Shinjuku Station

Step into my shoes, we are going for a ride on Tokyo’s underground. It is our first day in Japan and we are jet lagged and confused. Shinjuku is Tokyo’s busiest station – no, scrap that – Shinjuku is the world’s busiest railway station; more than 2 million people pass through Shinjuku station every single day.


Toni and I found ourselves in the middle of the mêlee, people were rushing past us left, right and centre – in an orderly fashion, of course, as is the way of the Japanese.

We were trying to buy a ticket. There were machines, many of them. There were desks, with queues. And there were many many people all over the place. It looked more like an underground shopping mall than a station. We didn’t know where to start, we were completely overwhelmed.

Just as we were about to start, Toni cried out in pain and stumbled blindly towards me, one hand out-stretched and the other covering his eye. This was back in the days when he used to wear contact lenses before he had the laser operation and it seemed that one of his contacts had gone somewhere weird in his eye and was causing him great pain.

Did I have tissues? I always have tissues. No, I did not have tissues, I was jet lagged. Did I have water? No. And  I always carry a bottle of water too.  Panic set in. Okay, he was in pain and I had to think. I quickly dashed to one of the many kiosks and bought a bottle of water. Toni poured it into his eye and down his face, much to the amazement of some of the commuters rushing by.

Once Toni was visually repaired we were ready to hit the ticket machine. We waited our turn and then tried in vain to find the button that would turn all the squiggles on the screen into something that we could read. We had failed at the first hurdle, we couldn’t even get the machine in English. I even got my guidebook out to try to match the writing on the screen to the name it gave in Japanese in the book!

After randomly pressing buttons for a while a kind bystander approached us and pointed out that this machine was only in Japanese. Yeah, we’d gathered that! He did make us aware that there were other machines that were in English though. Ah.. we felt foolish. He actually dodged through the crowd of oncoming people traffic with us in tow and took us 50m to the machine that was in English. We thanked him, he thanked us (the Japanese do that), bowed to us and left.

Thank goodness the Japanese people feel it’s their national duty to aid bewildered travellers!

Now we had all the information in front of us. The world was at out fingertips. We could feel the trains rumbling above us. Soon we would be on one, discovering Tokyo… Could we manage to buy a ticket? No. It was just too complicated, we were just too tired, too much in culture shock. We looked around helplessly and another friendly commuter stepped in to help. He pressed a few buttons, fed our money to the machine, handed us our tickets, thanked us and bowed before indicating which way we should go. Then he thanked us again and bowed again.

When we got to the electronic turnstiles someone else had to help us get through! Thank goodness we were in Japan where the people feel that it is their national duty to aid bewildered travellers who can’t manage to feed their ticket through a slot to get through a barrier!

From that point on whenever we were in Shinjuku and we needed a ticket we just turned to the nearest person and told them where we were trying to go. Not once were we refused help and on every occasion our assistant thanked us as though we were doing him or her a favour!

We had some amazing adventures in Japan. Click here to read them.

Filed Under: asiafeaturedjapantokyo


About the Author: Based in Mallorca, obsessed with the world and have a lot to say about both... Step into my shoes and join me on a journey...

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  1. Encarna says:

    Uff Lisa while I was reading the post I got stressed about the situation,it has to be a nightmare be there and not to know how to do(and you are lucky because you know English!I can not imagine myself there without knowing Japanese either English)
    Kisses dear

    • Lisa says:

      Hahaha don’t get stressed! These moments are the ones that we look back on and laugh about – these are the things that make travelling so exciting! It was useful knowing English but a lot of the time we had to try to communicate using my very very basic Japanese! Besos x

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