We’re still not quite sure why it happened. 

Our Japanese-language reporter Momo Momura has been travelling on trains pretty much all her life, but the other day something happened on board that she’s never experienced before, and it all started with her crying baby.

As any parent will know, travelling with a young infant can be wrought with uncertainty, as there’s a chance the little one might start crying at any minute, and that’s what happened to Momo that fateful day on the train.

With her baby nestled facing her in a baby sling on her front, Momo saw the corners of her baby’s mouth begin to turn downwards, and that’s when she knew this was going to be one of those cries that no amount of soothing or reassuring cuddles could control.

The frown soon became an incessant cry of “Ngaaah! Ngaaaaaaaaaaaaa!” which seemed to increase in volume as the seconds wore on. Momo’s nerves began to fray and her heart felt as if it were about to break, because no matter how hard her fellow passengers stared at her, there was simply nothing she could do.

The person sitting next to her got up and moved to a seat further away, while an office worker diagonally opposite simply glared and clucked his tongue over and over to express his annoyance.

Then, just when Momo thought things couldn’t get any worse, the young woman sitting opposite, who was dressed in a cool hip-hop style and looked a bit like Japanese singer Kumi Koda, removed her earphones and began blaring K-pop from her phone.

With the sounds of K-pop and her crying baby now echoing around the carriage, Momo didn’t know what to do. Her attempts to console her little one weren’t working, and as she was on an express train, the length between stops was longer than usual, which meant nobody would be escaping this situation anytime soon.

The young woman with the K-pop kept her eyes firmly on her smartphone, changing songs like a DJ. Momo figured this must’ve been an attempt to drown out the sounds of her baby’s cries, but she couldn’t be sure. Was it an act of kindness? Or annoyance? Momo really had no idea, and her head was all over the place in the stress and confusion of the moment.

▼ Time for track “Shut This Baby Up”!

The five minutes to the next stop felt like an hour, and eventually the tongue-clucking office worker also moved to a different seat, leaving Momo alone with the K-pop DJ. 

The young woman then started rustling about in her bag, and Momo’s nerves began to swell. What was she going to do now? Surely she wasn’t going to throw something at her?

The woman stood up and walked briskly towards Momo.

Suddenly the stranger was standing directly in front of her and inserting something into the baby carrier. Momo’s heart started pounding in fear as her fight-or-flight response kicked in, and as she whipped her head around to see what the woman had put into the carrier, she saw it was a 10,000 yen note.

▼ 10,000 yen is no small change — it’s roughly US$88.66.

As Momo looked up in confusion, the young woman waved a hand at her, flashing her long black manicured nails and simply saying “otoshidama” with a smile. And with that, having timed her act smoothly, the train doors opened and the young woman alighted at the station.

▼ Otoshidama are monetary gifts in paper envelopes given to young children from adults, who are usually relatives.

Momo was so surprised that she froze. As the train doors began to close, however, Momo gathered her senses together and managed to get off the train, looking left and right for the K-pop stranger, but alas, she was nowhere to be seen.

Momo found herself at the station platform, clutching her crying baby and the 10,000 yen bill. She was confused and upset with herself at not being able to thank the stranger for her act of kindness, but later on, she had more time to ponder over what had happened and what it might mean.

Perhaps the woman had been playing music not to drown out the crying but to distract the baby in the hopes that it might stop the crying. And the 10,000 yen may have been a gift so she could use it for a more relaxed taxi ride home.

There were so many possible reasons to explain why the woman acted the way she did, and the more Momo thought about it, the more she had no idea as to what the real reason was.

There was one thing she was certain of, however. She was incredibly grateful for this woman’s kindness. For someone to care about Momo in an inescapable situation like the one on the train meant the absolute world to her, and in case you’re reading this, kind K-pop passenger, Momo would like to extend a heartfelt thank you.

As for the 10,000-yen note, Momo hasn’t used it, and it’s currently sitting in her kamidana (household shrine) at home as a way of expressing her gratitude. She does have a plan to use it in future, though, by paying it forward to another person in a similar situation, so she can continue to spread the kindness set in motion by her guardian passenger.

Featured image: Pakutaso
Insert images: Pakutaso (1, 2, 3, 4

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