Saturday, October 27, 2007

Let's Ride the Shinkansen on a Rainy Day in Early October!

I'm going to cheat a little here. You'll understand how in a moment. Here it comes... the mighty shinkansen! That's the "bullet train" to you and me, Russ. Sixteen cars, from Hamamatsu in under two hours, or if you take the faster ones about an hour and 15 minutes. The shinkansen have been running since 1964 and there's only been one derailment.

That was during the Niigata earthquake a couple of years ago. Contrast this to America, where we can't even have a normal train go between two cities without jumping the rails and dumping toxic waste into the watertable.

This photo was taken in Hamamatsu:

We've got reserved seats, so there's no need to hurry.

I love riding the shinkansen. It often makes me sleepy, but I'm too afraid to allow myself to be lulled that way. A couple of friends of mine once fell asleep on the shinkansen coming back to Toyohashi from Osaka and ended up in Tokyo. They had to walk around the rest of the night until the first one left for points west the next morning.

This ride begins on September 30th, the day I left for Tokyo to see Melt-Banana:

The interior of the shinkansen is clean and comfortable. It reminds me of a jetliner:

And this photo was taken early the next morning, leaving Tokyo:

From Tokyo Terminal until somewhere near Atami, Japan is incredibly urbanized. Sometimes you feel a little claustrophobic:

And sometimes you travel through a vast environment of office and apartment buildings and small houses stretching from horizon to horizon. Caffeinated beverages can help you stay awake:

Eventually, you pass through a region of mountains and smaller cities. This particular October 1st the skies were dark and gray, with swiftly moving clouds. The land below looked dark and damp and cold:

The skyline is marred sometimes by forests of electrical towers:

I love sights like these- small houses clustered together on a steep hillside. Japan is one country that knows how to use its limited space efficiently. These houses look like something out of a Miyazaki Hayao animated film:

My father would've appreciated some of the agricultural vistas:

I really loved how the mountains were swimming with clouds:

This is what Japan looks like to me. I'll remember these sights as long as I live, from rushing along at impossible speeds, on that miracle of engineering... the shinkansen. I find it hard to believe my home country doesn't have one of these.

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