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Friday, April 7, 2017

PaGA 2017: Day 12 Japanese Train Cuisine

I've decided to visit Pearl's Gold Koi on Monday, as Matsumoto Castle remains a bit too cold for cherry blossom blooms.  Also on that day I'll drop by Jindai Park to see her statue.

I've already coached future Japanese Rail Pass adventurers on the basics.  Today, let me talk about what's not so good about the JRP and add the art of dining on trains.

Here are some negatives:
  • You can't use the Nozomi and a couple of other bullet trains.  This makes scheduling a pain.
  • You can't use Gran Class, the step above the Green Car.  No big deal, actually, for it's not worth the extra cost.
  • Don't fall asleep if you need to get off before the end of line.  In airplanes, they wake you up when you do.  On the Shinkansen, if you miss a stop, it could be a hundred miles or more before the next stop, and back-tracking, while not a problem, is a waste of time and eminently stressful.
  • While all bullet trains also announce in English, when there is an emergency, only Japanese is spoken.  So when people evacuate a train, just follow them.
  • Don't wait until the train stops to bring down your luggage and walk to the door.  Sometimes these trains stop only for a minute.
  • There are three separate train systems in Japan
    • Japan Railway, a government-run organization.  The Japan Rail Pass can only be used with JR.
    • City subways, operated by the municipality.
    • Private railways.
  • However, all bullet trains (Shinkansen) are run by JR.
  • They act like separate nations  You need to get out of one station to again pay and get into  another.  Japan should privatize them all or nationalize them.  One united system would work best.  However, as you will need to use each on occasion, buy a Suica Card, which can be used for all three entries.  Don't, don't stand in line to buy a ticket.  The vending machines are confusing, plus the lines can be long.
On the plus side, you don't need to use seat belts and there is always an elevator at main stations and along the Shinkansen route.  Necessary for luggage.

The Japanese are stuffy about where to eat.  However, this is okay on long distance trains.  The major bullet trains also serve food, but the quality is uninspiring.   Sometimes the meal comes in a bullet train box, and the musubi or onigiri looks like a train.  Best to purchase your meal with drinks at the station or markets along the way. (My computer sometimes changes musubi to mouse, so watch out.)

The standard meal is a bento with beer or sake or both, plus sochu if you're so inclined.  That is, if you drink alcohol.

Yesterday on the Shinkansen from Nagoya to Nagano I had a feast:

Italian salami, French bordeaux and croissant, Stilton (UK) cheese and Japanese bread, salad and potato (Hokkaido) chips.  The wine was a gift from the Marriott Nagoya.

Today, on the Shinano I had:

Sake, musubi, hot dog and chicken on sticks and soba.  I like to combine assortments I never had before.  Below is the private Shinano train:

And this is the newest Shinkansen, the Hokuriku, which connects Tokyo to Kanazawa and Toyama, via Nagano:

The entire line will someday be extended to Shin-Osaka, but that will be in 2045.

At the Karuizawa Station, snow  remains abundant:

Karuizawa is a ski resort about half an hour south of Nagano, where the 1998 Winter Olympics were held.  Hard to believe that was nearly two decades ago.  Tokyo hosts the 2020 Summer Olympics.

Tomorrow I catch the Hokuriku to Omiya, and transfer to another bullet train to Sendai.  However, as it is still cold up there, I might on Sunday Shinkansen down to Tokyo to catch the Sakura peak.

Tropical Cyclone Ernie popped up in the Indian Ocean at 110 MPH, but is heading away from Australia.  However, there is a possibility that Ernie could reach 150 MPH before dissipating in the open ocean:


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