My parents, sister, and I got up nice and early, had a quick breakfast, and then set out for what would be our longest day of travel. Our goal was to go from Kawasaki to Hiroshima to see the Peace Memorial Museum, then back to Kyoto to set up a day of sightseeing.
My dad is not a fan of crowded trains, but due to the amount of distance we needed to cover we had to get on a busy rush hour train. It was my family’s first time to see the famous train pushers in action. My family stood by in wonder as they watched the uniformed rail staff pushing all of the arms and legs into the crowded train car. We were not looking forward to getting on one of the busy trains with our suitcases.
When we got on the train, I told my dad to stand by the door and look out the window. This way he could attempt to ignore the crushing crowds of people behind him. The technique worked, but he was still happy that it wasn’t a longer train ride.
We took Odakyu line from Noborito to Machida. At Machida we switched to Yokohama line bound for Shin-Yokohama. Yokohama station serves 11 different train lines, but not the shinkansen (bullet train). For that you need to leave from Shin-Yokohama station. Fun fact: when Shin-Yokohama station was built in 1964, it was in a rural area. It is now completely surrounded by city.
The Tokaido Shinkansen offers three different trains; the Kodama, the Hikari, and the Nozomi. The Kodama stops at every station along the way. It also features the most amount of unreserved seats. The Hikari stops at fewer stations and has fewer unreserved seats available. The Nozomi only stops at the biggest stations, and has very few unreserved seats. My family was using JR rail passes, which allow for free reserved seats on everything but the Nozomi. Since I live in Japan, I am ineligible for a JR rail pass. My parents generously treated me to all of my train fare.
Traveling on the shinkansen is one of the coolest things about Japan. The electric trains are quiet, comfortable, and blast through the countryside at over 250km/h (150mph). The seats have more than ample leg room, which is convenient if you are bringing luggage. All of the announcements are in Japanese and English, and there are vending machines, pay phones and washrooms available at the ends of the cars. Shinkansen is truly the best way to travel long distances in Japan.
On the way I showed my parents my cell phone. Phone technology in Japan is at least 6 months ahead of Canada. My mom was very impressed that she could use my phone to send an email to one of her friends.
We arrived in Hiroshima just before 1:30pm. In the five and a half hours since we left Noborito, we had traveled about 900km (560 miles). This is even more impressive when you consider our half our stop in Shin-Osaka to switch trains.
One of the best things about visiting a new place is that even the most mundane things like public transportation become an adventure. For my family and I, our train trip was the most fun we ever had traveling for 5 hours.
(2014 Update) My phone at the time was a flip phone with a camera that could take pictures 120 pixels x 120 pixels. I could send emails and browse a very limited Vodafone network. I could send texts or emails using the letters on my 0-9 keys. It was primitive by today’s standards, but better than most people’s phones in Canada at the time.