in this country to accept that that was, in fact, a possibility. Namba station, like many others in Japan is a huge shopping complex as well as a train station but it doesn’t have a South/North gate.
When it became obvious that we had no idea where to find Kumiko, we tried calling her on a public phone but couldn’t figure out how it worked; another disadvantage of not knowing the language! We did find a helpful English-speaking lady in an information centre who assured us that the elusive South/North gate did not exist. She suggested that we might go to the station master’s office and ask to have our friend paged. That sounded like a great idea. When we got there, I tried to ask the young man who served us to do just that but his English was extremely limited. Through gestures, I tried to explain. “Oh, you want me to phone your friend?” he asked. That was even better than we hoped for! He made the call and Kumiko, who was actually running a little late, showed up a few minutes later!
She took us to a little restaurant nearby and treated us to an amazing assortment of Japanese dishes. Chicken is the restaurant’s specialty and, in addition to miso soup, seafood sashimi, vegetable tempura and rice, we enjoyed chicken in a variety of ways; raw, deep fried, in mini wraps with avocado, and grilled on little wooden skewers. It was all delicious and we were absolutely stuffed by the time we finished.
It was great to reconnect with Kumiko who was, in fact, our first tour guide in Japan. On the first day of our visit with Matt and Robin in 2005, they had to work and Kumiko spent the day showing us Kyoto.