We love sharing stories of people who have come to Japan. M. G. – who also wrote a review of A Silent Voice for us – shares a reflection on planning for a trip with a disability, why it is important to stop worrying and just go for it, and her recent trip to Japan.
“My dream is to visit Japan”, “One day I will make that trip”, “I Hope I can visit Japan one day”, “People who go are lucky” and so on. Have you ever heard one of those phrases? I have even said some of them myself. Until one year ago, when I asked myself “Why? If you want to go, just go! It is not such a big deal!”. And so the decision was made. And so was the trip!
Once you decide to do it, you will see that step by step your trip becomes organized, and before you know it, the day of the departure is here. And I know what you are thinking; “It is not so easy”. Of course it is not. Such a trip is expensive. Such a trip is exhausting. And if you are disabled, those two factors have a much bigger meaning for you. However, they are not “prohibiting”. You just need the right mindset. Of course, there is a lot of preparatory work to be done too. But, if you make the decision, one preparatory step will lead you to the next, and you will see that it is not so hard to achieve the trip.
And I know that it could be a stressful process. So many things can go wrong. You have never made such long trip ever before. It could be challenging for your body. What if the wheelchair gets damaged during the flight? If your luggage is lost? What will you do? There are countless things you have to think about. There are countless risks you have to take. But there is this one thing you will accomplish by overcoming them. If you believe that it is worth it, then that is enough. It this not like how we live our lives every single day? Why over think it?
Once thus the day of the departure arrives, you just follow your plans. This is what it was like for us. A group of seven “youngsters” – three who are power wheelchair users – traveling for almost twenty-four hours to Tokyo. Arriving at Narita airport, just before closing, trying to figure out where to go! It did not take us long though, as the airport staff did the best they could to escort us. Such a friendly people. I was prepared for some trouble, which did come at the train station. The train had two wheelchair seats, but we were three! And I guess you have heard about the strict Japanese tradition of following the rules. So what to do? A woman passing by, speaking English, quickly came to help us with an idea: another train (slower but cheaper) that is able to transfer three wheelchairs at once.
There we were, seven people, nine big pieces of luggage, on a train to Tokyo! We arrived at Keisei Ueno station, and once again tried to figure out where to go. They say when you use the Tokyo’s subway for the first time, despair can overwhelm you! Well, it is a bit excessive to say that, but it certainly takes some time to find your way through. In our case, the key point was to find a staff member. Once he/she understands where you are going, you can relax! Someone will escort you to the train, a ramp will be placed for you, and someone will be waiting for you on the destination station. Such a relief!
In our case, the employee accompanying us came with us right up to ground level and even showed us the direction we should head to for finding our hotel, giving us a map of the area, and telling us which elevator we should use if we were heading towards the opposite direction the next day. The last thing left to do was the check-in at the hotel. The only thought in our heads; “Gambatte, we are almost there!” With the sidewalks being fully accessible, the only difficulty for us was the exhaustion from the loooong trip. Arriving at the hotel, seeing that all the arrangements were fine, and getting to our rooms: happiness! And then, you realize that every plug adapter you have brought with you does not work for your wheelchair chargers! “Why me?!” you ask yourself. But even then, there is a solution. The hotel could provide us with one. We can sleep at last; our first night in Japan!
Why I am writing you about this? It is because you too will need to overcome problems like the ones described above. So, is a trip to Japan out of your reach? Of course not! If you are well prepared, and you realize where are you going, you do not have to just “envy” this trip any more. You can do it!
It will not happen until you arrange it. And when you start the preparation, you will even see that many people will encourage you, or will be willing to help you. People like Josh for example, from Accessible Japan, who was a big help for us, and we are really grateful for his help (Thank you again so much ^_^ [Josh: My pleasure!]), can always help you with many things you might need.
Of course many people will tell you that it is quite risky, or expensive, or whatever. And of course it is! So what? Everything can be described as that. If you want to go, just do it, and you will see that Japan will not let you down. You will see that Japan is indeed sugoi!