It’s been three hours since we left Tokyo, the capital city of Japan. The minibus engine hums. My friend Nqo and I are dead silent, but the terror in our eyes speaks volumes. The Japanese men with us speak and laugh loudly.

The indicator flashes to the right at a crossroads. The traffic sign reads ‘Kyoto 165, Hiroshima 526, Nagasaki 745.’ I say a silent prayer, begging for us to be taken to Kyoto because it is the nearest of the destinations. I don’t even want to think what these men will do to us, in this Kyoto that I’m praying they take us to. Maybe they will kill us; maybe they will rape us; maybe they will do both. Oh God! Help us get out of this situation unharmed.

The events leading to this are slowly coming back to me, now that I’m a bit calmer. When I first came to, and the men told us ‘Kapo’ will be over the moon to see us, I lost my mind completely; zoned out. I’ve no idea who this Kapo is.

We met these Japanese men about four hours ago, at the hotel where we are staying. When we went downstairs to the restaurant we had told ourselves we’d eat and return to our rooms quickly; be fresh for tomorrow. But these men approached our table with smiles as soon as we sat down. They seemed friendly and genuinely interested to meet us.

“Which country do you come from?” said one of them.

I glanced at Nqo. We both smiled and said proudly, “We are from South Africa.”

They smiled back, and nodded approvingly. They were courteous, chatted in a mixture of basic English and Japanese, and paid for our supper because we were ‘guests in country’. The sushi, with raw fish in it, was not our cup of tea. I took one bite and could hardly swallow it. Nqo didn’t even pick up the sushi roll on her plate. Even then, our hosts didn’t seem offended.

“So what brings you to Japan?” asked another man.

“We are representing South Africa in the Karate World Tournament that is being held here in Tokyo,” said Nqo.

The men clapped their hands. It felt good to be the centre of attention, I won’t lie. They made us feel welcomed in their country and even promised to attend all of our matches at the tournament.

“Here in Japan there is a mountain of wonders that is a great tourist attraction: Mount Fuji. It glows different colours at night, like a Christmas tree. Do you want to see it? It is visible from the parking lot outside.”

Nqo and I nodded vigorously. The men carried on joking as we walked out of the hotel with them. We were laughing as we reached the far end of the parking lot. They pointed to a snow-capped mountain. We were waiting for the snow cap to change colour – when they grabbed us!

They roughly clamped cloths over our noses and mouths and bundled us into the minivan. We had blacked out as we inhaled the chemical in those cloths.


Tell us: Would you have been suspicious of friendly people like this, in a foreign country?