It has been a lovely morning as I get see autumn leaves for the first time in my life in Nikko. Having lived the beauty, it is time to take a bus back to the hostel area. As I walk towards the bus stop, I see a bus approaching. Buses from this bus stop come with a lag and I did not wish to miss this one. I start running in the direction of the bus stop. The bus passes the stop and then me and zooms past. I am left with a goofy grin realizing it is not the bus that halts at this particular stand. An elderly Japanese couple waiting at the bus stop returns the smile. They tell me the next bus meant to halt at this stand will take another ten minutes. The conversation starts with which country and quickly moves to “Only one?” Given a large population in Japan does not speak English, most Japanese translate the question “Are you travelling alone?” to “Only one” and I each time answer with a big smile, “Yes, only one”.Our conversation revolves around Japan building the bullet train and how beautiful the “husband” in the couple found Bombay to be. After sometime the bus arrives, we take our seats. After a few stops, the elderly couple calls out to me again, while I am lost in nature’s beauty. “Which stop?’ the elderly man asks, “The last one”, I say. They gesture theirs is the next stop and bid me goodbye. With that smile, the autumn leave for me just got a little brighter.
I board the bullet train with my big backpack, find my seat and apologize to my co passenger for the inconvenience. She, on the other hand, helps me place the big bag, the small bag and also my latest priced possession from Japan- my umbrella. Once settled, the expected question is asked, “Only one?” I smile and repeat, “Yes, only one". She is travelling with her other four friends and seems to be having a merry time. I wonder, if I would too travel the same way in my forties, fifties with my best friends, I hope I do. As a consolation prize for travelling alone, I am offered a chocolate. I quickly accept the chocolate offered with so much affection and gobble it up. It’s only after a few minutes; I remembered what my mom said, “Do not accept food from strangers while travelling in a train.” But mom, this is Japan and its people too good to refuse.