Let’s start with this visual:
And then let’s move to this scene:
Do I have your attention now? I was going to go with a quirky, indie-feel Trainspotting reference but that’s been overdone waaay too much. Let’s go with abs and shoulders and a lot of grunting!
In my darkest, deepest dreams and fantasies, I wish that our trip was even remotely close to what this looks like. However, reality (and the non-science fiction world) is a tad bit more vanilla than that. Not even any shady Japanese characters surrounding us – well, there was one.
When taking the Shinkansen – you have two options. The first is the express that goes straight from Osaka to Tokyo. Not only is it more convenient but so much faster than the Limited Express. And I thought the Limited Express was already going pretty darn fast, I think. I’m thinking Wolverine took the express.
She may look weird at the moment of taking this photo but you gotta admit, monopod-taken photos are awesomer than the typical ones where half your cheek is taking up the photo.
Once you have the ticket, you have to figure out which timed train you were gonna take. It’s not like you can just jump on the next immediate one. You have to figure out which platform to board the shinkansen. On your ticket says the car number followed by the row and seat number. Our party was divided into 4 different cars and it was so weird that although the Happy Meal and I were in the same car, we were given seats that were 2 rows apart.
The Bathroom Car
It shows you on Japanese culture and tradition. Even in the highest form of technology and mass transit system, they still have a traditional Japanese squat-down toilet. I’ve got to give them props but I think I won’t go “When In Rome” on this part. Western toilets for this girl!
I love that the food tray in front of you gives you directions to everything: the food cart, crew areas, bathrooms. I was told that you didn’t have to go to the food car and that there was a mobile cart that roamed the aisles – similar to an airplane setup. My growling and then hyperacidic stomach waited and waited. There were no such food carts. And at the time, I couldn’t very well get up and go because I had a 4 year old who just fell into one of her elusive naps. That was more important than food.
The Shin-Osaka station is very big, very complicated and very “shin” (“new”). If it were just us doing a DIY on the trip, we would’ve taken an additional 5 minutes just to figure out what to do and where to go. This was a major stop and there were hoards of people just rushing along. Before you could even make your elevator pitch to someone on how to get around the station, they’ve already gone through the turnstile and have boarded the next immediate Shinkansen bound for Tokyo.
When you finally manage to get on the Shinkansen, luxuriate. The cars are temperature controlled, the leg room is outstanding. We had enough leg room to have our trolley bag in front of me and wasn’t cramped at all. There were places to hang stuff and there were overhead storage areas.
The movement in the Shinkansen was dismissible itself. A ride in Manila’s MRT was like going off roading in a Volkswagen bug. The smoothness of the ride inside the car seemed like a totally different universe looking out into the expansive landscape views of provincial Japan. Everything outside was silently whirring by, flashing through our window. That was the closest to a superhero feeling that we could ever get.
It was halfway into our trip that the car finally filled up and it was that time that the (semi) shady Japanese character arrived. None of the Marvel Universe dark energy around them, just someone who was truly unpleasant. I sat on the aisle seat while the window seat stayed empty until a Japanese business man got on. I had a sleeping toddler on my lap and a small trolley in front of me as there wasn’t any other place to put it in. Said Japanese man forced himself between me and our trolley bag and just settled himself into the chair. Not a single for-the-sake-of-manners “excuse me” or “I’m sorry.” Geez, come to think of it, not even an empathetic half-a-second look.
My theory is that he hates tourists or he’s just not a nice person at all. And although generally, most of the people I have encountered were fairly nice, the “business” people were generally the typical “rude Japanese” we encountered. They are the ones who never brought up their face to look at another’s. They have no consideration for children or women. And they just plainly have no manners at all. They move around like nothing around them matters. And this is not just stemming from this particular incident in the Shinkansen, I’ve noticed this throughout our week-long journey.
It goes without saying people in the hospitality industry were always willing to lend a hand but also, I found out that people who worked in convenience stores, tiny little fruit and vegetable shop keepers, tiny food stall owners and mobile ice cream vendors were the nicest people I have ever encountered. Maybe because the bulk of the country’s superpower economy didn’t rest on their shoulders.
We were on the right side of the train and I knew that Mt. Fuji would be coming up on the left side. For the entirely of the trip, I took glimpses to the left, hoping to get a far away glimpse of it. It was only after we went into a long tunnel through a mountain or hill that we emerged on the other side blessed with a spectacular view of Mr. Fuji.
It was nothing that I could ever prepare for. It was postcard perfect. Like, someone gingerly placed a perfectly cone-shaped mountain, with the perfect looking snow cap to go with it. Seeing it from a tiny section off of someone’s tiny window on the other side of the car may not sound like it doesn’t exude the dramatic feeling, but it did.
It was very hard to miss your stop – there were announcements in English and Japanese . There were ample amounts of signs that even showed which stations were coming up. Anyway, when the Shin-Fuji station came up, we made our way out of the Shinkansen and as the cool spring breeze blew right threw me and the Happy Meal, I kept my eyes on the snow-capped mountain. It felt unreal.
Before we were pushed around by our tour guides and the rest of our 70-something person group, I took 3 seconds to take a photo of it. Little did I know that it would only be one of the couple of times I would see Mt. Fuji in its full beauty.
The rest of the time, Fuji was playing striptease with us.
Stepping out of the station, taking one big swig of fresh air, we stepped onto the tour bus.
Maybe I should’ve looked back on the Shinkansen, maybe Hugh Jackman was there gripping fordear life. I could’ve been an X-Men.
holler to filmapia.com for the wolverine photo