The Joy of Shinkansen!
Trip Start Sep 02, 2010
132Trip End Sep 01, 2011
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The first train was a quick 30 minute hop on a suburban train to get us back from Nikko to the mainline station at Utsonomiya. Nothing too much to report other than the train cleaning lady insisted on boarding the train first to clean the floor as there were quite a few dirty footprints caused by today’s very heavy snow fall
We have now boarded the second train and are hurtling along at almost 200mph on the Yamabiko 132 Shinkansen service back to Tokyo on our way to Takayama
We woke up this morning to find that the weather forecast was deadly accurate (I suspect that they are never wrong), and several inches of fresh snow had fallen overnight. Ant had secretly hoped that it might be the wrong type of snow that seems to fall quite a bit in the UK, and that it might have caused the train to be delayed for just a few seconds just to prove that the Japanese are human after all. This is Japanese Rail not Network Rail and there is more chance of hell freezing over. The trains are never late, and everything runs with clockwork precision, even when it snows.
Not only do the trains run reliably, but the staff are impeccably polite, annoyingly so at times. When was the last time you saw the ticket inspector on the Kings Cross train doff his cap as he entered the carriage, before bowing and politely asking to inspect your ticket?
This is just one example of what Ant has decided the whole of this nation is afflicted with – OPCD, Obsessive Politeness Compulsive Disorder
Sorry I got sidetracked there. We have arrived at Tokyo Station, but I have to take everything back about the trains never being late. The train came to a halt 7 seconds later than the scheduled 11:56:00 arrival time. I’m sure the driver will take the appropriate action and fall on his perfectly polished sword quietly with minimal fuss.
We grabbed some lunch from the food hall on the station concourse and made our way from platform 21 to 14, and stood in the designated area painted on the platform for our carriage. Everything is signposted very well in English, so we knew exactly where to stand for the door nearest to our reserved seats
Sure enough the incoming train arrived in good time but before we could board it, an army of ladies clad in pink shell suits sprung into action. Within 4 minutes they had cleaned the train, reversed all the seats to face the direction of travel, and replaced the headrest covers. The chief cleaner then inspected the carriage and only when everything was to his satisfaction were we permitted to board the train.
We are now speeding along on another bullet train heading for Nagoya where we will no doubt arrive in 118 minutes time. There we will make our final connection and board our last train for today. In the mean time we are enjoying the comforts of cattle class rail travel in Japan. There is as much legroom as there is on a short-haul BA business class flight, the seat reclines/adjusts in 3 directions, and the very pleasant trolley dolly speaks perfect English as she offers fresh hot coffee. The time has flown past, (it felt as though we were flying at times as the train tilted ) and we are pulling in to Nagoya.
After a short wait for our connection at Nagoya we are on the final leg of todays journey. the Hida Wideview; it sounds like some kind of new fangled Japanese television but it is in fact a very aptly named express train. The carriage has very large windows giving us great views all around.
There does however seem to have been a big cock-up on the train management front; Ruth has quite rightly spotted that the seats haven’t been reversed and they are facing backwards
Well I'm happy to report that we pulled into Takayama station and the wheels of the Hida Wideview stopped exactly to the second that was published in the timetable. How do they do it? A seven hour journey on four different trains over nearly 600 km and we had arrived precisely to the second, not minute or hour, that was published. Amazing. The JR train service is without doubt one of the best, if not the best in the world. It is a pleasure to use the rail network here, why would anyone want to fly around Japan.