Dateline: November 14, 2008
Today was transfer day. We would be leaving Ueno (actually, Tokyo Station) on the Shinkansen bound for Nagoya, the next hotel stop during the trip. The ticket for today’s train ride was acquired back during Day 5’s adventures. The train was set to leave Tokyo at 10:03am and arrive in Nagoya at 12:10pm. Our first bullet train ride.
In order to catch that train, we had to take the JR Local Lines to Tokyo Station during morning rush hour, complete with the attendants on the platform with white gloves ready to shove people in. It was busy, but not busy enough to need them. After waiting through a few trains to get one with enough free space, we managed to get on with my brother, his suitcase, and my backpack, but it was a very tight fit. I was twisted around sideways so I could hold on to a handrail while leaning over the big rolling suitcase, and my bag was hovering over my brother so it wasn’t pressing into other passengers. Thankfully Ueno to Tokyo Station is a pretty fast trip!
After arriving at Tokyo Station, we headed for the closest Shinkansen gate. We were told there was no elevator behind those gates and that we had to head to a different gate on the other side of the concourse. After moving over there, they said to go to the central gate which was around another corner. Good thing I made sure we got there early. At the central gate, an attendant led us through to the correct waiting area for our train and said he’d come back to get us at 9:50 (gotta love the personal attention people in wheelchairs get on the trains here).
After killing a little time, the attendant came back and led us up to the correct spot on the platform. We got onto the car and there’s a special mini-cabin for people who are nursing, not feeling well, and a few other things I can’t recall. In some cases — such as ours — that cabin can be reserved, which is why our ticket was for row 14 even though there’s only 13 rows of seats in each car. There was a double seat for me (facing backwards on this trip) and room for all our stuff. Not much room left over, but it was still comfortable. We got a good view of Tokyo Tower shortly after leaving the station, too.
As I mentioned back in Day 3’s post, this was when I had finished writing that post and decided to give up on writing the posts during the trip. Instead, I would just take notes on my iPod and write them up once I got home (like I’m doing right now).
Among the other amenities on the train, the cars with washrooms have Western toilets, Japanese toilets, and a separate urinal “cabin” marked Gentlemen. I’ll just say this: using a urinal in a train travelling at 200km/h+ can be … interesting.
We had great views of Mt. Fuji as we travelled along. The line wrapped itself around the mountain so when we weren’t in tunnels or behind hills, we got to see many aspects of it including the hiking trails that go up to the summit through the snow.
After we left Mt. Fuji behind, the surroundings morphed into rural countryside with heavily-treed hills popping up periodically. We passed peach orchards, greenhouses, farmland, tea fields, and Sony & Panasonic factories.
We arrived in Nagoya and made our way to the hotel which was just up the street a few blocks from the station. However, check-in wasn’t for another two and a half hours, so we checked our bags at the desk and went off in search of lunch!
We chose the Gohan Dining Bar in the Nagoya Lucent tower which was about half a block from the hotel. Wonderful Japanese atmosphere, accented oddly by the playing of uncensored Eminem and other R&B songs, though it was mixed in with things like Fallen by Sarah McLachlan, Over My Head by Sum 41, and Irresistable by Jessica Simpson (hadn’t heard that one in a while). I had beef and mushrooms on rice and a big bowl of ramen (pictured at right), which was fishier than I liked due to the seaweed in it, but was still very good.
And the Lucent building itself is really nice. No bright yellow tiles for them. Later on in the evening, we stopped by and checked out the now-lit art installation at the front, replete with glowing LED light poles.
Now that lunch was done and we could get into our room, we headed back to the hotel which looked like it was at most five years old. This one had breakfast included, the first, and only, to do so on the entire trip.
The toilet in the room had what I initially thought was a “lady friendly” water spout turned on by a pressure switch under the seat. I based that assumption on many products I’ve heard of in Japan for public washrooms that would play a running water sound when women were making use of the facilities. After reading the instructions, my brother discovered that it was just the toilet flushing the cold water out of the bidet nozzle so it could be replenished with warmer water.
The room had a “key”-based power setup which would only have the power to the room turned on when the fob attached to the key was inserted into the receptacle. For times when I was heading out of the room for a bit and my brother was staying in, I found it can be fooled by any object stuck in there, so I used one of the free toothbrushes typically included in Japanese hotel rooms.
Once it got dark, we headed back down to JR Nagoya Station to check out Tower Lights, the annual Christmas light show they put on. The centerpiece is a 5 storey animated light board which isn’t just a big screen; it’s a huge mass of prewired LED strips that are computer controlled to make the whole thing animate. It was very impressive. The approximately three minute animation loop was captured on the high-def video camera but hasn’t yet been uploaded anywhere. There were also lots of teddy bears all over the place.
In the towers of the station there are a few observation decks up on the 12th and 15th floors once you make your way past the various Christmas decorations. In the tower we went through, there were 12 elevators at one bank once you got to the second floor, many of which were express elevators to the top. Unfortunately, there wasn’t anything to see up on the 51st floor; just a restaurant and a day spa.
As neat as the whole thing was, the music loop that played with the animation soon became really irritating for the same reason as the iPod commercial in Vegas did: constant, undying repetition.