The Five Yen of Happiness! Shikansen Adventures to Hiroshima!
- I give in – I need a break (Introduction)
- To Heathrow and The BA Galleries North Lounge
- BA902 London Heathrow to Frankfurt Airport in Club Europe
- Bumbling around Frankfurt Airport with random #AVGeek spotting
- Meeting the A350 and the Air Canada Lounge
- Qatar Airways QR068 Frankfurt to Doha
- The joy of Hamad International Airport, and The Oryx Rotana Hotel
- Qatar Airways Flight QR812 Doha to Tokyo Haneda
- The Hotel JAL City Haneda Tokyo
- Shikansen Adventures to Hiroshima!
- Time in Hiroshima (featuring the ANA Crowne Plaza Hiroshima)
- Hirosihima – 70 years on
- A day trip to Itsukushima
- More Shinkansen fun to Kyoto (Featuring Kyoto Tower Hotel)
- A trip up to Fushimi Inari Taisha Shrine
- Dinner with The real_jetsetr!
- The JR Central SC Maglev and Rail Museum
- Shinkansen to Tokyo
- The Strings by InterContinental
- Cheap evening – From the Tokyo Metropolitan Building
- The JR East Railway Museum, Saitama
- Shibuya nights
- Akihabara Days
- Gotta Catch them All! A few Pokemon Centres.
- Off to Narita
- Nartia Airport, The JAL Lounge
- Qatar Airways Flight QR807 Tokyo Narita to Doha
- Four and Half Hours in Doha Airport
- Qatar Airways Flight QR067 Doha to Frankfurt
- More time in Frankfurt
- BA8735 Frankfurt to London City Airport (Club Europe)
- And about that Five Yen Coin – The Sensoji Temple, Asakusa
With me back at Haneda airport, there was stuff to be done – the first thing was to pick up a SIM Card. I could had hired a MiFi router, but as I was just going to use the phone mainly (and thankfully, the iPhone I have from my provider in the UK is pre-unlocked), I hunted for a SIM Card. I found one for sale at the JAL Luggage area who were selling a Pre-paid SIM card for around Y3900. Bit more expensive than buying it online, but it would do.
With a NanoSIM in hand, the next stop was to the JR East desk to get my rail voucher converted. However – I found a machine by Wire and Wireless who were offering Free Wii in Japan through their network of hotspots. A few minutes later – I had a code, and access to a lot of Wi-Fi.
I followed the signs to the JR desk, and my JR pass voucher was converted into a Rail Pass. Additionally, reservations were made for my first big ride on the Shinkansen between Tokyo and Hiroshima (with reservations for the Hiker and the Sakura).
That done, it was time to get into Central Tokyo. And to do that, we all know what I must ride.
Yes, it’s the Tokyo Monorail. Whilst it maybe awful loud, it does guide as softly as a cloud.
With a short ride to Monorail Hamamatsu, it was time to face one of the fears of travel in Tokyo. Yes, it’s time to deal with the Yamanote line.
Thankfully that morning, there was plenty of standing room – which makes a change for once. A short ride, and I was in the maze that is Tokyo Station.
With a little time on my hand, there was something important to do – and that’s grab an Ekiben (Train Bento/Train Boxed Lunch).
Well, it would be nice to have something to eat whilst at 170mph or so…. and it beats a British Railways sandwich.
Heck, anything beats a sandwich on a British Railways station.
Ekibens vary in price – from 900 yen and upwards
Even children can get their own Ekiben in the shape of a Shinkansen.
I selected mine, and a 1000 yen down – I headed off to the JR Central Shinkansen gates – and to the platform.
One thing you have to remember when travelling on a JR Rail Pass – and it is that must use the manual ticket gates to enter and exit the station (and when clearing the Shinkansen gates). However, it’s not too much a deal as people were moving swiftly though.
I headed up to the platform to wait for my train to arrive.
Soon a N700A series Shinkansen arrived, which would form the Hikari service to Shin-Osaka.
