I stood with a Chinese man who works for an oil company shivering in a dark parking lot in an empty lake town in Japan. What had I gotten myself into.

::Flashback a few hours::

My wife and I arrived at our hotel at Lake Ashi. There’s a small town nearby named Motohakone. Do not confuse this with the bigger nearby town of Hakone, where we thought we’d be much closer to.

We dropped off our packs and headed down the windy roads towards a shrine we passed on the shuttle from the train station. There’s a path off the road which we took. Just guessing but it’s probably older than any path in America. Snapped some pictures at the shrine on the foot of the lake and walked into town.

Shrine at Lake Ashi

Shrine at Lake Ashi

There’s a coffee shop with four small tables and six seats at a bar facing the window. We order a latte for me and a hot chocolate for my wife. The sun’s setting so we figure we’ll find a place to eat in town then take a taxi or bus the two miles back uphill to the hotel.

After ten minutes we realize absolutely nothing is open. There’s a wooden crafts store open and nothing else. Only closed signs and darkened store windows otherwise.

The man from the wooden crafts store tells us, “Taxi stand outside here [in small, dark parking lot]. Stand. Wait.”

So we waited.

And waited.

After twenty minutes of no taxis and hardly any cars I give up. We keep walking and somehow find a bus depot! Perfect. Well, not so much.

There’s already a man, I find out later his name is Perry, asking how to get back to the same hotel. The bus info guy tells him “only taxi” and to go to taxi stand (where we were waiting before).

We tell Perry we’re going to the same place and he suggests we split a cab. We agree; he seems nice enough.

Before I forget, it’s cold outside. It’s 35-40 degrees and I’m freezing without a hat.

Perry, my wife and I walk back to the taxi stand. The wooden crafts man shows us the sign for the number of the taxi company but when we called the number didn’t work. So we waited.

Perry is in his early-to-mid thirties. He’s Chinese from Beijing. He works for an oil company and was here for work for a “robot convention” in Tokyo. His girlfriend tagged along for the trip and was at the hotel. He spoke less Japanese than me. His English was quite good even though he modestly downplayed it.

We waited.

Apparently Beijing is much colder than where we were so the wind and temperatures didn’t bother Perry like it did me.

Each car teased me as it passed by. After close to a half hour I gave up. I decided we needed to head back towards the bus depot (in the opposite direction) to the 7/11 or start walking back. The group decided on 7/11. As we neared it a taxi drove by! Frantically waving he drove right past us. I chased him down.

I caught up at a restaurant a block away. There was a couple getting into the taxi as I got up to it. Apparently they called for the taxi.

My wife and Perry went into the closed restaurant to ask for help. A worker said to wait here and maybe in an hour a taxi would drive by.

Panic set in. After some begging the worker said he would call a taxi for us.

Another 10-15 minutes went by in the cold talking with Perry. A taxi finally appeared to take us to our hotel.

After I insisted on paying for the taxi Perry snuck a ¥500 coin into my hand as we shook hands goodbye.

I’m sad I’ll probably never see Perry again. But at least we have a good story from our time together.

– Josh