Our time in Tokyo is over. That went fast. We saw about 0.01% of what was on offer, including some of what we’d planned to see. But after more than 40 years, there is still a lot of London for us to see, so what chance did Tokyo have?
We packed, ate most of the rest of our food for breakfast and left a few bits in the fridge for the next people. Our final walk back to Yamagome station with full bags this morning was hot and sticky.
Thank goodness we chose to travel light! But everything is relative, and we could both do with travelling lighter, that’s for sure.
Interestingly, we noticed that on the stairs to the platform, we were supposed to ‘keep right’. The ‘keep left’ ‘rule’ doesn’t even apply to the whole of the railway system never mind the whole of Tokyo or the country in its entirety.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, our lovely Martha and William were enjoying preparations for Halloween. Thanks for sending the pictures so we can stave off homesickness!
The main task today was to validate our JR (Japan Rail) Rail Passes. The assistant was very helpful and very thorough, but what a palaver. We had vouchers and expected to be given real Passes. We didn’t anticipate that so many pieces of paper would have to be printed, annotated, highlighted, dated, stamped, signed, stapled, filed and when she started processing a Filipino’s form with my passport, I think I was quite justified in becoming a little worried. But, being British, I kept my mouth shut, of course.
Our Passes were subsequently stamped, that is to say validated, by the first ticket inspector we saw. We can’t use the automatic barriers, we have to show our Passes to a real person each time, in and out of a station.
The first, crowded, train took us to Tokyo Station. We then reserved seats for the second train, as this would be a three hour long ride on the Shinkansen service, the world-famous Japanese Bullet Train.
The seats are in groups of 3 and 2 separated by the wide aisle. There is plenty of legroom too.
The ride was smooth and very comfortable. The highest speed we saw on my little phone app was 280 kph, about 175 mph.
I think we were hoping to see more countryside once we left the metropolis of Tokyo, but the whole country seems to be pretty built-up. In some places, I had to look away from the window as the flickering of the fast passing buildings was making me feel a bit ooky.
We were hoping to see Mount Fuji, of course, but the train passed through a long sequence of long tunnels. The lady sitting behind pointed out Fuji, now way behind us, and while it was exciting to see it at last, in the flesh, it was too far away and I was too slow to take a picture. So, I had to make do with a photo of an advert at the next station!
We saw the sea for a a brief moment and eventually, we did see some actual rural scenery.
In the station earlier, I’d used another app to translate the labels on some of the snacks in the shops. For some reason, the English translation was displayed upside down. And of course, the phone is so smart, when you turn it round, it turns the image round too, so it’s still upside down. But we were glad to have snacks, as the on-train service was hard to pin down. At least two crew members pushed a trolley through the carriage, but so fast, it was impossible for us to flag them down. What was cute though was that every member of the crew who passed through the carriage turned round and bowed before they left.
As we approached Kyoto, the densely built cityscape became more dominant again. Amongst the ordinary structures, we saw the beauty of an old shrine standing proud.
The train was quiet and peaceful. There was nobody shouting the odds on their phone, nobody playing loud music through inadequate earphones, it was all very civilised. In fact, it’s normal here to turn your mobile devices to silent, and not to use them as phones while on board. So imagine how mortified I was when my Google Maps app started telling me where to go while we were on the train. It’s not like I was driving and had any control over where we went. Some apps are just a bit too up themselves.
Three hours on a bullet train and we duly arrived at Shin-Osaka station.
The escalator thinks it’s a staircase. It goes down for a bit, then it levels off and then it goes down again, as if it has to pause for breath halfway down. (Or, indeed, up.)
In the stations, and outside, we noticed that many people were dressed for temperatures far colder than we were experiencing. Did they know something we didn’t? I’m still in t-shirt and shorts and I feel fine. Liesel feels cold well before I do, so her cardigan was on and off almost as fast as a pulsar.
The third train ride of the day was only about 20 minutes duration. We went back from Osaka towards Kyoto, as the new Airbnb is halfway between the two cities.
At Settsu-Tonda station, we were met by our host for the week, Masako. She actually gave us a lift in her little car to our accommodation and of course, on this occasion, we hadn’t had time to buy flowers to thank her for the lift! Oh well.
The house was easy to find from the station and it is pink: it reminded me of our old house in Peterborough. Masako showed us round: we had the choice of downstairs or upstairs. We went upstairs as it seemed more private. Plus, we’d be further away from any karaoke activity taking place next door.
We have much more space here too: it’s good to be able to sit and relax on a sofa. There’s a decent kitchen with cooking paraphernalia. The cutlery drawer is mostly full of chopsticks, but I’m sure we’ll get by.
We had a quick walk back up the road to the convenience shop, 7-Eleven. Not convenient enough to sell fruit and veg, though. So I walked further along to a greengrocer where I was able to procure apples, bananas and grapes. No tomatoes, though. And yes, I did ask for English tomartoes and for American tomaytoes.
Our evening entertainment was the start of a sequence of Slow Sunday programmes from last Sunday on BBC 6 Music. Cerys Matthews, Russell Crowe and Guy Garvey all played some fantasic, relaxing music.
Our beds are components from an old bunk bed, so it’s quite hard to get out of them with sides higher than the mattress thickness. At least we won’t fall out. And we won’t be struggling to get up from the floor, either! We’re here for a week, hooray!
* Scrambled eggs, oh my darling, you’ve got lovely legs… apparently these are the original lyrics to Paul McCartney’s song, Yesterday. No prizes for finding another Beatles song title here somewhere.