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30 years ago today, I flew to Tokyo

FORBES, OCTOBER 17, 1988, Pamela Fernuik
FORBES, OCTOBER 17, 1988                                                       Pamela Fernuik

November 3rd, 1983, I flew economy on Korean Airlines, on a one-way ticket to Bangkok, with a stop-over in Tokyo. I entered Narita airport as a tourist. I left the snow and cold of Saskatchewan, Canada for the snow and cold of Japan.

In my small gray backpack were clothes, a series of black and white 8×10 photographs and a 35 millimeter Nixon camera. I planned on staying.

On the airplane I kept reading my Guide to Tokyo book. I had a reservation at a hotel in Takadanobaba, but I wasn’t sure how to get from the airport to the hotel. The pages were worn, from the continual reading and re-reading.

When I bought my plane ticket, my friends had just left Canada for Japan. They were going to get an apartment, find jobs teaching English and meet me at the airport. They didn’t like Tokyo and the Japanese people. They told me about the drunk Japanese business men on the trains at night, and they decided not to stay. They flew to Bangkok, Thailand and invited me to come and spend Christmas with them in Bangkok.

I really wanted to live in Tokyo and teach English, while trying to get work as a photographer. I had just graduated from the Alberta College of Art in Calgary, Alberta, and I was working in construction saving my money for the trip to Japan. Going to Tokyo alone seemed too hard, so I agreed to meet them in Bangkok.

Two weeks before I left the phone rang in my studio apartment in Calgary. It was Susan, my friend who was in Bangkok waiting for me to get there.

“Hey, Pamela, guess where I am?”

I had no idea, I couldn’t guess. She was supposed to be in Thailand. Where else could she be?

“I am in Edmonton, back in Canada. We got sick in the Opium dens and came home.”

There would be nobody to meet me at the airport. I wasn’t flying to Bangkok, I would fly to Tokyo and try to get work teaching English. She gave me the name of the hotel she had stayed in. I wrote them a letter with the date of my arrival. I hoped they got the letter in time.

I didn’t know how it would end, but I knew I was going to start.

Start, even if you don’t know how it will end. [Would you like to tweet? tweet tweet]

Thirty years later, I see how fortunate I was that I didn’t fly to Bangkok. What was I thinking? How was I suppose to get home if I spent all my money in Thailand? I didn’t have a ticket home.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

It was in Japan that I found Jesus.

Pamela Fernuik

Pamela Fernuik


Tomorrow I will write what happened when the plane landed.

Have you ever started on an adventure and not been sure how it would end? Please tell me in the comments.


About Pamela Hodges

My name is Pamela Hodges. I am a writer and an artist. I write to encourage and to bring laughter. I paint cats, draw cartoons and write books for children and grown ups.

You are an artist. Yes, you are. Really.

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Get the FREE illustrated, sort of a comic book, “You Are An Artist.” Believe in yourself and your ability to draw. xo Pamela

  • oddznns

    Waiting, waiting … You were so brave Pamela. I don’t think I’d have done that.

    • Thank you for waiting. I never thought of myself as brave. The plans were in place and I just kept going.

  • Brianna Wasson

    Wow, Pamela! I can’t wait to

  • Winnie Moyer

    I can’t wait to hear the rest of the story 🙂 I am on an adventure, every day is an adventure for me in China 🙂 I love it!!

    • Yes, Winnie, you are on an adventure in China. I can’t wait to see you in December and hear your stories.

  • Elsie

    How brave you were to begin this adventure! I can only imagine what your mother must have been feeling to have you taking off for unknown parts of the world. I have never been on an adventure where I did not know how it would end. I guess I’m not that big of a risk taker. Sometimes I wish I had taken some risks when I was younger.

    • Hello Elsie,
      I don’t know if I was brave or naive. My mother didn’t say anything, but she did call me every time there was an earthquake in Japan. My friend mailed me an envelope of letters I had written to her mother from Japan. I had only planned on staying 6 months, but I stayed 7 years. I kept rewriting the ending.
      Would you take more risks now? Teach English in a foreign country? Take an adventure and not know the ending?

  • Robn Patrick

    A cliff hanger! ahhhhh!