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MIT student blogger Jess K. '10

10:31 by Jess K. '10

I wrote this entry on my iPhone about two minutes after boarding the 11:10 train from Tokyo to Kyoto, which left 40 minutes after the original bus I had bought tickets for. I hope it makes you laugh, cry, smile, or at least distracts you from work for five minutes, because it cost me $57.

The guy in the row next to mine just asked the lady behind him if he wouldn’t mind if maybe he reclined his chair in her space just a little bit, maybe, if she didn’t mind, so sorry about that. That’s Japan for you.

I’m seated on a double-decker 8-hour night bus from Tokyo to Kyoto called “Ladies Dream.” I don’t know if it’s trying to imply that this bus is the ideal bus for ladies, or if the lack of apostrophe indicates that only females have pleasant dreams on this vehicle, but I try to imagine that everything happens for a reason. And so I’m trying to convince myself I am out 57 bucks on a bus 40 minutes after the one I had bought a ticket for in advance left, one without proper punctuation, because someone up there thought it would be funny if I rode a bus called “Ladies Dream.”

I missed my original bus to Kyoto, and despite the motto I’m currently trying to convince myself of, not for any good reason. I spent a little too much time at home preparing before finally getting on the subway, which took a little too long waiting at the station JUST before I had to get off. (Of course it did.) I got off at Shinjuku-sanchome, realized I had gotten off at the wrong exit and panicked, and did what I would in the States if I didn’t know where I was and only had 12 minutes to get to a bus I didn’t know the location of – grabbed a cab.

The cab cost 710 yen (~$7), but more infuriating than that, only took me up the block. To get an idea of how short this is, the cab meter begins at – you guessed it – 710 yen. Kind of like the time I was sick and had to go to 5.12 lecture because it was the last one with material that would be covered on the exam, but I had such a high fever I couldn’t make it back from campus to my dorm. So I took a cab. From Baker to Next House. It was approximately the same distance from Shinjuku-sanchome to the bus terminal, except in Boston it only cost me $3.60.

I got off, ran through the station, and asked no less than four different people where the bus going from Tokyo to Kyoto was. For some reason, no one had ANY idea, even though I later discovered we were standing directly over it. Only the policeman knew, and my brain was so fuzzy with panic and sweat I only understood the first half of his directions. I sprinted downstairs, ran to the left, felt sure he had said “turn to the right,” and turned to the right.

I ended up right where the subway had dropped me off.

Dripping with sweat and fuming over that kindly old taxi driver robbing me of 710 yen – there’s one more night this week I’ll be eating convenience store onigiri for dinner – I ran back down the street, where I’d run past a bus ticket counter. I thought about stopping to ask but decided there wasn’t time, since the line was too long, and ran past it – into the bus terminal.

“The bus..” I panted, unable to think in Japanese in my flustered state, “from Tokyo to Kyoto.. The ten thirty bus.. is this where it leaves??”

“It left already.”

I looked at my phone and thrust it in the bus worker’s face. “IT’S 10:31.”

“Ahh, yes, I’m so sorry..”
“When is the next one?”
“11:10. You can buy the tickets at the desk.”
“Can I exchange this one?”
“I’m sorry, you can’t.”

My crying has never gotten me out of getting shots, bad grades, or speeding tickets, and it certainly wasn’t getting me anywhere now. (The only thing it’s ever gotten me out of was getting my eyebrows plucked against my will, but as she put the tweezers away the lady called me a stupid baby. Oh, I know. Life is just so hard.) I felt the hot tears start to well up as I began gasping for air, one hand barely holding the rest of my body up on the gate, the other still waving my phone frantically in his face like somehow the harsh cold 10:31 would jump off the screen and cut him. (They did not.) The bus worker invented a problem elsewhere and walked awkwardly away, and just like I’d read about in the “stages of regret” article in O magazine earlier that day when I was supposed to be working, I quit being sad and got mad. I bought a new ticket (yes, on the “Ladies Dream” bus) and stalked off angrily, mentally setting ALL of his perfectly-coifed Japanese hair on fire.

