Sunday, January 20, 2008

Angelica: Goodbye Ashikaga, Hello Kyoto

We had an exciting time in the Ashikaga area, but we had exhausted just about every visit-worthy place of interest and now it was time to move on. On the 2nd of January we packed up all of Angelica's luggage and started off on a new voyage. The first leg of our trip involved taking the standard trains back to Tokyo Station.

One popular way to pass the time on a Japanese train is a wholesome game of "Foreigner Eye Tag". First, I catch someone staring at me out of the corner of my eye. Then I wait, keeping as still as possible, then BANG! I turn my head, looking them straight in the eyes. Shocked and awed, their glance hurriedly darts away in defeat. Score one for team America.

Here is one of the stations we passed on our way. Colorful and crowded.

I arranged everything so that we would arrive in Tokyo about an hour early, just to be on the safe side. In the meantime I indulged in a nice ekiben and a beer for lunch. Basically just a train station version of the classic bento lunch set, they are attractively packaged and taste pretty darn good.

A fake-wooden box with a nice picture of Tokyo Tower. Livin' the high life over here, son.

All manner of pickled and otherwise preserved flora and fauna were present in the box, along with some rice. The small bit of egg included even had some words seared into it. Disposable chopsticks included.

Finally the time had come to board our chariot: the famed Shinkansen.

Ooh, Ahh. The drastically aerodynamic look of the cockpit area, as well as the sleek body of the thing reminded me more of a plane with its wings ripped off than a train.

Here's a shot from the side of one of the many (16ish?) cars on the train. As you can see, we traveled by 700 series shinkansen on the Nozomi line.

The interior of the train also strongly resembled a plane's in my mind. Unfortunately there wasn't much room for our American-sized luggage. We ended up wedging a bag between the seats and then simply putting our feet on it.

Aside from the classy look of the train, the service was miles ahead of anything I had seen before on a train. The Japanese have a strong infatuation with uniforms, and this experience was no exception. Everyone was dressed like we were participating in a military parade. At one point I saw one of the smartly dressed men emptying some trash cans, so I lost much of my certainly as to whether the fanciness denoted some sort of rank or position.

Throughout the flight, a cart filled with food and drink for sale was pushed down the fairly spacious isle. A uniformed woman periodically walked through our car as well. When she approached the end of the car near enough that the automatic door slid open, while both entering and exiting, she would turn around and bow to the cabin. I probably received 12 bows from the same person in this manner.

Next are a couple little shots we took earlier in the trip, still in the Tokyo area.

Some in-train songwriting.

One of the train ladies kindly pointed to a sheet of paper that she had produced from her pocket. It let us know the exact time to look out the window in order to see Mt. Fuji. She said that today's weather was particularly clear and that the view would be nice.

Sure enough, Mt. Fuji, dubbed by me "The Fuge" soon came into view. It was quite nice, and it was the first time that I had ever seen this huge symbol of Japan. I had fun taking pictures of the mountain. It had a strange effect: we were moving at a considerable speed, and much of the world was blurring by us, yet The Fuge wasn't moving at all. I got the impression that the mountain was unimpressed by our antics.

A short exchange in the presence of The Fuge.

After maybe a 2 and a half hour trip, we stepped off the train into a little town called Kyoto.


  1. Anonymous8:21 PM

    I didn't know we had these videos. I like them. And I agree the Shinkansen doesn't have enough space for people's suitcases, so next time we will bring something smaller than American suitcases...

  2. I love the flight attendants on the train. I enjoyed a beer from one of the carts on one of my shinkansen trips.