Ever since I first caught sight of the great overhead monorail tracks above Chiba station, back on that first Narita Express in 2003, I have wanted to ride them. Each subsequent Narita Express ride I promised I would but never did. Today I finally had my chance.
We had caught the Chuo-Sobu Line to Koiwa. The first part of the trip, from Ichigaya until Ochanomizu, follows the picturesque Kanda River. There is a fishing facility at one spot where anglers can be seen dangling their lines into a artificial pools. After the electronic and otaku hub of Akihabara there are great views of the grey Tokyo Skytree, then it’s suburbia the rest of the way.
Our intended destination was the Ito-Yokada at Tsudanuma, as seen yesterday on our N’EX ride in. But then we spotted another branch of the earlier station of Koiwa and got off there instead. Ito-Yokado as a downmarket department store, like a Target in Australia and owned by the same group that run the 7-11’s in Japan.
Our first and only other encounter with one was at Hirosaki on the last trip, where a great playground with balls and moving rides on the kids floor had kept Alex amused. There was no playground here and the selection was quite poor, though B managed to spend over an our buying clothes while Alex slept in my arms.
After finally emerging we had a lunch of delicious ramen and gyoza at a popular little restaurant nearby. Then, at last, it was my turn to take us to Chiba station and catch that monorail.
Monorails like those that run in Australia may not be particularly exciting, but this one was suspended from huge steel tracks overhead. I had never caught a suspended monorail before. The Chiba system consists of two lines. I had planned to ride all the way to Tsuga station and catch a local JR train from there.
Even B was excited when she saw how the system worked. We climbed up the stairs to high above Chiba station and aboard the two car train. The modern rollingstock is the best, with big front windows and even a window in the floor in the driver’s compartment.
As the track angles down you feel like to are on some sort of amusement park ride. The views are great and I was surprised how much fun the experience was.
When we approached Dobutsu-koen station we spotted a big ferris wheel and amusement park facility, so we decided to get out and give Alex some fun.
In order to get to the amusement park you first need to pass through Chiba Zoo. As the park closes at 4.30 pm and it was already 3.50 pm we were in too much of a hurry to do anything but pay the Y500 entrance fee and race past the animals. We did stop to see a forlorn looking orang-utan, some chimps and a lone gorilla, as well as some excited lemurs, but then we arrived at the amusement park.
I purchased some tickets from the vending machine, then it was time to take Alex on monorail number two. This time it was a normal upright monorail, but a tiny one with Alex and I in a little car. Alex enjoyed it, as did I.
Then it was B’s turn to take him on the splash ride, where they sit on a boat and are conveyed up the “river” to a height before sliding down.
I still had two more tickets to use, but the park had now closed.
We walked back to the suspended monorail station (actually both monorails were now suspended), and caught one of the older cars back to Chiba.
Dusk fell upon greater Tokyo. We stopped at Akihabara to pick up some toys and model trains from the Akiba Yodobashi (the better hobby shops being further away from the station). First it was time for dinner, so we went up to the 8th floor and had okonomiyaki at Fugetsu, the same chain we ate it in the home of Okonomiyaki – Osaka.
It was so good! Just below, the 7th floor had a Tower Records and I found more CD soundtracks there than at the Shinjuku Flags store. Then down to the 6th floor of toys and model railways.
We bought Alex a couple of small things and considered returning for bulkier items when we return from elsewhere in Japan. There were so many model railways items that I could have bought, but I resisted – for now.
Then back to Shinjuku for rest before Disneyland tomorrow!