I’m sitting here in a hotel in Narita, the town next to Tokyo’s international airport, and looking out the window below brings back memories of what has to be the craziest and most mental thing that has ever happened to me while traveling. And that story — a true story, let me assure you — is what I would like to share with you today.
The year was 2006, and armed with a degree in English and a teaching certificate I had just snagged a teaching job in Tokyo, the biggest city in the world, a city that has more than the entire population of Canada. As you can imagine I was beyond stoked to go and see what far out things I would find in the far east. It was the beginning of the adventure of a lifetime.
Myself and three other teachers who had just arrived in Tokyo were put up in the school’s guest house for a week to attend teacher training and orientation before going off to our respective schools. The other teachers were really friendly, Tim from Australia, Chris from America, and Peter from England, and we were getting along just fine. We went out together to try sushi, drank some Japanese beer, and were all in all just excited to be there in Japan for the first time.
Then the the last guy in the group arrived. From the moment he shook my hand, I could tell he was not quite right in the head. You know when you look in someone’s eyes and you can just see right away that something in there is a bit off? They say the eyes are the windows to the soul, and I didn’t like the look of this guy’s soul at all, so I just kept my distance, and made sure to lock my bedroom door that night when I went to sleep.
A few hours later, I awoke to hear a strange noise. It sounded like a moaning, a deep groan of despair or pain. I got up, and put my ear to the door, thinking perhaps someone had been injured. The moaning was coming from downstairs. Then the moaning turned into a screaming, shouting, and banging. It sounded like somebody was throwing themselves against the walls. And in Japanese houses, with thin walls, I felt the walls moving, even upstairs.
My first thought, as a woman (and the only woman in the house), is of course that this crazy man is going to come upstairs and try to rape me. My heart started racing, trying to think of what to do, how to deal with this situation. I looked around my room — I had no tools, nothing I could use as a weapon, nothing, nothing, nothing. I had no idea what to do.
Just then I heard a light knock on my door, and it was two of the other teachers, Tim and Peter. They both looked freaked out, and they came into my room and quickly locked the door.
“That new guy, he’s freaking out downstairs,” Tim whispered. “What the hell do we do?”
Peter looked terrified. “What if he’s is a psycho killer? What if he is nuts and he tries to come up here for us?”
Now imagine, the three of us had literally arrived in Japan 48 hours earlier and were totally and completely vulnerable. We didn’t speak any Japanese, we didn’t have a cell phone, we didn’t know anybody, we didn’t exactly know where we were in terms of a map or an address, we didn’t even know the emergency numbers for the police or ambulance, and we were trapped in a house with a madman going on a rampage downstairs.
And to top it all off, the only land line in the house was downstairs. In the living room. With the crazy guy.
Meanwhile, the moaning was getting louder, and he started screaming all kinds of obscenities and nonsense, banging into the walls, slamming the door over and over again. We had to do something.
I opened the window, and looked at how far we were from the ground. In Japan, people sleep on thin mattresses called ‘futons’. I had an idea for an escape.
“Okay, here’s what we do,” I said. “Get all the futons, we throw them out the window, and jump out and run to the station to go get help.”
We all looked at each other — it was crazy, but what else could we do? We had to get out of the house before the situation escalated and the guy came up to attack us.
Before we could start tossing the futons out, a miracle happened. One of the foreign managers from the school who lived next door to the guest house was coming home. Salvation! Somebody to save us!
“JON!” we called out to him. Jon looked around and finally looked up to see the three of us at the window. Just then, he must have heard the screaming and shouting in the living room.
“What the hell is going on?” he asked.
“Jon, get some help. The teacher who arrived today is going insane downstairs and we’re trapped up here. Call the owner of the school, call them and bring some help. We don’t know what to do!”
He immediately whipped out his cell phone and made some calls, cautiously peeking in to the living room window to try to see what the crazy guy was doing.
“Okay just hang on, help is coming in about 15 minutes. Pack a bag, and be ready for when the car arrives.”
I was glad help was coming, but 15 minutes? What if he comes up here with a knife and tries to kill us? We didn’t even have any furniture to put behind the door to make a barricade!
Suddenly, we realized it had all gone quiet downstairs. The moaning and groaning had stopped. No more throwing of bodies against the walls. We sat, and listened carefully. All we could hear were the summer cicadas and crickets.
Jon looked back up at us, and slowly went around the house to the front door, and took a peek inside. His mouth hung open in shock, and then he suddenly burst out laughing and couldn’t stop.
“What? What’s going on? Is he dead?” I asked.
“Oh man… you guys better come down here and get outside now… it looks like he’s sleeping!”
Quickly we went back to our rooms to pack a bag, and together crept downstairs. Down in the living room we found the crazy guy. But he wasn’t just sleeping… he was spread out on the floor, butt naked, wearing nothing but a doped up expression on his face.
Then, we smelt it. I looked to my right, and saw the couch was soaking wet. He had pissed all over it and all over the floor.
“Holy shit, you have to see this,” Tim said, standing by the bathroom. We all went over. There were shit stains all over the room. All in the bathtub, all along the walls of the shower, all over the mirror. We stood there, gaping in disbelief at what he had done.
The owner of the school finally arrived, and walked in to the house and stopped dead in his tracks, looking around, trying to comprehend what had happened.
“Come, you guys, come with me,” he said, ushering us out the door. “You’re staying in my house tonight. We’ll take care of this… mess. Don’t worry.” We took one last look at the sleeping, naked shit-stained psycho on the floor, and left the house.
We never saw the Shit-Slinger again, because we spent the next day sightseeing in Narita and exploring the town’s many temples while the owner of the school made him clean up the house, pack his suitcases, and get back on the next flight back to the US. It turned out that he had been taking medication for some kind of mental illness, and failed to tell the school about his condition. Apparently that night, before his psychotic episode, he had been drinking in some local Japanese restaurant, and the owners had to kick him out when he started taking off his shirt. The owner of the school made sure he went through immigration, and sent him off, hopefully never to return to Japan.
So that was probably a really shitty way to start off my adventure in Japan (pun intended), and at the time it was terrifying, but now of course I can look back on it and laugh at what happened. Japan attracts a lot of weird people and I suppose in every bunch there’s got to be one bad egg. I guess the moral of this story is, you just never know what is going to happen when you step out of your comfort zone and venture out for foreign lands. And you might have to deal with some crazy shit sometimes. But in the end, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. And certainly makes for a good story.
Hooray! We didn't get killed! Me and Matt at a temple in Narita