Today was the big day, involving a long train ride from the northern part of Japan, often called the Tokaido area, to the southern part, often called the Kansai region (also an airport in the region with the same name). As with all things in Japan there is a historical reason things are called what they are, and true to form I cannot remember why, though I can remember being told when I was here the first time.
My day started in Mito after leaving Sam and Dave’s place. I really could not thank them for their generous hospitality, it really made things easy. Also, having gotten the chance to visit Mito and learn about its connection to Hikone was truly fascinating. Having a JR Rail Pass I am afforded the luxury of being able to travel on almost any rail line here (and there are many of them), including the Limited Express and Shinkansen ones, which allow you to travel fast, quickly, and comfortably. Below is a shot overlooking the tracks at Mito station and a front shot of the Limited Express Hitachi Super Express train.
Now, the main purpose of this particular line is to connect major cities north of Tokyo (Mito included) to Ueno which allows access to the Yamanote line. So we basically got to speed along in cushioned reclining seats in peace and quiet to Ueno, took about 1.25hrs.
Now, no disrespect to the Japanese and their food, but there is something about seeing a burger that just makes harmony for Americans. Such is the reason behind my search for the Hard Rock Cafe in Ueno station that Dave mentioned. I went for a pulled pork sandwich, fries, cole slaw, and beans: and I ate it ALL.
Following this, it was time to begin preparing for the main part of the journey. I took the Shinkansen three times when I was in Japan for study abroad and every time it was amazing as a traveling experience. It is expensive, but it is well worth it for long distances; I know because I did the night bus once, Ill take the Shinkansen any day of the week. After I bought my ticket for Hikari 517 from Tokyo to Shin-Osaka I went to the mecca for geeks: Akihabara.
I didnt have too much time to spend here, I just wanted to look around and feel the nostalgia. Witness Yodbashi, in Akiba, easily the best electronics store in the world, bar none.
They travel roughly 300mph and produce an incredibly smooth ride thanks to the magnetic propulsion system which allows it float and mitigate friction, hence “bullet train”.
It really is sad looking at America’s transportation system, its so outdated and frankly slow. I think Obama’s call to build a high speed rail network is a great idea expect for one aspect: he is asking Americans to give up their cars. It will never happen, Americans are too conceited about cars to ever give them up, dont believe me, look at New York. New York has, bar none, the best transportation infrastructure in the US and saying it cant hold a candle to Japan does a disservice to Japan.
I have posted a link here to show how fast these things move, seriously it is ridiculous.
Of course the main goal of this whole trip was to make it to Hikone to see my host family who have offered me a place to stay for the next couple nights. I have really missed the Oe’s and it was awesome seeing them again.
After picking me up at the train station I was taken to Emiko’s English class where they are setting up preparing for classes which start tomorrow. I spent most of the time going between helping where I could and hanging out with the kids. Me and Asahi went to war just like four years ago. The girls are bigger and much more fluent with their English. It was a good time.
It was a great day with a good amount of relaxation which will be needed for tomorrow when I spend a day in Arashiyama. However, good news is that I finally got in touch with Megumi’s friend Mami who lives in Tokyo and we are going to hang out when I return to Tokyo. But if that wasnt cool enough, Mami has a friend in Osaka who I am hanging out with on Friday. Going to have dinner with her and everything. Japanese chicks love hanging with American guys, especially if they have an interest in English, get to practice talking. So I am really looking forward to having a lot of pictures from tomorrow, including of monkey’s which is just the ultimate cool