We continue with our entertaining series of blog posts written by our president and founder Toshiyasu Abe.
Today, I’d like to share a story from my youth, when I was traveling the world.
I was only 19 years old when I visited Europe for the first time. Just like my trip from Japan to the U.S., I traveled by ship from New York to Southampton, England, then took a train from there to London, and stayed at a youth hostel for a few nights.
While I was in London, I remember reading that the most beautiful town in the world was called Edinburgh, in Scotland. (Very effective marketing from the Edinburgh tourism board!) Since I had no particular plan to go anywhere, I decided to visit Edinburgh and see “the most beautiful town in the world” for myself.
By the time my train got to Edinburgh, it was almost evening. I did think the town was lovely at first glance, but as I got off the train, something rather peculiar happened; a group of strangely-dressed children approached me, evidently begging for food. I didn’t have any, so I apologized and went on my way.
I then saw several other groups of children who were begging as well, who were also dressed oddly, in my opinion. When I stepped outside of the train station, there were even more children panhandling. I was definitely confused, I didn’t know why Edinburgh as such a beautiful town would have so many poor children begging for food, and it made me very sad.
After spending two nights in Edinburgh, I went back to London. I did not see any children begging there. The beautiful but poor town of Edinburgh had made a strong impression on me. From time to time I would recall the little panhandlers I saw, and shared this experience with my friends.
It wasn’t until perhaps seven or eight years has passed that I understood. I was telling one of my friends the sad story of the children in Edinburgh. He then asked me what time of the year it was when I had visited. Although I had told the story numerous times, this was the first time someone had asked this specific question in response.
I remembered it was very cold at night; so cold that I had to sleep in layers of my sweaters and blankets to keep myself warm. I told him it was either October or November. “Oh, it was Halloween!”, my friend said with a laugh. It sure was! The “poor, strangely-dressed children” were trick-or-treating for candy, not panhandling!
I had never heard of Halloween when I lived in Japan. Even after I moved to the U.S. and learned a bit about the holiday, I never really put the children in Edinburgh and Halloween together. I still find it funny that for many years I had carried these children in Edinburgh as a sad memory!
Edinburgh was a beautiful town and definitely memorable, even outside the Halloween misunderstanding. I always share this story whenever I get a chance, I feel like it is a representation of what made me want to travel, and to learn about other places and people in this great wide world.
Connecting with people from different places and connecting them to each other has been a goal of mine, which is a big part of why I chose to work and start my business in the field of international shipping and commerce.
I also had another experience in Edinburgh that sounds like something from a novel or movie, but that’s a story for another time.