Today is my big day of travel. After getting up at 5am, and lingering around the bathroom for a bit, I got my gear ready and decided to head on the train to Shin-Osaka. Today was also my first day of the JR Rail Pass, so I caught the Rapid Train that goes directly from Shin-Imamiya to Shin-Osaka. Shin as a prefix means new.
Shin-Osaka is a pretty big station, and is the terminus of two shinkansen (bullet train), the one from Fukuoka to Shin-Osaka, and the one from Shin-Osaka to Tokyo. There’s three speeds of Shinkansen, Kodoma which is the slowest, Hikari which is pretty quick, and Nozomi which is the quickest. The actual speeds of the trains don’t vary that much, it’s really just the number of stations they stop at. Kodoma stops at every station, which Nozomi stops at just the big ones.
Anyways, caught the Hikari from Shin-Osaka to Nagoya, where I had 4 hours to explore. Sadly, Monday in Japan is a bit like Sunday in New Zealand – nothing’s open. So I wondered around lost for a bit, and then headed for the Visitor’s Center. Which was closed. So I wondered around the station for a little bit more. Finally the Visitor Center opened and I grabbed myself a map of Nagoya. The goal of Nagoya was to head to some of the automotive museums – Nagoya is the Detroit of Japan and the birthplace of Toyota, which started out as a loom-making company. But it was all closed. Even the tourist bus. So instead, I caught the subway a few stations down to the big radio tower in the middle of Nagoya. Much like the Tokyo Tower (which is much like the Eiffel Tower) but a little older, I didn’t bother to head to the top, since all skylines tend to look like every other skyline. It was pretty cold in Nagoya, only 6 degrees, so like all good New Zealanders, I decided to have an Ice Cream, and sit in the area where the homeless people sit (I didn’t know this). One Ice Cream later, it was off for a quiet stroll to a shopping mall that is designed to look like an alien ship made of water. It looked much like a shopping mall, though the roof is made of clear plastic with water on the surface, making the roof shimmer. I went into a toy store to try and find a model of the Yamamoto (a Japanese Aircraft Carrier) but I had no such luck. There was an ice skating rink in the middle of the shopping mall, but instead decided to start walking back towards the station. As I looked at all of the buildings above ground, I realised that there is a another level of shops below ground. The shops did not end, they stretched as far as the eye could see. And they were all women’s clothing stores. Fantastic. I caught the subway back to Nagoya Station. By this time it was about 11am, and only an hour left before catching the Shinomi train to Nagano, so I decided to head to the basement of the JR department store. Basements of department stores are the food levels, the first is likely to be gift food and fine food, and the second is likely to be a supermarket. I managed to take a few photos of things before being told no photos. I did manage to buy some sweet crab for 8 dollars. It was delicious, and only made my lips and fingers tingle for quite some time. I think I’m a little allergic. It’s also considered poor manners to eat outside, and probably double if it’s crab, but man it was good.
Finally jumped on the Shinomi bound for Nagano. This was a limited express train, and required transferring from the Shinkansen lines to the regular lines, so don’t forget! The journey from Nogoya to Nagano was about three hours, and pretty tiring. I’m sure I fell asleep a couple of times. But the journey was so peaceful and relaxing, and scenic. A bit like travelling on the train between Greymouth and Christchurch, except three times as long. I finally got to see a little snow which was sweet, and a bit of rural Japan.
I only had an hour at Nagano, which really doesn’t do the place justice – I mean how much can you see of a town in an hour? For Taumarunui, all of it. 30 times. Anyways, I had a look around, and went to McDonalds. There you can buy a fillet of chicken for 100 yen, including flavouring you put on top, and then shake in a bag. It’s called Shaka Shaka Chicken, and I got Cheese flavour. It was delicious!
Anyways, it was time to catch the Asama Shinkansen to Tokyo. Each Shinkansen is named, with only the single speed Asama between Nagano and Tokyo. If there is any hint of a hill or mountain, the shinkansen will use a tunnel. So pretty much it was half tunnels the whole way. The Asama Shinkansen is really just a high speed subway line from Tokyo, or so it felt.
Finally made it into Tokyo Station. From there, it was a mad dash to Hotel Asakusa and Capsule, Tokyo. Popped on the Yamanote Line to Ueno, and then caught the Ginza Subway to Asakusa. Turns out I printed the map to Capsule Hotel Asakusa Riverside, which is not the same place. This did not please me running around Asakusa trying to find a place to stay. Eventually walked the 300 m around a corner to a rundown capsule hotel where I’m typing this now, and inhaling the strong scent of stale sweat from the guy in the underwear next to me on the computer. FML.