On the Hikari Shinkansen to Tokyo. Had to run to make it due to too much shopping. Mt Fuji is obscured by cloud.
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.
The 500 Series Shinkansen is, in my opinion, the best looking of these super fast trains. Unfortunately they are stuck on “slow” Kodama services now, so I’m unlikely to catch one on this trip. However, I did spot the Neon Genesis Evangelion liveried train as we raced through Himeji station, then got a chance to properly admire one at Shin-Yamaguchi.
The Chugoku region of Japan is another favourite and it’s a pity not to have the time to explore it further this time. Preference on one of the KiHa 120s that run through the rural lines.
It was hot at Shin-Osaka station but I had to queue early to get my spot in the unreserved first car of the Sakura Shinkansen to Hakata.
The outside of the train is a rather boring pale blue, but I like the wooden highlights inside.
Despite the clouds I did catch a glimpse of Mount Fuji on the Hikari in.
Unfortunately I’ve managed to run out of space on my camera – backing up is proving to be a pain. Cleared some space, but I think a new SD card is in order next stop.
Glad I didn’t wait to catch this train at Shin-Kobe as Hyperdia suggested. Wouldn’t have got a window seat.
After a few days pause the compass journey has restarted. B and Alex are in Tokyo and will meet me in Osaka tomorrow. In the meantime I’m heading south to Kyushu for the final two points of the Japanese railway system compass: West and South.
It will be a massive two days. I caught the Yamanote Line to Shinagawa and transferred to the Tokaido Shinkansen there. I actually caught the one earlier than I had booked, but it will make little difference as I have to change to the same Sakura Shinkansen service at Shin-Osaka.
This morning at the hotel breakfast the background music changed to the closing credits from Spirited Away. It was quite appropriate: The soundtrack had been running through my head during our stay there. This was, after all, a bath house as well as a hotel.
Unazuki Onsen has a number of large hotels offering onsen baths. The Green Hotel Kisen is a bit further out than most but retains their slightly rundown exterior, as if it had seenuch better days.
Perhaps it has, but the interior is still clean and well kept. Cypress wood is used extensively throughout and the large windows make the gorge scenery the real decoration.
It felt like another time and place, faintly magical. I could almost imagine running into a radish spirit.
Our breakfast was part buffet, part grilling fish and poaching egg at our table. Very Japanese for the most.
After we returned from the Kurobe Gorge train and a lunch of noodles and curry the hotel shuttle bus drove us and our bags back to the Chiho Railway station.
This time we only rode as far as Shin Kurobe Onsen station for a transfer to the Shinkansen.
This is a new station in the middle of nowhere, but the adjacent tourist office has a really fascinating display on the nature and geology of the area.
So now we are on the Hakutaka Shinkansen bound for Tokyo. Yes, backtracking. Time is running out to complete the compass.