“Aren’t we going to go down yet? I’m excited to take photos!”
I was staring out the window, admiring the rows of changing autumn trees when Cathy asked the question. I took a quick glance at the map and told her that our stop wouldn’t be for another 20 minutes. We’ve already been inside the train for 2 hours, so what’s 20 minutes more?
Grabbing the Family Mart beef rolls that she bought before we left Hakata, she made herself comfortable as we pulled into the next stop. We paid no attention to the people going down the train as we hyped ourselves up for where we were planning to go.
Jade’s panicked voice was like a needle piercing through our happy bubble.
“We have to get down, we have to get down!”
In a frenzy, she pulled all of us out of our chairs and we raced to get off the train.
It was supposed to be our stop, she said.
I nervously looked at Cat as we made our way through the people standing along the aisles. I was so confident when I gave her my answer just a few moments earlier. However, the train station outside already stated “Yufuin”, our supposed destination.
Shaking off my confusion at the disparity of maps and signs, I hurry along. But like a scene from a movie, the doors of the train closed just as we got to them.
Eyes closed. Deep breaths.
Mustering all my courage, I turned to face the group and started apologizing profusely.
“It’s okay”, they all said. Followed by moments of heavy silence.
The train began moving again, so Jade and I started coming up with back-up plans. If that previous stop was Yufuin, the next stop would be Beppu – another hour away.
I shake my head at the circumstances, my mind refusing to reconcile with the fact that the famous Japanese timetables actually made a mistake.
It was then that I spy the local standing across me, a man in his early twenties with a suit and a briefcase. I made my way towards him.
He stared at me for two beats before he answered, beats that my heart skipped as I held my breath.
“One more stop.”
I felt my shoulders droop as the sigh of relief took over me. I gave my thanks to him and the good news to everybody else.
“He’s cute”, one of them point out. I was so worried that I failed to notice.
Now smiling at each other, Jade and I tried to understand what went wrong but couldn’t really come up with a solid conclusion. One thing, however, we knew for sure: thank God He closed those doors.
Around 15 minutes later, we pull into the correct Yufuin station. Our wide grins quickly turned into exclamations of joy as we gazed upon the most quaint little mountain town we have ever seen. There were numerous local shops lined up along the streets and in between were maple trees and rivers, leading all the way up to the lake at the edge of town.
We walked along, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at just about everything we saw. That day trip ended up being the highlight of our entire trip.
We realize that we would have missed this if the doors did not close on us then. The first few moments after may have been teemed with regret and confusion, but every moment since has only been filled with awe and wonder.
So we say it again: thank God for closed doors.
All photos are taken by me on film or phone.
Images that include me were taken by Cat Ledesma/Mimi Quiñones.