When you are able to take a difficult experience and turn it into something positive, it feels all the more special.
Today was the day that I would leave Osaka and venture off to Hiroshima. The journey started off like any other: getting up early, taking 2 local trains, a shinkansen (Japanese bullet train) and from the station I was supposed to grab the local bus to get to my hostel. Emphasis on the "supposed to" part...
When I reached Hiroshima it was pouring. And I don't mean heavy rain, I mean that the skies opened up and unleashed their wrath upon those below. The sidewalks and streets became little rivers and everybody waited under the overhang for their rides.
Google Maps told me that it should be a short bus ride to my hostel so I found the bus schedule and looked for the correct bus. That was when I was hit with the fact that the bus schedule was only written in Japanese...no English to be found. I mean, I shouldn't have been surprised, I was in Japan, after all. But I'd gotten so used to Tokyo and Osaka being so foreigner-friendly that I didn't even consider this possibility.
I stood there helplessly for a while. Without the bus, it would be a 45-minute walk to the hostel. A walk that I would normally be okay with, you know, if I didn't need a kayak to navigate the streets (okay, that might be a slight exaggeration).
I realized that the other option would be to suck it up and pay for a taxi, so that's what I did. I approached one of the taxis outside the station and told the driver the name of my hostel. And of course, he'd never heard of it. He pulled out a paper map from the glove compartment and started looking for it. I had the GPS set up on my phone and offered to give it to him to follow, but for some reason he was damn set on that paper map.
Together, with the driver's lack of English and my random set of memorized Japanese words and phrases, we compared his map and my GPS and set off on our way. When he didn't know whether to turn left or right, I would show him the GPS and point and he would follow my directions, still refusing to take the phone from me. It was a series of pointing, nodding and grunting.
Finally, against all odds, we made it to the hostel. When he parked, we both burst out laughing together. It was a small shared moment of relief. We were both shocked that we made it to the destination with only hand gestures and no form of verbal communication. I felt bad for the poor taxi driver because my lack of Japanese put him in a stressful situation, but in the end, it was a shared experience of awkwardness, struggle, and comic relief.
I thanked him and headed to the hostel to check in. However, to my disappointment, the hostel building was full of cigarette smoke and employees standing around smoking and chatting. They told me that I couldn't check in for another couple hours, let me drop off my bag, then sent me back out into the pouring rain....great.
I had no idea what I was supposed to do at this point. But I did know that I was going to need an umbrella. I saw a Family Mart on the street corner so I headed there and grabbed my favorite type of clear umbrella (for like a dollar) and a veggie smoothie.
When I stepped out of Family Mart, I saw a long bridge ahead of me and decided to see what was on the other side. To my disbelief, the atomic bomb dome was waiting for me. I hadn't planned on visiting it until the next day...but something about it drew me in.
The pouring rain finally turned to a slight drizzle as I crossed the bridge. There are no words to express the feeling of standing in front of the dome. A rush of emotions that I wasn't expecting hit me. I stood in place for a while just staring at this building that had survived the direct hit of the atomic bomb in WWII. The rubble was even left untouched inside.
I slowly explored the surrounding area of the Peace Memorial Park and decided to go to the Hiroshima Peace Museum. I won't go into detail about the museum, but I'll just say that it was an impactful and eye-opening experience. There were some artifacts that were heart-wrenching. All I can say is that if you're going to Hiroshima, you need to experience the dome and the museum. Sometimes it's important to remind yourself what it means to be human.
Before I knew it, hours had passed and I was well past the check-in time at the hostel. I headed back to the building to check-in and to my confusion, I was told that the smokey, bar part of the building was only the check-in area and that the actual hostel was located streets away. I paid for 4 nights, they gave me a paper map, and sent me on my way.
Lost and confused, I finally located the dormitory building of the hostel. The building was tiny. It consisted of a dirty kitchen, a bathroom, and two sex-divided rooms for sleeping. The doors to the rooms didn't lock and the bed curtains had gaps a foot wide, so there was no privacy. And on top of that, the walls were so thin and the windows so huge that I could hear conversations of people walking past.
I sat on the bunk bed for about twenty minutes trying to decide what to do. I felt uncomfortable and unsafe in that hostel building, but I'd already paid for it and it was getting late. I knew if I was going to make a decision, it had to be fast.
I pulled out my phone, went on to my hotel booking app and booked 4 nights in another hotel that was a 30 minute walk away.
I swung my backpack over my shoulder, grabbed my umbrella and set out once again. Even though I knew I wasted the money on that hostel, I was glad to get out of there. It was the first ever hostel in Japan that I felt unsafe in. Usually Japanese hostels are clean, safe, and well-staffed, so please keep in mind that this was a rare occurrence.
On the way to the hotel I passed a LUSH and decided to grab a bath bomb and a face mask (I needed something to relax after this crazy day).
As soon as I reached the hotel, I knew I'd made the right choice. I had a private room, a huge bed and a bath tub all to myself! After changing and bathing (pampering myself with the LUSH products I'd purchased), I headed down to the hotel's restaurant which had outdoor seating along the canal.
By this time the rain had stopped and the city was glistening. I ordered a fancy dinner and a glass of iced umeshu (plum sake) and just sat. After the insane day I had, this was exactly what I needed.
This day was full of ups and downs but I refused to let the downs win. The day could've gone much worse if I'd let it, but I tried to make the best of every moment. And in the end, I still remember this day as one of the best days of my trip.
Experiences come in all shapes and forms. Not all experiences will be "good," but sometimes the best experiences are the ones that teach you how to be strong and independent. You just need to remember that you need to rely on yourself to make you happy. And when you are able to take a difficult experience and turn it into something positive, it feels all the more special.
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