Of misplaced jeans and model trains

Who would have guessed that a misplaced shopping bag containing two pairs of jeans would cause so much trouble?

We accidentally left the bag at the Mitsubishi Minatomirai Industrial Museum in Yokohama yesterday. Now Yokohama is only a short detour away from the Shinkansen line to Osaka, our destination for the day, so we thought we could just drop into the museum, pick up the bag and be on our way.

That makes sense, right?

But there is obviously a process in Japan for the handling of lost property and we were about to encounter it.

Alex insisted on eating his Cup Noodles creation for breakfast, so we fetched some boiling water and poured it in. The curry, pork, ham, fish cake and sweet corn noodles actually tasted great. The flat egg noodles used by Nissin certainly make a difference.

Then we packed our luggage and headed downstairs to ask the concierge to call the museum and check if they had the bag.

The reply was that the staff responsible for lost property wouldn’t start for another hour. So off we went to sort out our JR Passes at the very busy station counter.

Finally we had sunshine, though the air was still pretty cold.

Godzilla attacks a different hotel in Shinjuku

On our return our hopes for a quick getaway were dashed. Rather than keep the bag at the museum it had been sent to the police station at Tobe station in Yokohama. The concierge helpfully provided a map and instructions to get there.

We returned to Shinjuku Station for another ride on the Shonan Shinjuku Line to Yokohama. Once there B and Alex waited with our bags at a patisserie cafe while I caught the private Keikyu Line to Tobe.

Tobe is the next station along on the line, but is only served by local trains, so I had to wait for a while for an appropriate red train to arrive and take me that short way along.

Tobe Station is an elevated island next to a bridge across the main road, a few weary looking shops and cafes, a big fire station and large police station. Though it was a quiet place I felt it had character and wished that I had time to have a snack in the coffee shop.

But no, I had to hurry. I was directed to the second floor of what looked to be a rather run down police station. The lost property office had a small window in the cracked wall, but two clerks, a young man and young lady came out to help me fill out the paperwork. They also served me with the bad news that the bag hadn’t arrived yet.

“Please come back in an hour, maybe 3pm.”

With no way to contact B I had to return to give her the news.

She and Alex had been stuck in the cafe with the luggage, too heavy for her to carry, for around an hour. We decided to place it in a locker and wander around.

I had spotted one nearby place of interest on a map and B reluctantly agreed to follow. Our path took us past the bus and air terminal and around through the Nissan Gallery and global headquarters. Not a big fan of Nissan cars, but the miniature Choi Mobi was very cute.

Adjacent to the Nissan Gallery was the Mitsui Building housing the Hara Model Railway Museum. Nobuto Hara’s collection of model trains is reputed to be the largest in the world. The items on display span many decades of railway modelling but he seems to lean towards the European railways. I grew up with Maerklin trains so they were quite familiar to me.

The centrepiece is a huge model railway layout featuring a European landscape. It was pleasing to see Alex get so excited by the layout – spending time playing with my own model railway layout a few days before our departure obviously paid off!

Something’s a bit Alien here

Another smaller HO layout shows scenes from Yokohama. An American visitor asked if Yokohama station really did have the same American dinner pictured on the model.

Returning to the real Yokohama Station we all caught the train to Tobe and finally tasted success. I had barely had any food so far and felt like trying the food at Tobe, but B was in a hurry to get to Osaka and back we went again to Yokohama Station.

We had to hurry now to catch the Shinkansen. Once we had reserved our seats at the JR office we quickly collected our luggage and raced to the platform. Still no food.

A local train took us as far as Shin Yokohama station, where we had another quick race to board our Hikari Shinkansen.

The Tokaido Line Shinkansens are such a comfortable way to travel, racing along at 280 kilometres per hour. I finally got a meal, buying a tonkatsu sandwich off the cart, and settled back for the ride.

Whilst I consider that the scenery along the Tokaido Shinkansen route is not the best on offer in Japan, I rather enjoyed it tonight. Tea plantations, flashes of coastal scenery, canals and roadways lined with pink cherry blossoms. Mount Fuji invisible behind the haze. Grey and brown cities and factories, dreary townships. Except that I saw life and, as the light faded and the neon signs awoke, I imagined eating in a family diner, of the type that no longer seem to exist in Australia. Those glimpses of local life tantalising, calling for a slower exploration.

B and Alex were getting antsy, but it was another race at Shin Osaka to change trains to the one for our final destination of Tennoji. The Haruka airport express arrived just as we made our way down to its platform and we raced on board.

Only once we departed did I realise that this train was going the opposite direction, retracing our steps back to Kyoto with no stops in between.

The Haruka we were supposed to catch would have arrived at the same platform a couple of minutes later.

Nothing for it but to ride the train all the way to Kyoto, wait for it to be cleaned and configured, then all the way back again.

We’ve never stayed at Tennoji before, but it looks like a bustling place. Multiple shopping centres surround the stations, Japan’s tallest skyscraper (not tower) while nearby Tsutenkaku Tower and what looks to be a castle turret were all lit up.

After checking into our hotel we quickly reemerged to find food. It was after 9pm and most places were closed or closing. We ended up at a pasta restaurant shortly before last orders and ordered a couple of plates for us and a kids meal, complete with a cheap toy, for Alex. It may not be traditional Japanese or traditional Italian, but at least it was tasty and satisfying.

But even had the shops been closed, there was always the convenience store across the street. I find it quite fun to make a meal out of convenience store food, although I hear that it’s all too common in Japan.

Our hotel room at the APA Tennoji Ekimae is tiny, even for Japan, but we manage to fit everything in. Considering our long stay here I’m somewhat regretting cancelling the larger Vista Grande hotel, but then Tennoji looks interesting and we have a pretty busy schedule anyway.

Now the long day, all due to a bag left in a museum, is over.

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