Of course, you can’t just board the train. Firstly, the train has to be cleaned. However, with Japanese efficacy, an entire train is cleaned in 7 or so minutes, allowing passengers to board.
Of course, you queue for the car you are in. All very civilized.
So what does the Green Car look like? A bit like this:
Green Car seating is 2-2 across (compared with 3-2 in the ordinary car). The seat itself in Green Car is a deep recliner.
On the nose, our train departed Tokyo station for the run to Shin-Osaka. Even though this was a Hikari service, it would be doing a Nomzi stopping pattern – in other words, a fast run.
Yup. 2-2 seating.
Pulling out of Tokyo it was time to sit back and watch the world go by.
A Tokyo bound N700A
The cabin itself was quiet for the journey – to be honest there were rows of seats if I wanted multiple rows in the Green Cars. I don’t want to think how packed the Ordinary cars were.
As the train left Shin-Yokohama, the landscape changed from cities to countryside, towns and rice paddies.
It was at this time it was time to break out the Ekiben. Opening my little bag of surprises I had… well a clay pot, some pickles and chopsticks.
Yes. It’s earthenwear/clay pot. Unsurprisingly, this came back to the UK with me. More surprisingly, it survived the trip safely and it’s sitting in my living room!
This is a pork Ekiben – or a “Toga-no-Kamameshi” with all sorts of things. An egg, mushrooms, peas and other things. Oh and rice underneath it all. A potted meal for one.
And it was delicious. Meanwhile, it was wet outside – and not making for a wonderful journey with the grey and murk. A shame…
As the journey continued, the train pulled into Nagoya on time. I’d be popping back here later in the week – but this time I would be just passing through.
Ever smart are the train staff. No, I’m not into train uniforms. I’m more a Tori-tetsu or a Nori-tetsu (thanks to Rocketnews24 for those definitions that I’ll never use again).
The run between Nagoya and Shin-Osaka is a quick one, passing through Kyoto on the way (my next major stop on this trip).
Soon enough, the train pulled into Shin-Osaka, and with polite queuing got off the train to hunt for my next departure.
The problem with the JR Rail Pass is a simple one – it doesn’t allow access to the Nozomi services. Now, whilst that doesn’t sound like a problem – it is, as Nozomi services are much more frequent than Hikari, Kodama or Sakura services.
But no matter – a new city to tick off whilst waiting for a transfer.
Soon, the next train arrived which would be an 8 car service (compared to the 16 car behemoth I was aboard earlier). This train would operate the Sakura service to where I was heading to – Hiroshima.
The inbound Sakura operated by JR West. Note the paint job is more bluer than the normal N700/700 series Shinkansens.
Again, a short wait for the train to be cleaned, and it was time for everyone to be all aboard. With the Sakura services, there’s a very limited Green Car service, with about 1/2 of Car number 6 dedicated as Green.
The train is slightly different – with a different interior compared to the JR Central expansive cabins.
Small cabin is small.
It was a cozier car, but still lots of space if you’re travelling on your own (and no-one sits next to you).
So cozy in fact, I dozed off on the way to Hiroshima.
I woke up with about 20 minutes on the clock, and saw the countryside whoosh by.
As we closed on Hiroshima, the train passed through multiple tunnels, until it began to slow for my stop. Tradition says you don’t get up when the train arrives – rather you get up when the annoucements are made, mainly because Shinkansens do not hang around in stations unless they’re letting another one past.
To the exit!
The train pulled in and I headed for the exit.
Once through the Shinkansen gates, I followed my nose to the Trams stop that would drop my off at my hotel for the next couple of nights – the ANA Crowne Plaza.
Overall: Comfortable, on time and easy to use. What more do you need from a train service? Whilst I spent the best part of 5 hours on the journey, it didn’t feel over-long (well, the doze between Shin-Osaka and Hiroshima helped). For a non-Japanese speaker, it’s easy to navigate with everything repeated in English – and beats the heck out of planes, security queues and the inconvenience of domestic flying.
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