30 August 2007

On the Shinkansen

Here we are on the shinkansen. We made our first stop at Nagoya just a few minutes ago after 1.5hrs and about 300 km. We left Yokohama (about 50 km south of Tokyo, but still part of Tokyo) at 10:32 am. It's fast! About 300km/h. The buildings wiz past, and by the time you see something you want to take a photo of, it's almost too late because you've already past it!

The train tilts (but it doesn't feel like you are tilting) and sometimes you look out the window and the ground looks like it's sloping... only because the trian is tilted. The weather is warm and humid (like usual), thin cloud overcast weather with the odd bit of drizzle.

Since leaving Tokyo, there's been pretty much houses and towns continuously along the way. There are patches of crops and some unbuiltup areas, but mostly populated. Many Japanese style houses (about 2 storeys) built close together with taller apartment and office buildings scatterred throughout. Plenty of powerlines and mobile phone towers. Have seen some mountains in the distance and one or two large rivers flowing quite well. The vegetation is quite green here, compared to dryer areas of Australia.

Before the next stop at Kyoto, we head inland and through some mountains. After that, the next stop is Osaka (where Jermaine and Joseph get off). Then Kobe, Okayama and Fukuyama before arriving at Hiroshima, where I stop at about 2pm. After that, the train goes to Shin-Yamaguchi, Kokura, and across to Hakata in Fukuoka prefecture on the island of Kyushu.

It was just raining before and the water drops on the window were dribbling almost horizontally. The crop fields are becoming more frequent as we get further from Tokyo. When the train staff enter or exit the front of the carriage, they stop, bow and keep going. The ride is quite smoothe (a cup of water would not spill if it was on the edge of the table). You don't have to worry about things sliding or moving around (eg. laptops on tables). Take off and braking is quite gradual too. There's a fair bit of room in front of me before the next seat. Air con is good.

Unfortunately, the scrolling text telling us where we are, what station is next, how fast we are going etc is all in Japanese. Occasionally a sentance is in English (usually close to a place the train stops). The train is mostly full (or at least this carriage). Us 3 people are the only non-Japanese I've seen on the train so far. After being surpised at the amount of English writing and speaking in Tokyo, the further we go from Tokyo, the less English we'll see. Prepare for culture :-) Looking forward to it.

Have gone past a large solar panel park, wind generator, many brand buildings (Suzuki, Toyota, Toshiba, Yamaha, Mitsubishi). There are many tunnels... some up to 10 or 20 km's long! Sometimes in the tunnels the air pressure changes and my ears build up pressure. We've just stopped in a tunnel to let another trian pass.

On the train there are toilets, telephone, vending machines (food, snacks, drinks), smoking or non-smoking cars, a green (luxury) car (more expensive seats, larger seats, foot rests, more leg room, better service), and a lady walks up and down with food to buy every now and again.

Mobile phone coverage has been very good. Coverage pretty much all the way from Tokyo to Osaka and even coverage in the tunnels. There are some patches where there is no coverage though. Also, in all trains and buses I've been on, you have to turn your mobile phone to silent mode and you can't talk on it while you're on the bus or train! Pity.

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