After an extremely hectic, and relatively sleepless 3 days in Tokyo, I was happy to be headed in a more tranquil and quiet direction. Namely Kanazawa, on the west coast of Japan. Being me, I left the planning to the last minute, and was grateful to have help from one of the capsule hotel staff. He was a local University student, and had recently traveled extensively in Europe, so his English was quite good. He wrote me an itinerary in both English and Japanese! Arigato gazai mashta Koya-san! I left the capsule hotel with a sigh of relief, as I knew that my next hotel would have something I hadn’t seen in over 4 days and 6,000 miles. A real bed!
I hopped on the subway with a modicum of confidence, as I only had 2 stops to get to Ueno station. I was giddy with excitement knowing I would be departing on the Shinkansen, or Bullet Train, something I had always wanted to experience.
For some sadistic and infuriating reason, every photo and video I took on the Shinkansen didn’t get saved on my camera….. Never happened before, perhaps the immense velocity at which I was traveling (~318 km/h) caused my camera to malfunction, no that’s silly, but every picture before and after worked fine… Odd. I changed trains in a sleepy mountain town called Echigo-Yuzawa. It was extremely scenic, and I was half tempted to take a stroll and delay my trip for a few hours. I thought better of it, and waited the 90 or so minutes for my connecting train to Kanazawa.
When the train arrived, I mistakenly got on one of the reserved cars, and sat down. I had no idea some cars were reserved, and some were open. After a brief episode of pantomiming and bowing to the ticket-taker, I made my way to the non-reserved car. The trip from Echigo-Yuzawa to Kanazawa was amazingly scenic, with brief passes near the Sea of Japan interrupted by tunnels that often seemed to go for miles. After emerging from one of the longer tunnels, I was stunned to see a valley which was completely unlike the previous scenery. If I hadn’t of known better, I would have sworn I was in the Swiss Alps!
After about three minutes of this breathtaking backdrop, we entered another tunnel, and emerged in a completely industrial mining town. Amazing how quickly the scenery changes in Japan! By this time, the sun was setting, and I was glad I hadn’t taken those few hours to sightsee in the previous town. Nothing worse than arriving to an unknown and potentially confusing place after dark. We pulled into Kanazawa Station around 6 pm, and I was a bit stunned at how large and modern it was. After finding the tourism information center (I try not to rely on such things much, but I have found them indispensably helpful in Japan!), I was pointed in the direction of my hotel. Thankfully it was only a five minute walk from the station! I couldn’t resist setting up my tripod to get a shot of the amazing entrance to the train station.
I was exhausted and extremely relieved to arrive in a hotel lobby that was both tasteful and welcoming. I had a hard time believing such a fancy looking place was only ~$55 a night! Aside from the rooms being about 12 feet by 12 feet, everything was new and immaculate. I hardly remember my head hitting the pillow.