Months earlier, Buk and Ajan both agreed that the trip was too short. “Six days? Minus the travelling days, just four solid days to explore Tokyo? Good luck to that my friend”. With wicked sneers on their faces, they shared the same sarcastic tone. Both were Japanese university alumni whom I asked to meet for tips & bits of what not and all the bumbling things about Tokyo. I vowed that I’ll optimize my time there. A vow that I’m not willing to break. Or maybe in reality, a vow that I can’t afford to break. A vow to myself, witnessed by Buk and Ajan.

*****

At first Naza told us that the express bus service would be at the Shinjuku station. After having a couple of Onigiris each for breakfast, we made our move from Shibuya train station to Shinjuku. Alas, his internet source was wrong. A train station personnel in Shinjuku told us to go back to Yoyogi station. We turned back. It was almost 10:00am. Naza and Jim were still enthusiastic. Amir was indifferent since the day before. Maybe he was more concerned about the bunion he had contracted. As for me, I was starting to feel that all this was wrong but I kept my feelings to myself.

From Yoyogi train station, we had to walk about a kilometre in a big U-turn to find the bus terminal. Upon reaching the place, we found out that the last bus to Gotemba for that day had just left at 10:20am. It was only 10:24am when we arrived at the terminal. Looking at Naza and Jim’s pathetic and sorry faces, the ticket counter lady told us that all hope was not lost yet. She told us to go to Tokyo station to catch another express bus to Gotemba. We were back on the Yamanote train line, off to Tokyo station. Amir was still wondering about his bunion, at least that’s what I thought.

In the not so compact train to Tokyo station, Amir found a vacant seat and positioned himself at ease. As the train were making stops at its intended stations, people were starting to fill the coaches. Three stops later at the Ebisu station, a Japanese lady entered our coach, carrying a baby in her arms. She stood in front of Amir as there were no empty seats left. I noticed that Amir’s eyes were rolling from side to side with guilt. Disregarding his bunion, he offered the lady his seat. In a typical Japanese manner, the lady bowed and utter, “Arigato-gozaimasu” as she sat on the seat, her baby on her lap. Another nine stations to go before reaching Tokyo station. While standing in front of the Japanese lady, every time Amir made eye contact with her, she would slightly bow her head down whilst her mouth was making gestures of uttering “Arigato-gozaimasu” in silence. After five unintended eye contacts, it was getting too awkward for Amir.  Four stops later, Amir moved away, standing at a safe distance from the lady.

We reached Tokyo station at about 11:15am. We finally got ourselves return express bus tickets to Gotemba. It was the last return trip for that day. Departure was at 12:20pm and return at 5:20pm. We had about an hour to kill before departure. Outside Tokyo station, there was nothing much. Well, at least nothing much to do when you have less than an hour to kill and on foot. We wasted our time inside the underground commercial area beneath Tokyo station.

The bus ride to Gotemba took one and a half hours. Naza and Jim occasionally dozed off. Amir did doze off a couple of times but in his mind was still his bunion (I think). As for me, I can’t help myself from feeling restless. My mind was racing thoughts of “what am I doing?”. To ease myself, I spend the whole one and a half hours looking outside the window, relishing the sight of the journey from Tokyo to Gotemba along the Tomei Expressway.

To cut the story short (as I am not interested to go into details of what happened in Gotemba or perhaps I refused to remember the details out of regret), we arrived at the Gotemba Premium Outlets store at approximately 2:15pm after a short shuttle bus ride subsequent to the express bus trip. Let me rephrase my earlier statement. We finally arrived at the Gotemba Premium Outlets store. Gotemba Premium Outlets store. Wait, what? Does the name sounded familiar? Does it has anything to do with the Johor Premium Outlets store? You bet your ass it does! It has the same parent company which was the Simon Property Group, Inc. in the US. Basically it was like being in the exact same shopping outlets but in a different country. Oh, how I loathed myself for this. Did I mention earlier that I hate shopping? Well, now you know. It was the most horrific three hours of my life. Since it’s in the middle of nowhere, and it was raining heavily, in the cold, wet, autumn weather, there’s nothing else that I can do but to look repeatedly at myself in disgust.

Then it got worse, because of a traffic jam due to a peculiar circumstance that I could not comprehend, the return journey using the same route took us three and a half hours before reaching back to Tokyo. The only consolation for that day was dinner at Tenya’s, our regular Tenpura Donburi joint in Shibuya. I must admit that I stuffed myself quite excessively at the Ten-Don joint that night, like a girl on a stress/emotional eating disorder to forget her recent breakup. Jim was gleaming with pure pleasure. His hedonistic fix for shopping has been partially fulfilled.

Oh, what a waste of a precious day in the land of the rising sun!

*****

Buk and Ajan laughed their asses off when I told them this story.

 

*I wonder what ever happened to Amir’s bunion.

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