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Kyoto-Nagoya-Hiroshima

In Hiroshima now. Yesterday’s plans pretty much fell apart at noon and I can’t say yesterday was the best day I’ve had in Japan so far.

I got on the train and it left at 6:23AM. I didn’t sleep that long so I think I must have been a bit tired throughout the day. However, on the train I mused on about the shinkansen, and how punctual they are. At the platform I was at, three trains had departed in the space of 9 minutes. Compare this to Amtrak where they’ve got a few trains coming through and they are almost always late.

Japan railways has a few advantages. Freight trains are kept off of passenger tracks, and additionally, the Shinkansen have their own tracks. They play a game of leapfrog, these shinkansen. Its common that my train will stop in a station, and then another train will blow past us. That usually means we’ll be off in another minute.

Also, JR does maintenance at night, when the Shinkansen are all shut down. This way, crews can work non stop, and trains are not delayed. Yesterday evening, I spotted a yard with dozens of bullet trains sitting there, most likely put away for the night.

This efficiency is everywhere. There are no security checks. You just buy a ticket, go through the turnstiles, and walk to your train. When the train arrives, you let the others off, and then get on. About 2 minutes before we arrive in a station, a chime sounds, and this gives you some time to get ready. Once you arrive, you should be ready to get off. While the US’s airline system needs security checks, it is so nice not to have to arrive 2 hours ahead of time to go somewhere. Arriving at the train station 10 minutes before your train departs and having enough time is mind boggling.

Once in Nagoya, I got onto another JR train, but this one was a local. Think a metro or subway, but above ground. In fact, I think they use the same trains sometimes. After a few stops, I arrived at Kuwana, which is close to Nagashima Spa Land. I wasn’t interested in the spas, but rather, the roller coasters. I grabbed a bus to the rest of the way, but got off too soon and had to walk the rest of the way. It probably took my 15 minutes, and I was very heavily loaded with all of my luggage.

I was basically walking around the perimeter of the park, and at one point, I passed a hotel. I asked some of the staff who were outside if I was going the right way. They said I was. I continued for a few minutes and I heard what sounded like someone running after me. I wheeled around to see one of the kimono clad, flip flop wearing hotel staff running after me with a map of the place! I was very impressed. They really go beyond the call of duty here in Japan.

I arrived just before the park opened, and after a bit, I bought a ticket and went inside. I needed to pay $9 on the lockers, so all in all, I was out about $60 for the park. There were quite a few people who all arrived with me so as rides opened up, wait times were a few minutes on some rides. I road a wooden roller coaster a few times, and the park had a lot of rides, most of which were different than any I’d been on before.

However, by noon, I was tired of the park. While I’d gone to Chimelong alone in the past, I’d started going only with other people once the thrill of the rides had lessened. It became a good place to go with friends. So here I felt a bit alone, and knowing that all of the friends I’d met over the last year in China were gone. Its hard to explain the feeling, but also in China, the people are generally more interested in foreigners I think. In Japan, they are more familiar with foreigners so its easy to just get lost in the crowd. So in some ways, you don’t really feel that “alone” in China, at least, not the way you can in Japan. I figured I’d leave and go see some of Nagoya or Kuwana.

In Kuwana, I spotted a doughnut shop on the bus ride in, and I was hungry, so I grabbed some doughnuts. Then I got on the JR line back to Nagoya. I thought I’d walk around, but I needed to get rid of the clothing bag. The lockers required 300 yen, and I didn’t have any more money.

In China, its very easy to find ATMs that take foreign cards. Not in Japan. I found one ATM, and it was broken. I went to a bank, and they didn’t do exchanges. In short, I was out of money, but had thousands of USD. I just couldn’t use it. I spent a couple of hours walking around the terminal until someone said to go to the post office (which I wanted to do after I got money anyway.) So finally, I got money, and mailed a box home to the USA. I still need to mail something to China, but I forgot the address, so no dice. Still, that was 1 kilo that I don’t have to worry about.

I locked the bag in the locker, and then decided to find some internet to look up the school’s address. I found a cafe, but balked at the 400 yen charge. Interestingly enough, it was only 105 yen if you were a woman. So I went back to the RR station. I was now faced with a dilemma. A), continue with previously made transportation plan to take a night train, thus saving lodging money, or B) take bullet train now, and get a room when I get to Hiroshima. I went to B since I’d spent $10 in food and would probably spend more money as I waited the 6 or 7 hours for the train.

In Hiroshima, I found the K’s House here. Since I’d just spend a few nights in another one in Kyoto, I knew they were nice.

Today, its snowing in Hiroshima. Considering I lost my gloves yesterday, I’m a bit bummed about that one. Still, I’ll be heading out to do something. I’m gathering up my cameras and lenses, and of course the tripod. I think today’s plan is to head to some museums and wait till tomorrow to do the A-bomb stuff due to the snow.

Tomorrow will be another full day in Hiroshima, and then I’ve got one night planned in Nagasaki. I’m not sure if there will be a lot to see and do in Nagasaki, so I might stay longer. Otherwise, I’ll continue to head south in search of warmer temperatures.

Photos have been added for Kyoto, just click on the pictures added to the Kyoto posts.

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