Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Shinkansen to Kyōto

Today we left Tōkyō for Kyōto which is about 500km away. For this trip we took the train from where we were staying with my cousin to the Tōkyō station and then boarded the Shinkansen better known as the "bullet train". Obviously, not as fast as a bullet but with top speeds of around 300 km/hr. The trip took around 2½ hours and it was a very smooth and quiet ride. This was one of the things that I was looking forward to on this trip.


The trains are always on time and I was told that the deviation from the schedule is rarely more than 15sec. The doors were opened at 11:25am and by 11:33am, we were pulling out of the station. They wheel carts up and down the aisle selling food and drinks. But there was a huge selection of box lunches in the Tōkyō train station for less than half the price of what was being sold on the train. Below is my bento box lunch with some rice, pickled vegetables, two kinds of grilled fish and a small dumpling. A delicious bargain.


It was raining very lightly as we left Tōkyō and by the time we arrived in Kyōto  it was raining almost continuously. No views or pictures of Mt. Fuji due to the low lying clouds. Hopefully Fuji will make an appearance on our trip back to Tōkyō and the Narita airport on Sunday. According to the proprietor of the townhouse where we are staying here in Kyōto, there is a typhoon headed this way and it will probably be raining until at least Friday afternoon.

As we left the Tōkyō region, more and more rice fields started to appear along the train route. Many times there wasn't much of a view from the train as there were sound barriers to keep the train noise from the homes near the track. You could really tell that you were moving pretty fast when you were going through the towns or when passing another train going in the opposite direction.

More evidence of politeness was the train employees always bowing when entering or leaving the train car. Even when buying groceries at the store, the cashier would hand you your change with two hands, bowing and saying thank you for visiting their store.

This was a very relaxing trip through the country side and I'd really recommend that you put it on your itinerary. There are probably many faster trains but non with the phenomenal combination of politeness, quiet and comfort.

The townhouse where we are staying in Kyōto has traditional futon beds on tatami mats. And the front door is located in the middle of a covered shopping street. This evening, one of my cousins stopped by with his wife and daughter. It has been a really long time since I had last seen them. They came loaded with groceries for our stay.

12 comments:

  1. That certainly sounds like a pleasant train ride.

    Hope the rain subsides for you.

    Why is it you leave Alaska for Japan and Alaska breaks record high with temps in the high 80's and low 90's?

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    1. It really was a wonderful trip on the train and had more similarities with a airplane trip such as reclining seats and the little food carts going up and down the rows.

      I'm glad that I'm missing the really hot temperatures in Alaska. But it has been really humid here in Japan the last couple of days. Not as humid as it is right now with the pouring rain but at least it's cooler.

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  2. Courtesy extended to one's customers....what a concept, a foreign and unknown one to a lot of sales clerks I encountered during my recent travels.

    Marryat and I rode with baby Patrick on the bullet train from Maastrict to Paris, a very enjoyable ride though no food cart vendors! :(

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    1. All of the sales and service staff I've run into here have all been very courteous and polite. They all even bow and welcome you into the store when you first come in. Very different from what I'm used to...

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  3. Dang auto-correct, I meant to type Martha

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    1. I was wondering who Marryat was. ;-)

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  4. The bento box meal looks wonderful. I was going to ask when you would visit Kyoto!

    I've seen photos of Kyoto ryokans. I'd love to stay in one. Your townhouse sounds very interesting, too. How nice to have relatives in exceptional places!

    Change in two hands? You may have just solved a Honolulu mystery of 16 years for me.

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    1. All of the meals here have been wonderful but I especially like the packaging of the bento boxes. We are here in Kyoto for the next couple of days with a very loose schedule. Sort of driven by consensus.

      The townhouse where we are staying have the kitchen and dining room at the entrance sharing the same concrete floor. Then you would remove your shoes to go to the rest of the house where it is all tatami mats with sliding doors (paper instead of glass) separating the rooms. There is an enclosed balcony overlooking the shopping area and that is turning into my favorite areas of the house. There is a traditional Japanese bath with a window overlooking the small garden space.

      We had a wonderful time with my cousin and her husband in their home outside of Tokyo. A huge garden area behind the house and wonderful tatami mat sleeping rooms. We are becoming fans of the Japanese breakfast. No sweet breads to be found!

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  5. Richard:

    I hope the rain stops for you too and you will be able to see Mt Fuji on your return. Must feel nice to be flying along and not have to ride/drive and just look out at the scenery

    bob
    Riding the Wet Coast

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    1. I think that I would have a hard time with this driving on the left thing. There are quite a few scooters and motorcycles, as you can imagine, but the tiny cars outnumber them by a fair margin.

      Being able to sit back and watch the scenery fly by was very pleasant. It was a little difficult to take pictures as it was flying by so fast.

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  6. Richard, it sounds like you are having a lovely time. I wish we had that 'politeness' in our everyday world. There is something so genteel about Japanese society. We North Americans need to get back to a little care and politeness, I think it would go a long way in making our lives much more pleasant. I hope you get to see Mt Fuji!

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    1. The Japanese society is very different from the more familiar North American. It was really interesting to hear my cousin in Tokyo's perspective as she grew up and lived in the U.S. I am giving you a visitor's perspective as opposed to someone living here full time. I think she may be starting a blog...

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