24 hours in Japan. A story of faith

Gamcheon Culture Village , Busan, Korea Photo by Fumiyama Akira on Unsplash

I'm at the airport in Busan, South Korea. The checkout woman tells me I need a visa to get into Japan.

"But I have a ticket."

 No one has told me I need a visa. I'm 30 years old and a late starter for travelling. The only other time I'd left South Africa was two years earlier to Thailand. And I didn't need a visa. Nor did I need one to get into South Korea for 30 days.

My pleas fall on deaf ears. I take the 3-hour bus trip back to Yeosu, where I teach English.

The school where I teach English has no choice but to pay for another ticket a week later. My tourist visa-free month is nearly up. I have to leave the country to get a work visa to stay for the year.

"Make sure you exchange your South Korean Won money for the Japanese Yen before you get on the plane. You won't be able to once you arrive in Japan."

I pack for one night stay in Busan, South Korea (where the airport is) and one night stay in Fukuoka, Japan. I've enough money for decent but budget accommodation and food, with no grand touristing plans.

Get in. Go to the Consulate. Get out.

Although only a short trip, I'm excited. Especially for an inexperienced young traveller like myself.

On disembarking in Fukuoka, I pass a young man with long blonde hair arguing at the counter inside the airport, or should I say begging. He has nothing but South Korean Won on him. Zero Dollars or Yen. No one had told him that he had to change his money in South Korea.

It was none of my business. And definitely not MY problem. Except I couldn't.

I don't know how my mother brought me up, but I throw all my rational thinking out the window and invite this hippie stranger to come with me.

"I will pay for your Visa."

Paying for his Visa means using up the accommodation and food budget. What I have is faith. We'll figure it out. I'm not used to feeling guided.

I have this word in my head. ISLAND. Get thee to the water. Perhaps someone had whispered it to me in South Korea.

I'm great at living on impulse. However, it has done nothing but get me into trouble on all previous occasions, including landing me in jail. So why have I not yet learned my lesson? When I look back, it is beyond me. 

This is not that kind of a story though. Nothing but feel-good stuff is about to unfold here.

He tells me he is from Germany and that he recently travelled through India and China. And now he is starting a post teaching English in Seoul.

We walk. At my insistence, we walk and walk and walk. 

I have enough Yen to buy us a small packet of cooked rice each. It felt like a feast to our hungry stomachs. This is IT until we get back the next day to South Korea.

We fight about where to go. My new friend is tired, and I want my island. But, if he knew me, he'd know you can't sway me once I've decided to do something. 

Besides, where were we going to sleep? On the street? No. I wanted my beach and the water.

Fukuoka, 福冈县日本, Photo by Yufeng Zhao on Unsplash

4 pm, and we finally arrive at the ferry port. Only to find we've missed the last one. I could cry. I discover the hospitality of people who've never met us. The kindness of strangers. The ferry house arranges a boat ride for us FOR FREE, especially for us.

'No, we don't know where we are going." 

"No, we don't know where we will sleep."

On the other side, someone picks us up and takes us to an empty bungalow resort for the rich and famous. It's off-season time.

We're each given our own bungalow-on-stilts on the beach in the ocean. The water comes all the way to where we will sleep. I couldn't have planned a more idyllic spot.

An elderly man invites us for dinner where we eat vegetable makis. We share some stories and drink tea.

It looked something like this. Photo by Na Inho on Unsplash

The night is still young.

This young man (whose name I've now forgotten) and I sit around a fire with a famous Japanese pop singer and his guitar. He is on a solo composition retreat. (I still have his CD somewhere.) So it's just us for as far as the eye can see.

They speak and sing into the early hours of the morning.

And I swim at midnight in the ocean. But, for some reason (and don't laugh), it doesn't occur to me that sharks swim on these shores.

As my mother now mocks, 'You thought sharks don't speak Japanese?" I only mention this because swimming at night during shark hunting hours isn't recommended.

For me, I'm free from any predator thoughts. I make the ocean my home.


I sleep like a baby.

Have you ever followed a crazy whisper? Something that makes no sense, but you just KNOW everything will work out?

Experiences shape how we love, how we feel about ourselves and our lives. It's not about travel. It's about daring to live what we are feeling called to do no matter what anyone says. It makes us better humans. Well, it did me. It gave me a greater capacity to love.

That trip I took 20 years ago was a trip of faith for me. That 24-hours in Japan, a lifetime.

Have you ever taken a leap of faith when you did something? I'd love to hear about it below. 

So much love


Copyright 2021

Jo Ntsebeza is a qualified professional coach, facilitator, trainer and lay counsellor.

All works are copyrighted. You may quote me or use no more than a paragraph with a link to the article on my website. 

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Hi, I'm Jo, a qualified coach and facilitator. Host of the Dare To Love Club. Creator of The FreshStart Love Journey. I'm lover of love, a relationship explorer. You can find out more about my story and my professional qualifications and experience here.  xo, Jo

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