A month had passed since my family returned from a memorable 8-day-vacation to Kyushu, Japan.
We travelled with two other families of my wife’s siblings this time. There were eleven of us –two teenagers, three young adults, two middle-aged adults in their forties, and another four in their fifties. The age gap between the youngest and the oldest person is more than 40 years.
I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to plan an itinerary that would suit everyone. The thing that worried me most, however, was something else. On the day before departure, I sought help from my thirteen year-old son, Conan.
“Dad needs your help. I have done all my homework, but I have never been to any of those places. You know that I am bad at navigation even with the help of google map.
I have to be physically ahead of others to confirm if we are heading in the right direction. Can you imagine the scenario of ten people following behind a clueless person? Very much like a brood of headless chicken!”
I made an awry smile before continuing,
“Also, I have to double up as the tour guide and interpreter for everyone. So, I need your help in two ways:
- Double check the route each time we are on the move.
- Watch over your brother if he needs to go toilet at times when I am busy.”
Then turning to my wife, I added,
“There is just one last thing, please bear with me if I become flustered and overly-stressed when things go wrong. I will try to regain composure quickly.”
Hearing this, my wife said to Conan with a worried look, “Better help your dad out,” before whispering some words into his ears.
Conan laughed, “I remember Dad even held his mobile phone upside-down when using the google map the previous time. Better spare everyone from walking in circles.”
To spare everyone from trouble, I researched the routes to every destination meticulously. I studied the various modes of transport in details to figure out how to minimise travelling time and cost.
Unlike in Tokyo and Osaka where you could count on the JR subway alone to go anywhere, we rode on bullet-trains, trams, buses and even ferries to get around in Kyushu.
The variety of transport options added a sense of novelty, but also increased the complexity in navigating places. Fortunately, my hard work of preparation paid off. We were able to get to almost all destinations without a glitch.
Most thankfully, the young people stepped up to ease my burden. My niece XH assisted me in organising the groups at every destination. Another niece YX quietly researched for recommended restaurants to book in advance. And my nephew SZ covered extra footwork as the advance party to check out the routes physically. It was comforting seeing how well these children have turned out to be.
Over the eight days, we enjoyed visiting great places.
Of the many places we visited, the exotic scenery created by the hot springs of Beppu Hells left the deepest impression on us.
As for food, we were spoilt for choices.
But when I asked Conan about his most memorable moment on the whole trip, his reply was most unexpected,
“My mobile phone was lost and found!”
On day five, Conan had lost his newly bought mobile phone on the way to Nagasaki city. He thought it might be lost for good, but I quietly had good faith in the Japanese people.
I brought the sullen-looking boy to the Nagasaki Subway Station to make enquiry. Almost immediately, Conan broke into broad smiles as the amicable station staff retrieved his mobile phone from the “Lost and Found” counter.
“You are lucky that your dad speaks fluent Japanese. If not, it wouldn’t be that easy to find your phone back.” A relative said to Conan.
Conan exclaimed, “Thanks, Dad! You’re the best!”
Those words were perhaps the sweetest thing a son could say to his father. And his words of gratitude made my best moment on the trip.
William W K Tan
7 July 2019