Monday, June 22, 2015

The Aspie Traveler: Japan Day Six: On Tour

After a tense night and a night that I believe I developed Seismophobia, or the fear of earthquakes, I got up early to catch a bus because I was going on a guided tour. This would be my first ever one of these and I've never liked the idea because I like control and when one is with a group that ability to have control goes away.

The trip would commence under Tokyo's World Trade Center building in the Hamamatsucho bus terminal. I arrived early because I didn't know where I was exactly going but there were many signs and people pointing me in the right direction, which was a good thing because I doubt I could've asked for directions.

The bus was boarded and we were off and as the miles slowly ticked off I quickly learned just how big Tokyo is. I've been confined to my little area that I'm staying in, an office park type area, but the thing is tall buildings are everywhere here. In Saint Louis there are two areas you'll find tall buildings; downtown and Clayton but here tall buildings aren't confined to one area. If you haven't seen it words will do no justice to the scale of this city.

We slowly left the metro area and our tour guide, who spoke great English, mentioned that only .05% of the land of Japan is used for industry and most of the country is mountains and our first destination on this tour would be the visitor's center at the base of Mt. Fuji with the second destination being the 5th station up the mountain.

There were forty of us on this bus and the mood was festive. I remained silent as the song of the mountain was sung, and after our first stop we headed up the steep and curvy roads towards station number five.

At the station we got out, and looking up towards the summit a dense layer of fog covered it making a photo op difficult. It was about a two minute walk to the tourist area and when I got there another dense layer of fog descended on the area. I just spread my arms out and inhaled the cool mist and closed my eyes. There were songs being played in the back ground I'll never hear again and I was savoring this moment because it was a moment in time that can never be duplicated. 

My emotions got the best of me and I cried. There was something about this place, the people, the mood, and the fog that made it too much for me. Maybe it was the fact that I had made it and that I was there. Maybe the emotions of writing so much caught up with me. To be honest I'm not sure what it was but I didn't stop it because how often can a person express such raw emotions at the base of Mt. Fuji. Thankfully the tears were gone by the time I took an awesome selfie in front of the calendar on the side of a building.

The time at the 5th station went by too fast. Yes, it is primarily a tourist trap but lingering in my mind is the prospect of someday coming back between July and September and taking a crack at the 8 hour hike that takes a person to the summit... Someday, right?

From the fifth station we proceeded to lake Kawaguchi where we would be having lunch. When I booked online I signed up for the traditional Japanese lunch because, well, why not? This was about trying to new things and an hour down the road we got there and got to the dinner table I was, um, well I was, ahem, speechless. It isn't so much wondering if I was going to like what was on the plate but it was more of a question of what was on my plate.

There was this burning blue thing heating a soup that had noodles; yes I knew there were noodles but then there were other things. There was some potential pumpkin like substances in it, and things which looked like mushrooms but had long, long stems. Also there was a shrimp but it didn't taste like one. There were purple things which may or may not have been lotus root. There was seaweed covered in soy sauce and sugar, and four other foods that I couldn't identify. If you've read my stuff for a while you know that I'm a picky eater and I did try the foods, okay I sniffed them and I had my fill of noodles and rice, but this was a gigantic shock as near the hotel I can find foods that I can agree with but here there was no other options, so I ate what I could. It was difficult, though, because the textures and tastes were all something that I've never even come close to experiencing. I may be on a old trip but this plate of food conquered me.

After dinner we took the gondola ride up to the top of the small mountain and the view from up top was heavenly. Again, I was moved to tears being in that spot. Here's the thing; things mean more to me I've learned. When I hear other speakers say things like, "people on the autism spectrum don't care and have no emotions" I just want to scream. We do, it can just be very difficult for us to express it but when we are able to express it the emotions often come out unfiltered.

With lunch finished, we were running behind due to the fact that we were supposed to do a gondola ride elsewhere but it was closed due to excessive winds.  So we headed towards the lake where we had a boat ride scheduled but because we were running late we wouldn't make it. The tour guide turned the bus around much to the dismay of some passengers who wanted to go to that lake anyway. I had remained quiet the entire ride, in fact I hadn't spoken at all in true Aspie fashion, but this friction worried me. While I had been quiet I had been taking everything in. Again here is a common misnomer; just because we aren't interacting or speaking doesn't mean that we are not interested. Being with almost forty strangers is difficult for anyone but it's even more difficult for a person on the spectrum. I had a deep curiosity about where everyone was from and from their accents I tried to figure it out. Again, you'd never have realized it from the outside as I probably appeared aloof and in my own little world but I was soaking it all in on this almost family in the bus.

The mutiny was quelled and we would do a boat ride on the lake we had just come from. The last time I was on the waters I almost sank my friend's sailboat and I swore to myself I'd never get on another boat, but here I was and thankfully nothing bad or noteworthy happened, but I did get this awesome shot of the sunlight on the hills.

It was now 4:30 p.m. and the tour was 7.5 hours from its beginning. We started making our way towards the station that we would use to get on the Shinkansen. That name meant nothing to me but if you said bullet train I would have known and let me tell you, when I got on the platform and two of them went by in opposite directions the rush of air was nothing short of dumbfounding. I wondered if I was still at the previous week's Indy 500. Before this point though, as I'm ahead of myself telling my story, we had about two hours in the bus before we got to the station and the roads were the hilliest and windiest I had ever seen. I had two thoughts; the first was that I couldn't believe a tour bus could navigate such terrain but secondly I really wish I had a rally car to drive these roads!

With each mile I was so what excited to get closer to the station and my home here in Tokyo because I was hungry but my heart was also breaking because the group was about to be broken up. Whilst I had not spoken a word to anyone, this group did mean something to me and when the tour was over there is a more than likely probability that none of us will ever see each other again. This hurts me. Again, things mean more. I won't show it, I won't say it, but people mean a lot (some people more, obviously) and when a person gets to that point that I take note of them and then they're gone there registers a hole. If you wonder why we can have such high walls this is the reason. It's hard to experience loss especially if just being on a bus with forty strangers can induce this.

Back to the station, we waited to board and when the bullet train stopped we got on different cars and the group was now officially broken up. I thought about the guide, the family from France, and the dad from Singapore. What would these people do next? What does their futures hold? So many questions and answers I'll never know.

When we got to Tokyo Station I was a bit confused as to where I needed to go. I was planning on just using a cab or walking, but I saw the tour guide and I asked her and she led me, along with a few others towards the train we needed. She was now off the clock but she helped out still. As we got to track #4 she said that was it, she bowed, and then she was gone.

How do people do this in life? How can people so easily just say goodbye? I'm a bit opposite because when a person is around me I may seem disinterested but when the goodbye happens I get emotional. The emotional onslaught continued as two other people that were on my tour were on my train and one of them got off at stop one, and the last one at stop two. I was once again alone in Tokyo.

The next stop was my stop and I was fighting back emotions. Everyone seemed so confident in departing as if no one else mattered. How can this be? I know I can't do that. I try, oh do I try, but once inside the outer walls I take notice. What's going to happen to them all? Their kids that were there, will they grow up and do something that changes the world?  The tour guide, was this just another day at the office?

I made the lonely trek back to my hotel room and was deep in thought. At the five hour mark of the tour I'd have given anything to teleport back to my hotel room where I had the power to choose my food, my schedule, and my destinations but now I'd give anything for one more minute with that nameless group. Whether or not any of them will remember me, actually I doubt it because I was shy and quiet to the point of not talking. However, rest assured when I say I'll remember them for the rest of my years.

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