Thursday, 19 January 2012

PanJapanter - Episode IV: "KYO2TO" (30th December 2011)

We fled Kyoto on New Year’s Eve Eve, and I met Henry-san and Robato-san down at the train station.
I’d had something of a scuffle with my host the night before and, as such, was tired and grumpy and my Kindle was not charged! Fortunately, the hundred thousand trains we rode to Kanto provided sufficient entertainment.
We had befriended two Mexicans the night before at the Couchsurfing party who lived down in Oita, south Kyushu, who were also using the seishun ju-hachi kippu to get to Tokyo. They had been interested to learn that we were taking a later train than them and still getting to Tokyo on time. As such, they’d mused on meeting us at the station. Unfortunately, their hangovers kept them from even making our train. Oh dear, oh dear.

The landscape was pretty epileptic: dramatic changes of flashing-by colours. After an hour or two, from rainy Kansai we hit the mountains and the snow which was piled up attractively on the platforms.
Some of the trains were so rural that we had to stand up for a few hours. This gave us the chance to see into the driver’s box. Weeks later, Robato-san would look into the background of the theatrical performance we witnessed in there. It seems that JR decided some time ago that if their train drivers were forced to make regular and grand hand signals, they would concentrate more closely. The Japanese did not bat a single eyelid, but we were entranced by it all.

By early evening, we’d passed through Nagoya and Yokohama and were having fun getting lost in Tokyo station. Once we’d made our way out, we found a gloriously grimy Thai restaurant under the train tracks where - and the foreshadowing was a lovely literary touch, Tokyo – every time a train went overhead you felt like you were experiencing an earthquake. The food was excellent and the beer cheap, though Robato-san had a little moan about the cleanliness of the place.
After dinner, we went for a little wander round Ginza and all its flashy lights and expensive shops then parted ways.

I headed on the Yamanote line (the circular train track that orbits central Tokyo) to Nishi-nippori to meet my lovely host, Jumpei. More on this charming young man later. He took me to his cosy little place. We drank beer and watched the Japanese version of University challenge. It had been a charming introduction to the world’s biggest metropolis. 

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