(To put a cherry on top of my already excessively salty wound, my 11:10 bus is currently leaving EIGHT WHOLE MINUTES after 11:18. That is a LIFETIME in late person time. I could have made my 10:30 bus, got a job as an investment banker, met a nice Japanese dude, got married and had three kids in that time. EIGHT. MINUTES.)

But as Oprah says, turn your regret into productivity, and then give all your friends cars or something like that. So I wrote a blog entry.

The truth is, even though I was only one minute late I really probably would’ve missed it even if I had another hour. This is how I travel- I get hopelessly lost, forget that time exists, and wander happily through tiny streets and amongst tiny people on tiny buses. You know how I know, besides the fact that I’m out 5710 yen? I got lost on my way to my SEAT. The bus attendant had to come and show me where my seat was. But in the end, it all works out. The ticket for the 11:10 was cheaper than the original (which MIT is paying for anyway), and I got a much better seat with much more leg room; plus, I’ll get to sleep in a little later than people on the original bus. And I’ll probably miss most of the onsen (edited to add: Japanese hot springs), too, which means I won’t have to see all my friends naked (edited to add: I was not that late to Kyoto, and I still had to see all my friends naked).

I also learned a valuable lesson – for god’s sake, woman, leave three hours ahead of time when you buy expensive tickets around Japan. Running around a foreign country on MIT money is an incredible, life-changing opportunity, and unless you want to squander it all in one week you can’t depend on grannies flying in and saving you every time.

You see? Everything happens for a reason.

Now it’s time for this lady to dream.

13 responses to “10:31”

  1. Shiv says:


  2. Anonymous says:

    OMG Second! This is like sooooo amazing. wink

  3. Chris says:

    You are great at showing, not telling! I especially loved the last line of this. Haha

  4. hamsi says:

    Wow, what an adventure! I’m kind of jealous right now, sitting here doing nothing while you go off on these wild explorations.

  5. Do blog about your Kyoto trip, onegai shimasu.

  6. Anonymous says:

    “This is how I travel- I get hopelessly lost, forget that time exists, and wander happily through tiny streets and amongst tiny people on tiny buses.”

    Sounds like my life at MIT

  7. Nili Ovaici says:

    Oh, JKim. For some reason, I was suddenly hit with the urge to reread Catharsis (remember LitMag? At Monte Vista? Those days…) and, of course, stumbled upon your “Thoughts of a Second Semester Senior” piece about the two-for-one cereal boxes. Now, I’ve read this piece before; approximately four years ago, though, so it’s been a while and I had totally forgotten about its existence, I am sad to say.

    I know we didn’t really talk in high school. In fact, it was more me knowing OF you (“oh, yeah, Jess Kim… Jon Wu’s friend, right?”). But I would like to take this opportunity to say:

    HAHAHAHAHAHA. I loved that cereal piece the first time I read it and I love it now. I read your MIT blogs because you’re hilariously hilarious and an incredible writer, even as a second semester senior whose only thought is why two-for-one cereal boxes are such a pain in the ass. smile

  8. Oasis '11 says:

    “Kind of like the time I was sick and had to go to 5.12 lecture because it was the last one with material that would be covered on the exam, but I had such a high fever I couldn’t make it back from campus to my dorm.”

    To think that I missed most of my 5.12 lectures (like a third of them) just because I’m too lazy to get up…

    Hats off to you.

  9. Julian Yuen says:

    Jess Kim!!!! HOpe you’re having a blast in Japan!!!!! miss the good ole next act days! take care!

  10. Pu C. says:

    This is amazingly great.
    And it does distract me from work for 5 minutes.
    And it reminds me of running after school bus and finally having to take a taxi.

  11. E. says:

    i almost peed my pants from laughter when i read the second paragraph.

  12. Ashley says:

    You definitely succeeded in distracting me from work for 5 minutes and making me laugh. This is incredibly hilarious!

  13. Julie says:

    Awesome, sounds like a really good learning experience as well as a lot of fun! You’re a really good writer, I didn’t even plan to read this and you sucked me in after the first paragraph – I ended up reading the whole thing. Kudos to you smile