Friday, March 24, 2017

Japan 2017 Day 17: Back to Tokyo (by train, of course)

Charlie, Marian, & I got an early start today because we had a 9:15 train to catch, the first on the way from Matsuyama to Tokyo. We had the lovely buffet at the hotel for the last time.

I have been particularly enjoying the fresh tofu (top left bowl) every morning. Topped with a little grated ginger, sliced green onions, & soy sauce, it's delicious!

We asked the front desk to call a taxi for 3 people & luggage for 8:30 (I was hoping for another Prius V, called an Alpha here), and after 2 calls it was arranged. Ironically, the taxi that arrived was one of the tiny ones. Basically, when you hail a cab from the taxi stand in front of a train station, for example, you get the next one in line. It doesn't matter if your luggage is too big or you have too many people, you get the next in line. Probably all part of a sense of fairness. It kind of backfires in these situations though. Luckily the guy had a bungee cord & was able to sort of lower the trunk cover over the luggage. Charlie sat in front & there was just enough room for Marion & me in back. Ten minutes later, we were at Matsuyama Station.

Marian & I looked around for ekiben (train station lunch). We found some nifty ones in cute punk wrappers, named for the female lead, Madonna, in Sosuke Natsume's famous novel "Bocchan", which takes place in Matsuyama. Charlie had purchased fuwa-fuwa (fluffy) white bread sandwiches & snacks at the supermarket yesterday. The train was the Shiokaze ("salt wind") limited express again, & you can see it at the top. We spent the next 3 hours on this train, and it was very pleasant to chat about our adventures together. I had purchased a fuwa-fuwa sandwich snack yesterday too:

The package says "Cafe au Lait Cream". How could I resist? It was pretty good too.

Around 12:30 we got to Okayama & changed to the Hikari Shinkansen, bound for Shinagawa & Tokyo. Our destination was Shinagawa (right before Tokyo) because we could then pick up the Yamanote Line for Shinjuku Station & our hotel. Marian was going to take one more train from Shinjuku to get to her home in Shibuya.

Once we got settled, we dug into our lunches.

So much yum!

After lunch Marian let me piggyback on her phone internet connection to write yesterday's blog post. For some stupid reason my photos from yesterday didn't load from my phone to the laptop. I spent last evening (post-sake) & part of this morning (with a train deadline) trying to get something to upload them- iCloud, email- but nothing was working. When I booted my laptop after lunch, most of the iCloud photos were there, so I was able to make & post Day 16. Thanks so much Marian!!!

Then we chatted & rested for the remaining hours (a total of 4 on the Hikari) to Shinagawa.

Reaching there at 4:30 added some excitement that we could have lived without. It was nearing rush hour, & the trains were filling up. Like, sardines filling-up. We didn't try to mash ourselves, luggage, backpacks, etc. into the first train that came, & Marian led us to a farther down line for a car on the next train, on the chance that it might be less crowded upon arrival. That was a good tactic, although there was a scramble for seats. I made a beeline for the seats reserved for folks with physical challenges, which was full of non-challenged folks, & just said "sumimasen" loudly until somebody stood up & gave me their seat. I thanked them profusely. I have tried only once to ride the train standing up & it nearly ended in disaster, so I take advantage of the gimp seats. Charlie & Marian stood nearby (a veritable wall of luggage) for the 20 minutes to Shinjuku.

Then we debarked quickly (only way to do it on these trains), found a relatively calm spot, & hugged goodbye. We are so glad Marian joined us for the Matsuyama part of the trip. What a blast!!

Our hotel was just across the street, and as we lugged the luggage, Charlie & I realized that it's been 14 days since we left Tokyo. Kind of amazing...

After checking-in to the hotel we went back out in search of dinner and breakfast yummies. The french bakery down the way was very popular this close to dinner, so we stopped in & got amazing things- which you will see tomorrow :) Then we walked along the west side of Shinjuku Station to the Keio department store, and took the elevator to the restaurant floor at the top. We found a tofu cuisine restaurant we'd visited before with Marian, & although there were no English menus, we managed to find the perfect dinners. I had a favorite of mine, kaki fry (panko-fried oysters) with various lovely side dishes, including yuba sashimi, just like in Nikko!

Charlie had beef on rice with a side cauldron of tofu simmering in soy milk (the paper on the left was over the heat- not sure how they did that... :)

After this loveliness we walked to the conbini to buy beverages, then walked home. We've been resting this evening, & Charlie researched some of our route for tomorrow, when we'll meet Momo, Hiroshi, & the kids for some sakura-flower viewing. Can't wait!!

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