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Turning Japanese

My next destination was a small place by the sea called Hagi but I hadn't realised quite how difficult it would be to get there. It took eight different trains and the whole day before I finally stumbled into the youth hostel.

Having spent far too many nights in hostels over the years, I now realise that it's often a special kind of person who works in them. They're either straight out of the army or straight out of a psychiatric prison. While I was completing the check-in form I noticed the guy on the counter, who was very friendly in a disturbing Graham Norton sort of way, noting down random details about me - like the airline from my baggage tag and the make of my phone. Was he planning to creep into my room in the middle of the night, execute me with a samurai sword then take over my life? If so, I could probably do with a drink, so I left my bag in the coldest room in all of Japan and headed out.

I'd been walking for about twenty minutes, listening to my iPod, and trying to find the centre of town, when a police car pulled up. Rammstein (Matrix soundtrack) was filling my head and I wondered if I'd been walking in an anti-establishment sort of way. Two policemen jumped out and rushed over to me, shouting in Japanese. Maybe I've been here too long but it was only by shining a torch into my face that they realised I wasn't Japanese, and they were immediately very embarrassed to have stopped me. They didn't speak any English but seemed to think it was suspicious that I was walking around in the dark. I showed them my passport and a crumpled map, and tried to look lost to convince them that I was out to find a bar and not to rob one of their temples. With this they seemed happy, thanked me, and went on their way. I suppose this is why Japan has such a low crime rate.

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