Travelling in Japan is all about the trains — well, except for those annoying mountain-hiking parts.
The whole country is a train-spotter’s paradise, with prizes including the almost obscenely streamlined Hayabusa, one of the fastest shinkansen (“bullet trains”) in Japan…
..within which I sped yesterday from Tokyo to Aomori in the extreme north of the main island of Honshu, and the Hamanasu…
..at the opposite end of the train-technology spectrum, which rocked and rollicked through the night, beneath the Tsugaru Strait to emerge onto vast Hokkaido, Japan’s second-largest island.
Even the names are cool. Hayabusa means peregrine falcon, and Hamanasu is the Japanese rose, Rosa rugosa,a name which captures its rambling, exuberant energy, even if it’s not especially macho name for a train.
I’m typing this aboard the final phase of my Daisetsuzan-bound railway odyssey (there’s still a bus to go after that), a Super Kamui Limited Express from Sapporo to Asahikawa. A quick check suggests that kamui translates as “divine or powerful”. This seems like a favourable omen before my upcoming excursion.
That ride aboard the falcon was terrific. I bought a three-way adaptor in Tokyo and plugged it in right at my seat, re-charging all my camera batteries, this laptop and my wifi hotspot (about the size of an iPhone) as we flew.
I arrived at sleepy Shin-Aomori with a mild Premium Malt’s (sic) buzz from the two cans delivered to my seat as my devices buzzed and blinked and I attempted to write this very post. We entered a slew of tunnels which messed with my wifi; I gave up the journalism and concentrated on the Premium Malt’s.
Tokyo was great but the heat and endless walking beneath my amply proportioned pack wore me down. The capsule hotel was enjoyable, but it felt like a youth hostel, and I sleep lightly.
I spent a pleasant afternoon yesterday back in Inokashira Park in Kichijoji, between infusions of iced coffee cold enough that my throat went into spasms and I thought I was having a stroke, drying some stealth-washed laundry on a bench while ladies passed clutching umbrellas, and dragonflies and butterflies floated languorously over the flowers.
A kind lady in the post office helped me post some clothes (still damp!) and my tripod home, and my pack is feeling a lot more manageable, still way heavier than I’d prefer (my membership of the lightweight hiking club has surely been terminated) but that’s the price of art.
Seems obvious in retrospect: if a camera’s small and light, carrying three of ’em sorta cancels out the benefits…
This was after three trips to the impressive tripod section in Shinjuku’s Bic Camera, gripped with doubts about abandoning the carbon-fibre tripod. I wandered on, and when I found Yodabashi Camera, another multi-floor photographer’s heaven (or hell if you’re gripped with agonising indecision), I bit the bullet and grabbed the only GorillaPod.
I also grabbed several irresistible items from my new-favourite outdoor store, a Mont Bell that’s opened in Kichijoji since I was last there. I love their stuff; my wallet at least is far lighter than before. I was even able to buy a can of ah-ru-ko-ru (not another beer, the denatured variety — methylated spirits in Australian), so I will able to fire up my trusty beer-can stove in the mountains.
Alright, I’d better get off this thing and enjoy the scenery. I plan to be in the volcanic peak-infested interior of Hokkaido for 6-7 days. It’s going to be pretty hard walking, and even the smattering of huts up there are reputably “primitive”. Not sure if the wifi will work up there so if you don’t hear from me for a while, do not necessarily assume I’ve been devoured by bears.
Thanks for the encouraging comments; I’ve included a handful of Tokyo shots. I was too beaten down by heat and weight to get too creative, but I’ll get used to it…
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote