Sun 28 Jul – day 78 It was an early rise as I had a long journey ahead of me and at 815 miles, what would be the longest day’s trip during my whole time in Japan.
So having packed and checked out I headed back to Nagasaki station and as it was just 08:00hrs on a Sunday morning there was not much traffic about. I was early enough to catch the first train of the day to Hakata; however this would mean having to change all my seat reservations so I did not bother.
I was using the second of my JR Passes today, so I had to get it validated when I went through the manned check point at the ticket barrier, a very quick and easy process and when it was handed back the official gave me a short bow.
Unlike other stations that I had been to where the carriage location was painted on the platform, here they were on boards suspended above the platform, so it was still easy to find where you needed to be. The next station up the line, Urakami, was shown on the station name board and this had been the original terminus until the line was extended when the docks and shipyards were built.
Unlike the first train to leave which, although modern, had limited luggage storage, the Limited Express Kamone 10 bound for Hakata was one of the older 787 series trains and although over 20 years old was in excellent condition – better than a UK 125. Like all of the trains run by JR Kyushu this one was totally non-smoking and in ordinary (2nd) class it was 2 + 2 seating. I had a quick peek into Green (1st) class and the carriage had a conference room which could be booked at an additional charge.
I was the first person to board and quickly stowed my luggage and then settled into my reserved seat. When you lowered the small table from the seat back in front, a graphic gave the location of each carriage and all the onboard services, very useful.
I was leaving Nagasaki along the same line that I had arrived on three days ago, so it was the long haul up the hill through the tunnel before the train emerged into the bright sunlight. This was to be the best of the weather as it got progressively worse the longer the journey went on.
I spent the time on the way to Hakata getting the blog up to date, looking out of the rain streaked window, or sleeping.
After a very smooth journey that lasted a little over two hours the train arrived at Hakata, from where the jetfoil ferry departs to South Korea which is another country that I plan to visit at some time. But I had to make a swift change to the Shinkansen that was heading for Shin-Osaka where I would have to change trains again.
No sooner had I had settled into my reserved seat (no cost to a JR Pass holder) than I realised that I had left my reading glasses in the seat pocket on the Limited Express. What a plonker I am. So as I was unable to read any small print the only thing that I could do was to sit back and watch the world go by.
I was onboard one of the semi-fast Sakura Shinkansen trains, so the train only made a limited number of stops, more than the Nozomi trains which JR Pass holders cannot use, but less than the Kodama trains which stop at every Shinkansen station.
So I was leaving Kyushu and travelling through Western Honshu, passed Kokura, Shin-Yamaguchi, Tokuyama and Hiroshima. We were moving at a good speed, but like all Shinkansen tracks which were as straight as possible, the scenery consisted mainly of blast walls, cutting or tunnels. When the train was in open countryside the increasingly bad weather reduced the visibility considerably. By the time the train reach Hiroshima the rain was absolutely lashing down and I just hoped that this was not an omen of things to come
So onwards via Mihara, Fukuyama and Okayama, where I had first boarded a Shinkansen train some 16 days ago – how the time has flashed by. Then through Aioi, Himeji where the picture postcard castle was located, Kobe and then finally Shin-Osaka. Here I boarded the Shinkansen Hikari 524 for the 17 minute trip to Kyoto.
The 815 mile journey took exactly 5hrs 40mins and that included the 46 minutes between trains at the two stops I made. Try doing that trip of that length in the UK and it would take the best part of 24 hours!!
It took some time to find the Lost & Found Office, but thankfully it was co-located with a Visitors Centre that had English speakers. So I reported the loss of my glasses, but did not hold out much hope. I showed one of the staff my seat reservation ticket for the Limited Express and they completed all the relevant paperwork and this included the details of the hotel where I was staying. One of the English speakers translated and told me that if my glasses were found JR would contact the hotel.
I then went to the Tourist Info centre and was given a most comprehensive city guide and info on walking tours – superb service. The lady asked whether I was Australian, so I am adding that to the list; so far people have thought that I was German, Russian, Italian and American. She was very apologetic when I said that I was English, but as always was very interested in my travels.
I was now definitely back on the tourist trail as there were lots of western faces to be seen and a babble of different languages could be heard.
I walked through the main concourse, a place of cathedral like proportions and as it was still raining I decided to take a taxi to my hotel rather than lugging my bags on and off buses. So I showed the Inside Japan booklet to the dispatcher and having stowed my luggage in the boot the taxi shot off.