Shinkansen! I met a Japanese traveller/staff member (hi Takumi!!) late on last night, and we’d compared notes. He’d been to the UK this year, London and Liverpool, and European mainland, but also travelled though Japan, giving me some useful info along with leaflets on Hiroshima. When I mentioned my train ride and potential destinations we got bogged down in fares, and the pity of not having a JR rail pass for a while before he turned and gave me a grin, commenting on my upcoming journey – “and you get to travel on the Shinkansen!” He was right to emphasise it, it’s a fabulous way to travel.
So I did. The standard tickets had sold out, so I’d paid an extra ¥1000 for the green car-sort of like first class – which was very roomy and very empty with only two other people in it. The train fair whizzes along, and this is the older kodama version which I think must be slower as well as multi-stopping, judging by the extra time it takes. Heading out of Tokyo I noticed it had leant right over; smoothly, like, this isn’t a ******* pendolino. Acceleration and deceleration are also smooth, the latter accompanied by nice shhh noises from the brakes. I snoozed and before I knew it we were at Nagoya and I could stroll.
My sense of direction hasn’t improved by being used more, and I confused myself as to which side of the station I’d come out, not helped by attempting to use the grand hotel as a landmark and there being at least two. I worked it out without walking too far and then, as per the directions found I “can watch our hotel on the left hand side”. There are apparently other hostels in Nagoya, but none that made Hostelworld so I was left with what reviews assured me would be a spot in a hotel room converted to a dorm. The smiley receptionist, though, told me I was the only one so was on my own. I wondered what a large room would be like on my own. When I got to 705, though, I found they had put me in a single room to myself. Hotel rooms can be a bit isolating, but I’m bang up for this – a quiet night, and I’ve the chance to chill out in what looks an unlovely city, and book some of my onward travel.
Hotel Ohsu plaza is right next to the Osukannon temple, itself next to a sprawling district that seems to contain a fusion of mall and flea market. Not the spartan, air conditioned malls elsewhere, more like a British market but with fixed shops. I wandered, discovering as I browsed the running shoe bargains that I am outsize here – I think he even used that word, though it was in isolation rather than a sentence so I may have misheard. Certainly they only have up to uk size 9, though, so I’ll need a better stocked shop to replace my now ageing fast Sauconys.
I ran later, in the dark-the sun falls below the horizon as if someone has cut its strings, on a nice day it can be sunny and glorious at 5.20 and have the sun setting 20 minutes later. As a result, if you lose track of time, you’ll have to run in the dark. Nonetheless it was straightforward to find the castle and the edge of Meijo park. The park is apparently lovely, but I skirted the edge in the dark and rain, sticking to the paths, many tree shaded/protected, doing three laps before heading back to another lap of the smaller park in which the science museum sits and then back.
My evening took in dinner from the local 7-11, though even shopping there is a pleasure here, with the cashiers smiley and polite and with a range of foods I have never seen before (though that becomes a little less true as time goes by). A bit of telly, sumo, baseball and some football, and I flaked. Nagoya is nice enough, too many things to see even a few in one day but I’m helped by the fact that Monday is the day many attractions close for a rest after the weekend.
Casino Royale, Ian Fleming.