Of course I was here to catch trains! Australia’s highest train line.
As our train approached Kyoto station this morning I spotted a steam train pulling a collection of open sided passenger carriages. Also at that moment Alex asked to return to the train museum at Nagoya to play with their ticket gate exhibit.
I suggested that we change our plans and go to the Kyoto Railway Museum instead.
It was a fairly long and hot walk from the main Kyoto station to the museum, though the last part was through a pleasant park. The steam train reappeared, obviously just shunting passengers up and down a straight track. The smell of burning coal and hot oil evoked memories of the many tourist steam engines in my past.
Ultimately we didn’t catch that steam train, but we did spend hours in the huge museum. There was an excellent range of displays, different enough from the SCMaglev and Railway Park in Nagoya to make the dual visits worth it. For starters, Kyoto’s had a Series 500 Shinkansen on display, along with a huge roundhouse of steam locomotives.
There were also excellent working displays on all sorts of operations, including signalling and points, electric and diesel engines and boom gates. And fortunately for Alex (and unfortunately for us) a working ticket dispenser and gate. He printed 27 tickets and spent over half an hour doing circuits of the gate. It drove us mad!
As we passed Hiroshima the amusingly named Mazda Zoom Zoom Stadium (for Hiroshima is their home town) was filled to capacity with fans of their beloved Carp baseball team.
More lights at Osaka after I emerged from the subway at Namba, after transferring off the Shinkansen. Dotombori Street and Shinsaibashi Suji were filled with Asian tourists with selfy sticks and Japanese touts. Makes me long for somewhere quiet.
That’s probably the end of the giant journeys for the short remainder of this trip, at least until the flight home. Oh well, I collected my compass points and travelled as far as I could by Shinkansen.
I didn’t realise it but last night marked the first time I have travelled the entire Shinkansen network as it currently stands, apart from the tiny spur to Gala-Yuzawa. I was only missing the bit between Kumamoto and Shin-Yatsuhiro as it was still under construction when we visited in 2009.
I’ve done the Yamagata and Niigata Shinkansen lines previously and we’ve travelled the Hokuriku and Akita Shinkansen lines as recently as the past year.
This trip I’ve gone as far north – Shin Hakodate Hokuto – as you can to as far south – Kagoshima-Chuo – as you can go.
It’s an amazing fast train network. If only we had anything like it in Australia.
And right now I’m riding it back to Shin-Osaka. I managed to check into an earlier Sakura Shinkansen, though it meant buying a bento on board for some food.
The Shinkansen may not be as fun or as interestingly scenic as a slow local train, but when you are as exhausted as I am, the cool comfort is very welcome.
And so the circuit will be complete and I will be back to where I started this rail adventure from. Family fun time now.
Only at Wakkanai, in the north, does the geographical extreme compass point correspond with the terminus of the line. But I am not happy unless I have travelled all the way until the end.
I rode the Makurazaki Line all the way until it’s namesake, bumping around on the two carriage diesel rail car. It feels positively tropical here, with the humidity, temperature and volcanic soils contributing to luscious growth. Shrubs and grasses slap at the windows of the train.
There are glimpses of the grey ocean over farmland and towns, sometimes interesting rock formations, deep rivers lined with pines, bamboo and vines.
At Nishi-Oyama most of the train exits to take photographs of the southernmost station. I wonder if they’ll do the same on the way back. But most of the Cantonese and Korean tourists are off the train now, leaving at intermediate stops for the various coastal attractions.
I only have time at Makurazaki to grab junk food for the ride back. There are only a few trains that do the whole run per day. It’s a pity, because Makurazaki is known for seafood. Seared bonito tuna sounds yummy, if it’s like that I ate at Kochi on another trip.
From here it’s back to Kagoshima and the Shinkansen back to Osaka.