Today we headed to Kyoto on the bullet train but before a short note on the trip I wanted to talk about one thing I forgot to include in yesterday’s blog – a small stand at the Green Club.
Jeff and I saw this stand at about the same time. We knew it wasn’t new, which is good, so we asked the vendor the price. We heard 50,000 Yen or roughly $500 U.S. We both looked at each other and thought – hmm a bit high for a stand that size but still very nice. Anyway, we both deferred in buying it because we had been in the Green Club only about 20 minutes and we wanted to see what other stands where around.
After a few hours we headed back down to this vendor with Akio to talk about the stand. We had Akio ask for the price hoping that the owner would lower it for him. Akio quickly told us the price was 500,000 Yen or roughly $5,000 U.S. Jeff and I both looked at each other with a shocked expression. Akio continued to let us know that this small stand was used in the very first Kokufu some 80 years ago. No wonder this stand carried this price tag!
So back to today… We met at 7:45am and headed out to the JR station to take a short ride to Tokyo Station. We were quite early, blame me, so we grabbed a cup of coffee and a roll and waited for our 9:40am Shinkansen train.
This train is quite a marvel. The Shinkansen (新幹線, literally New Main Line) also known as the bullet train is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan operated by four Japan Railways Group companies.
Shinkansen literally means “New Trunk Line”, referring to the tracks, but the name is widely used inside and outside Japan to refer to the trains as well as the system as a whole. The name “Superexpress” (超特急, chō-tokkyū), initially used for Hikari trains, was retired in 1972 but is still used in English-language announcements and signage.
The Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the world’s busiest high-speed rail line. Carrying 151 million passengers a year (March 2008), it has transported more passengers (over 6 billion) than any other high speed line in the world. Between Tokyo and Osaka, the two largest metropolises in Japan, up to ten trains per hour with 16 cars each (1,300 seats capacity) run in each direction with a minimum of 3 minutes between trains.
It is really too bad that America doesn’t have this type of train system. California is suppose to be building one between San Francisco and Los Angeles but I doubt it will ever run as efficient as these in Japan.
We were one of the first to board the train and begin to think, wrongly so, that we would be on a pretty empty car but that changed pretty quickly as the car began to fill up. The chairs though small in American standards were still quite comfortable with plenty of leg room and storage above us for our bags.
KJ shot a quick photo of the bullet train sitting next to us on the tracks and it is mind boggling to think how often these trains run. When we went to book our tickets we learned that they left about every 10 minutes; To think I have to often wait 20-30 minutes for a BART train!
As we departed KJ was really hoping to see Mt. Fuji which can be seen on this route but unfortunately the weather just didn’t cooperate as it was quite cloudy and often raining during our 2 hour and 21 minute ride.
We arrived and took a taxi to the Hotel Okura which was more than satisfactory as we have a nice large room with a bathroom that contains both a tub and a shower plus a room temperature that was very comfortable; the Astil in Tokyo is a nice hotel but the rooms are very hot with us having to open the windows at night in order to sleep.
We put our things in our room and headed out to find lunch around the Nishiki Food Market in Central Kyoto. This is a huge food mall with vendor lined streets with all types of fresh food from vegtables, fish, meat, dried foods, mochi, to pickels.
After walking the entire market and with tired feet, we headed back to the hotel to take a rest. This rest lasted quite a while and the girls decided to stay in for the night so Jeff and I headed to the hotel lobby room that allowed us to smoke a cigar and plan our strategy for seeing Kyoto over the next four days.
So who knows what we will see but we do know that we will likely get wet as it is suppose to rain for the next 3-4 days!