Friday, July 19, 2013

Japan 2013: From Matsuyama to Tokyo

Today we packed it all up & for the return to Tokyo. But first, soy milk doughnuts from Mujirushi  & local mikan juice for breakfast!

I nearly had a nervous breakdown zipping my suitcase... but I did it. Our bags can be unzipped to pop out a bit more for more room, but it doesn't work to do that when riding trains, since the space allotted for baggage is so tiny. One thing I won't miss about the Patio Dogo Hotel (alright, one thing after the tininess of the room) is the wonky slippers:

The hotel called a taxi for us & we checked-out around 9:15 & chatted with the very friendly driver on the way to Matsuyama Station. We learned that Matsuyama is a sister city with Sacramento, California!

When we got to the station the first order of business was to buy ekiben, then we showed our passes to the gate guys & went to wait for the local express to Okayama, where we'd change trains for Tokyo.

While there a train arrived with a group of shogakkusei- elementary school children, all in yellow hats & identical outfits. You couldn't tell the boys from girls! They were probably going to the zoo in Matsuyama.

Our train arrived & Charlie squeezed out luggage into the available space, which required hauling it on top of a table set into the wall of the train. On the way down this was acceptable, but shortly into the trip a conductor came by & instructed us to put it all in the front seats.
You can see it just peeking over the top here:

We spent 3 hours on the limited express to Okayama. The weather was so much better than when we came down & you could really see the islands on the Inland Sea.

There were fields & fields of renkon (water lily tuber- a delicious vegetable) alongside the rice fields, since they also need to be submerged to grow.

The train change was also much smoother this time, since it wasn't bucketing rain. However, I got my car numbers & seat numbers switched & headed off like a rocket for car 9 when we were really in car 13, row 9... Charlie & Brendan finally caught up to me & we got on the proper car before the doors closed. It was 4 hours from Okayama to Tokyo.
Charlie had thought that getting off at Shinagawa, a station before Tokyo Station, might make sense because it would be so much less crowded than Tokyo Station. However, this was the scene when we got there:
It was Friday at 5:30 pm! There was a street fair going on outside & we couldn't even see the taxi stand. We had to ask a policeman where to catch the taxi, & did find a very nice taxi driver who seemed to know where we wanted to go :) Our drive back to the Century Southern Tower Hotel in Shinjuku seemed to be a trip back through our previous visits to Tokyo. We went by the neighbourhood where we stayed 2 years ago, near Tokyo Tower, then skirted Roppongi, where we stayed 6 years ago, crossed Aoyama (& a huge graveyard on top of the hill) & then went through Harajuku, which we'd visited 4 years ago. After more than an hour, the driver (rather apologetically) deposited us on the doorstep of our hotel. Whew!! I was starving!!! The group consensus was, never get off at Shinagawa again!

We checked-in & then it was nearly 7:00 pm, too late to find dinner in Takashimaya's basement, so we went to the 13th floor to our favourite soba restaurant instead. It was great!
Then we walked home in the very pleasant evening. It had cooled-off considerably & the outdoor patio restaurants were filling up with customers.

Then to bed after a very tiring day of travel. Tomorrow we hope to meet a friend from Rochester who lives in Tokyo!

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