If you are a long term reader, you will know that I spent a few weeks in Japan this time last year and absolutely fell in love with the place and its people.
|Prayer cards outside a temple in Tokyo|
Everyone we met was so kind and hospitable. We were typical tourists, getting lost every five minutes, standing in the middle of the street holding a map and turning it every which way to try and work out where we were. Well, we never had to stand there for long before someone, a teenager, a business man, a woman with children, a little old man, would come rushing over and without a shared word in the same language, they would set us on our way again in the right direction.
|Prayer notes tied to ropes around a temple|
in Nikko, just North of Tokyo
There was one day in particular, we had somehow got on the wrong train and ended up in a really empty station where the station master couldn't understand where we were trying to get to. We were there a while, getting more and more frantic, thinking we may have to move into the station when a local man walked in and asked if he could help us. We told him where we were trying to get to and then he had a long conversation with the station master discussing the best route for us to get home. Not only did he tell us which train we needed, but he walked us to the right platform as well. We had a bit of a chat about where we came from and what we thought of Japan and then he went off to get his train. A few minutes later, he came rushing back - he had put us on the wrong platform! So off we went again, following this little man to the right place. He walked off again to catch his train. A few minutes later, we looked up at the glass bridge above to see him jumping around waving a piece of paper in the air. He came rushing down the steps again. He'd written us a note, in Japanese, explaining that we were tourists and saying where we were from and where we were trying to get to just in case we got lost again! Luckily we never needed to use it, but I still have it tucked away in my travel journal.
|A girl in traditional dress reading prayers outside a temple|
It was such a lovely act of kindness from a stranger. There was no reason for him to feel obliged to help us, he just did. And we were so grateful to him.
After the earthquake, I knew I had to do something to help people like that man who had been affected and lost everything. I wanted to go out there to help the survivors but only trained personnel have been allowed out up to now. So then I thought about fund raising and came up with a plan.
|A prayer note tied to the cherry blossom in Nara|
We have the royal wedding coming up soon so I thought it would be a good idea to organise a big village party to raise money. So, me and another lady in the village have joined forces to create the wedding party extravaganza of the year!
We are starting with a wedding dress walk from the church (with the bells ringing behind us) down to the village hall where the wedding will be shown on the big screen television. After the wedding, we will be having a British tea party style lunch - cucumber sandwiches with their crusts cut off, cakes, jelly and tea and coffee. In the afternoon, I'm hoping to get some live music or other live entertainment.
I have been on the beg, asking everyone I know for some kind of donation for a raffle - so far I've managed to collect a meal for two in the Hilton, 3 overnight stays at various hotels, a beer gift pack from a local brewery and, get this, a pair of entry passes to Disney Land Paris!
|Prayers outside Kiyomizu temple in Kyoto|
So, kind man in the station, this is for you - and all the other people who helped us during our stay in Japan and who warmed my heart everyday through their kindness and warmth to each other. It really is a culture we all could learn something from.
You can read about my time in Japan here.