Takayama to Shinjuku

I have finally “done” the Takayama Main Line. Back in 2006 our passage from Takayama to Toyama was interrupted by a section of track closed due to typhoon damage. I still loved the journey enough to want to recreate it and purchased my first n-scale Japanese model train, a KiHa 120 diesel set in Takayama Line livery.

However, I had never actually ridden that train, just the KiHa 40 series diesel that was chugging along up the first section to Inotani. There had been a huge queue of mainly westerners at Takayama Station that morning, but most were waiting to catch the Wide View Hida express service back down to Nagoya. Last year  I had completed the missing stretch of the Takayama Main Line with my Mum on a similar train, but in the opposite direction. As we passed one station north of Inotani I had spotted my beloved KiHa 120, then again last year at Toyama. 
There are only a few Wide View Hida express services a day and B wanted to get to Shinjuku as soon as possible. The earliest services were all local, but would only take 20 minutes longer, so off we went.
Snow drifts could still be found alongside the tracks and up in the hills. As we wound our way higher the snow patches became larger, the flat rice paddies giving way to the steep slopes of a swift mountain river valley, spectacular scenery.

Inotani marks the boundary between JR Central and JR West and here we changed trains. And yes, it was a KiHa 120 waiting for us, looking just like my model train! I quickly claimed my spot at the front window of the train.
Unfortunately I damaged my action camera suction cup mount in my hurry to leave the last train and had to make do with a Gorilla Pod instead. I’ll post videos later.
The skies were dark and very threatening as we made our way out of the mountains and down along the plains to Toyama. In the background was the Japanese Alps, the sunlight on snow giving them a mystical glow.

At the terminus of Toyama we quickly purchased a couple of o-bento boxes for lunch, then hopped aboard the latest Shinkansen service in Japan, starting from mid-March this year. The W7 Shinkansen sets, specific to the new Hokuriku line, are ivory, blue and gold on the outside. Our ordinary class seats were grey and red, with adjustable headrests and power sockets for each seat. More comfortable than the local services we had just caught.

The line was sporadically scenic. That is, the flashes of of scenery between tunnels were very pretty. Initially the sea on the left and snow clad mountains on the right. Last year we had travelled on the ordinary lines between Toyama and Inotani, knowing that they would be affected by the new Shinkansen. I was surprised to hear at Inotani that the Oito Line from there is still in operation; I thought it was sceduled for closure when the Shinkansen opened, which would be a pity for such a pretty line.

Flashes of forest and more mountains. The train joins the older Shinkansen line at Nagoya, which is surrounded by stark mountains yet to feel Spring. Eventually we spend less time in tunnels and instead traverse farmland and past towns and cities.

At Omiya we change to the Shonan-Shinjuku Line to our final stop, back to Shinjuku again. It is wonderful to see bright sunlight out of our hotel room window and it feels warm outside. There is shopping to be done, a quest for shoes, which takes us unsuccessfully to Marui and Takashimya. Clothes and CDs from the Flags building by Shinjuku Station. By the time we emerge it is evening and the setting sun casts neon Shinjuku in a gorgeous light.

My trip to Yodobashi Camera for computer and train parts is largely unsuccessful, except as a punishment for shoe shopping. We are all starving when we come out, so we make our way up through Nishi-Shinjuku to a branch of Nabezo, for an all-you-can-eat-in-90-minutes course of shabu-shabu. 

The meal of self-cooked strips of beef, pork and vegetables in broth is so good! Not so sure about the dessert: a choice of salted caramel, matcha, tofu or ume (Japanese plum) flavoured sorbets. I could only eat the latter.

Back to Higashi-Shinjuku for more shopping. The night crowds, the lights, the atmosphere, made us (except for Alex) want to stay out on the streets, but it was late and the shops were closing, so back home to the hotel.

Two things ticked off my list for today. I’ve finally caught the KiHa 120 on the Takayama Main Line and the new Hokuriku Shinkansen. Hooray!
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