Saturday, September 8, 2012

Bullet trains and traveling Japan

I had the opportunity to travel across Japan to the southern-most military Navy camp, Sasebo, followed by the Marine camp at Iwakuni.  My fellow traveler opted for us to go by train rather than flying so I had the opportunity to ride the world's fastest train!  Of course, getting to the world's fastest train station involved several not-so-fast trains!  I confess, up until this point I hadn't gone much beyond the walking boundaries of Yokosuka.....the train stations here are just plain SCARY!  LOTS of people, all the signs in Japanese and a whole lot of train choices just seemed beyond my abilities.......well, I am SO over that now!

Let's start with the train station.....this is a picture of the station at Shinagawa, where we got onto the Shinkansen (bullet train).  If you look carefully, you notice there is something like 50 different train tracks ALL converging in this one station!  I've been to Grand Central Station in New's got nothing on this place!!!

It really adds to the confusion that there are multiple train lines in Japan, you have to pay careful attention to make sure you are actually on the train you've paid for (more on that later!).  However, Japan has one of the niftiest pre-paid commuter cards ever - you purchase a plastic credit-card looking pass that is used to pay the fares.  You simply have to "wave" the card over the electronic reader when you pass through the gate (this marks where you got on) then repeat when you exit the station - the card reader automatically calculates the fare and deducts it from the card balance.  I have no idea how it works....don't need to know, I just know it is very cool and makes there be one less scary thing to deal with....and you can just keep adding money to the card whenever necessary.                                                                                                         
I wasn't able to get the whole front of the "engine" car in the photo but it does sort of look like a bullet...or eel....or duckbill depending on your perspective!

 The seats are quite comfortable and each seat reclined as well as having a drink tray for the window seats and pull-down seat tray. There was a lot more room on the train than is one airlines!!  It also has electrical outlets onboard so you can charge any electronic devices while traveling.

 The train signs display in both Japanese and English-which is a HUGE help if you don't speak Japanese!
The stations were all exceptionally clean...and I now know why - the cleaning crew works non-stop mopping the walls and floors!

Hungry??  No problem...not only did every station have multiple food options, the trains themselves had a food a beverage service during the entire trip!

And let's not forget a beverage - adult and otherwise for your trip!

The Shinkansen is such a big deal, it has it's very own set of novelty items....yes, you can buy bullet train chop-sticks to use while wearing your bullet train slippers, LOL!!!

Many of the kiosks served freshly made items and the staff for each area has a distinct color uniform.  She were very gracious in allowing me to take her picture - silly tourist!

 The train station is sort of like Las Vegas, the state fair and a shopping mall all rolled into one!

oh yes, and about that paying attention to your train part....we did get on the wrong train - several times in fact.  What should have been an eight hour trio ended up being 11 1/2 hours because we went in the wrong direction.....and had to take the local train back to were we started. Local trains stop at EVERY station....let me repeat EVERY STATION!  And the next day, yeah, well I looked at the schedule wrong and got us onto the wrong train, wrong as in not the train we had paid we were forced to pay an additional 1200Y.....oops!

From: Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture To: Sasebo, Nagasaki Prefecture This is the Google map picture of how far I traveled....about half of Japan as best I can tell!

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