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MichaelJ
02-20-2006, 12:01 AM
Duncan, Glen and I departed Brisbane International Airport on February 1 on Japan Airlines Flight 762 bound for Tokyo, Japan. We boarded a Boeing 747-300 and were greeted by a friendly Japanese Crew.

Eight hours later, after quite an enjoyable flight, we landed in the pouring rain at Narita Airport, Tokyo. We caught several local trains and a taxi to The Grand Palace Hotel.

The following morning, February 2, we caught an Asama Shinkansen Service to Nagano about 220kms from Tokyo. Our E2 Series Shinkansen powered ahead with ease at 250km/h. We visited an Onsen (natural hot springs in the snow) inhabited by some snow monkeys. It was quite an interesting experience!

On February 3, it was time to start heading north on our journey to Sapporo. We caught several types of Shinkansens including Tsubasa (400 Series) and Multi Amenity eXpress (MAX) to the end of the Shinkansen line at Hachinohe (630km North of Tokyo). Our journey further north was made on an Electric Tilt Train to Aomori. We stayed the night in a Capsule Hotel - yet another interesting experience.

In the morning of Saturday, February 4, we boarded another type of Electric Tilt Train on a Hakucho service to Hakodate where line electrification finished. This train travels through the Seikan Tunnel connecting Islands Honshu and Hokkaido. At Hakodate we boarded a "Furico 283 Series" Diesel Tilt Train on a Super-Hokuto service bound for Sapporo; our final destination.

We boarded the Niseko Express to the ski resort on Sunday. Extreme weather conditions made the journey slow and tedious. Many flights bound for Sapporo were re-directed to other cities. In the afternoon, we visited an inner city park where a large snowman was being constructed. The amount of snow and teamwork to make this snowman come alive was incredible. "Must have been the magic in the old silk hat they had." Oddly enough, it had a striking resemblance to Frosty.

The world renowned Sapporo Snow Festival in Odori Park opened on Monday. Our purpose for the 1200km journey was for the festival, so, we decided to go along. There were Narnia characters made of snow and many other fictional characters, mugs of beer, and a life-size snow model of Flinders St Station. That evening, we boarded a sleeping car train bound for Tokyo.

Duncan, Glen and I were woken around 6am on Tuesday, February 7, by the conductor telling us that Sendai was the next stop. Now that we were back in Shinkansen territory, I thought we should catch one, so we did. An E2 Series Shinkansen bound for Tokyo overtook the slow sleeping car train almost instantaneously. Time was tight in Tokyo to make our connection on the Tokaido Line south to Hiroshima. We stopped at various places along the line to take photos. Watching a 500 Series Shinkansen rocket past the station at over 300km/h was amazing. We spent the night in a traditional Japanese room, sleeping on the floor of course!

Glen continued south to Hakata on February 8, and Duncan and I took a short trip to the Hiroshima Peace Park and Museum before meeting friends of mine teaching English in Osaka. The Atomic Bomb Dome stood just 160m from the hypercentre of the bomb. It was the only building to remain partially intact and is today supported by construction beams. There was an sombre mood at the Park. In Osaka, we dined traditional Japanese style cooking our own dishes on the BBQ in the centre of our table. That was definitely something I would do again, although my pocket was somewhat lighter after.

I couldn't resist a trip to the electrical/computer hub of Osaka; Den Den Town on Thursday. I purchased a new graphic card for my computer at a dirt cheap price.

We caught a 500 Series Shinkansen from Osaka back to Tokyo on Friday and departed on JL 761 to Brisbane arriving in the morning of 11 February. All of the foreigners had to wait in line while AUS/NZ Passport holders used the express lanes. Duncan and I couldn't walk past a bottle of Smirnoff Triple Distilled Vodka (50% alc/vol) for about $18. Should we drink this on the plane? Wouldn't that have been fun! In true Aussie spirit I also purchased a bottle of Bundaberg Distillers No. 3 back home.

The Japs have a few interesting quirks -
- Drivers seem to stop anywhere on the road and others just go round
- Cars do not stop for pedestrians at a zebra crossing
- The traffic lights play music as you cross
- Drivers/Guards point to every signal
- The Train Protection System plays music between a yellow and red signal (you can hear it throughout the lead car)
- Each announcement is proceeded by a rather long musical introduction and not just a *ding dong*
- Train Crew/Attendants bow to the occupants of each carriage before walking away.

What did I like about Japan?
The Shinkansens and extensive Rail Network and the Sapporo Snow Festival - it was truly amazing. Their McDonalds is actually edible (a Big Mac really is a burger)

What did I dislike about Japan?
The seafood smell that appeared to be all over the country. We purchased a donut from a bakery and assumed it would be filled with Jam. WRONG! One bite quickly told us it was some form of vegetable bean!

I have been furiously sorting through about 650 photos and will post them soon!

An E2/E3 Series Shinkansen kick up snow as the power past Fukushima Station on the Tohoku Line at 275km/h.
http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=133747
http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=133826

A Sapporo Local EMU stabled at Otaru over the weekend.
http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=133839

Gordon Graham
02-20-2006, 04:18 AM
Nice ~

Both Shinkansen are belong to JR East .

MichaelJ
02-20-2006, 10:24 PM
Yeah - I have put in a change request.

MichaelJ
02-22-2006, 12:22 PM
Ok guys, here's a selection of photos from the trip (and they're not just trains). I will add captions over the next few days

The URL was long, so I made it smaller.
http://tinyurl.com/nuudx

http://www.railpictures.net/viewphoto.php?id=134526