Two summers ago, my family left the states for our first ever backpacking trip, to Japan. Our first stop was an incredible few days in Tokyo, where we explored the marvels of a modern city unlike one I’d ever seen before. The sushi was, of course, delicious, as were the 7-11 dumplings and bubble tea. So far Japan was proving itself to be even better than what I expected.
Our last day in Tokyo rolled around too soon, and we found ourselves (and our six backpacks) crammed in a subway car in rush hour metro traffic. Have you ever seen that picture in downtown Tokyo where the metro attendants literally have to squish everyone into the subway car? We lived it. Fifty or so Japanese commuters wearing hello kitty and other themed face masks, standing shoulder to shoulder, and us. We pushed our way to the back of the car, where we met a group of Japanese backpackers en route to the mountains. Initially, we laughed together about our big backpacks and the cramped train and soon shared a few words about where we were headed. All of a sudden, they started emptying stuff out their backpacks and pulling out plastic bags of chocolate and candy and handing them to me and my sisters.
As someone who lives out of their backpack, I know that the few things you carry are usually packed for a purpose…and important. Sharing their carefully packed items with us was such a simple gesture of friendship and a very unexpected and kind one from people we had known for no more than a few minutes. We gave them some buffalo jerky from Colorado and exchanged words of good luck in our different languages before they left the train. When I remember Tokyo, before the city lights and sushi, I remember the kindness of our Japanese backpacker friends because people always leave the strongest impression of a place.
Hello! This is the first post from a new series of kindness on the road. I was inspired by Jessie Voigts of Wanderingeducators.com to create something positive by highlighting stories of great people and genuine kindness I’ve experienced while traveling. More coming soon 🙂