Day 4: Doing a Dance on the New Trunk Line

Today our fearless travellers must make their way from The Westin Tokyo and get on the 13:03 Hikari 473 Shinkansen for Nagoya with their bags. They are allowed to send two bags ahead to Kyoto, while they sample the sights and sounds of Nagoya overnight. Will the travellers arrive? Will they figure out what Bento to eat on the train? Will the bags arrive in Kyoto? With the guiding powers of Pikachu, we shall see.

Shinkansen translates directly as “New Trunk Line”.  We took the Tokaido Shinkansen from Tokyo Station to Nagoya.  We took the “Hikari” Super Express which is the fastest train you can take on the Japan Rail Pass.  There is one faster, which is the “Nozomi” which only stops at major stations.

I am in awe of the service.  Keep in mind, this is the first time I have ever been on a high speed rail line, not even in Europe.  The trains are so smooth.  There’s something in the acceleration.  When you see a 16- car N700 set pass by you in a matter of seconds, you know you’re going fast.  My iPhone camera could not keep up with the speed of the other train, and often if I had my phone off and went to turn on the video camera, the other train will have passed by already.

Another thing that stands out is the time it takes for the cleaners to clean the train, AND they do a thorough job, unlike the cleaning job airlines do when cleaning a plane.  These people take their jobs seriously and it’s something I appreciate.  “Domo arigato, gozaimasu!”, truly means thank you from me.

It was amazing knowing we were just over 100kms out and it took us 38 minutes to get there.  This is definitely the fastest I have gone on any ground-based transportation method.

When we head up to Kyoto tomorrow, it will be a very quick journey literally.  Get on train, sit, get up and go.

So with that, we arrived in city #2 – Nagoya.

Nagoya is a city with only just over 2 million people – about 10% of the population of Tokyo, and the size of Toronto.  It’s a very nice city from the brief walk-around Scott and I. With our luck, we saw a number of people in colourful uniforms.  Scott asked what it was and it turned out to be the annual Domatsuri summer dance festival!  After seeing a massive group dance in the main high street in Nagoya, we visited the parks on Hisaya Odori where the festival was being held.

We also visited some of the shops on Otsu Dori.  What really strikes me, beyond the Japanese department stores, which are a class unto themselves, quite honestly, most shopping here in Japan consists of exactly the same brands as you would find at home.  I would say that’s one downside to globalization.

Although I commented to someone recently that in the video games market, region locking is stupid, and the game manufacturers need to realize that there is a market for the games that are region locked to specific regions around the world.  That said, it kind of makes some of the games that I picked up, that much more special as I can’t get them at home.

So it’s a double edged sword, as they say.

Getting back to the hotel, Scott had noticed they had an Onsen – A Japanese style bath.  You shower while seated, you then use a hot tub, and then transfer to a cold one, and you can go back and forth.  Not too much like the Finnish.  We felt very refreshed after.

So far we’re batting 1,000 on hotels.  The Westin Tokyo was beautiful in a classic kind of way.  The Hilton Nagoya, is beautiful in a modern kind of way.  The room we have has an ultra modern feel with classic Japanese sensibilities.  It’s small, but well worth the price we’ve paid (we did this on points and cash).

A neat thing we have experienced here in Japan is that, when you’re checking in with Platinum Privileges, or you’ve booked an Executive Room, you go to the lounge to check in.  You don’t check in, in the main lobby.  You get special handling.  It’s a very nice experience.

A few other things I’ve noticed during the trip

  • Have a QR code reader handy. They’re used EVERYWHERE here.
  • Bread is almost square.  It’s neat to see, and often one piece is more than enough.
  • I wonder how much energy the Japanese waste with their heated toilet seats?
  • Not only is there a Bible in the room, but there is also a book on the Teachings of Buddha next to it.
  • We ended up sending our two big bags on to Kyoto.  This is a service offered in Japan by services like Takyubin (aka “Kuro Neko” with the black cat logo).  The hotel offers the service and it’s cheap and well worth it. Something like CAD$34 to send out bags which would arrive tomorrow morning. Honestly, you don’t want to carry big bags with you, dragging them through Tokyo Station and on Shinkansen.
  • Tokyo Bananas – It’s a thing!  In short, think an amazingly tasty Twinkie.  I’ve not had one, but we have a package we’re going to have tomorrow. 🙂
  • An iPhone camera can’t keep up with the speed of Shinkansen
  • I’m beginning to think that Mt. Fuji really doesn’t exist, given it’s been so foggy and rainy in Japan this week so far. 🙂
  • Do have the White Peach ice cream on the Shinkansen.  Best peach ice cream I’ve ever had!
  • We walked by a department store that was celebrating it’s 400th anniversary.  Take that HBC!
  • We finally saw a Canadian home reference in an ad in one of the Subway stations!  Yes, Japanese have a thing for Canadian-style home renovations.  Maybe Scott and I should become design consultants in Japan!

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