After quickly packing my things and rushing to the lobby I had to figure out a way to contact Kurumaya sensei, who had already been waiting for me at Fukui station for more than half an hour. Because my UK phone company had told me that I couldn’t make any phone calls in Japan, I tried to call Kurumaya sensei from reception, but the receptionist apparently entered the wrong number. It took me a while until I understood that I wasn’t speaking to Kurumaya sensei at all but some random local person. Poor man – I don’t think he spoke any English and my Japanese is atrocious at the best of times (incomprehensible otherwise). As it turns out I can call mobile numbers here after all, so 1 minute later (and £4 the poorer) a haphazard mashup of English and Japanese on both sides worked to let Kurumaya sensei know what had happened.
A sprint to the station. Then buying a rail ticket was super easy – why is it that only Japan seems to be able to build such easy to use self-service machines? I even had time to buy my first ekiben (駅弁 Station Bento Box) but made the mistake of getting a cup of hot coffee as well – not very smart with a suitcase for each hand and a bag with ekiben at the same time. Despite the unavoidable spillage and the absence of an escalator I heroically made it to the platform in two trips – where I would have missed the train were it not for the helpful woman from the rail company who pointed me to the train and carried the smaller suitcase. Maybe it will get on my nerves in a few weeks, but right now I relish the fact that Japan is organised, clean, punctual, friendly and most of all: full of helpful people.
The train journey gave me a first glimpse of the beautiful green fields of Kanazawa and Fukui prefectures including the omnipresent dinosaurs – Fukui is dinosaur country!
At Fukui station I was greeted by a enthusiastic and broadly smiling Kurumaya sensei. Maybe it was just the usual bonus foreigners have in Japan – nobody truly expects that we are capable to follow Japanese etiquette. But of course, Kurumaya sensei has decades of experience with Western taiko folks.
A ropy start, yes, but at least I had finally arrived!