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Uluru Adventures

24 04 2011

Term 1 School holidays: Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park, Kings Canyon, West MacDonnell ranges, Alice Springs. Almost 5000km covered in a week.





Local trains to Kyoto

30 03 2010

We had 2 trips on our seishun 18 kippu left so we embarked on another 8 hour local train journey from Tokyo to Kyoto. The highlight was seeing Mt Fuji from the train when it stopped at Fuji station.

Snow-capped Mt Fuji from the train window near Fuji station.





The overnight train to Sapporo

13 02 2010

On the road again! This time we were headed to Sapporo, Hokkaido for the annual Yuki Matsuri (Snow Festival). Sapporo is 1054km away from Tokyo (about twice the distance of Kyoto to Tokyo), so the local train was out of the question given than we only had 5 days of holidays. So we booked the express overnight train from Tokyo to Sapporo that takes 16 hours. There are two overnight trains, the luxury Cassiopeia (named after the constellation), and the Hokutosei (also named after a constellation, the big dipper). We booked into a duet berth on the Hokutosei, leaving Ueno around 7pm and getting into Sapporo at 11.15am the next day.

We ate soup from a thermos for dinner on the train and drank chai. We had special JR yukatas to wear in the cabin and to bed. The beds were quite comfortable, although it got hot in the cabin (surprisingly, since outside it was snowing). Overall, it was a fairly pleasant way to travel the long distance- not that much cheaper than a flight, although more convenient to arrive in the morning and be able to walk straight into town from the train station.





Matsumoto-jo

7 01 2010

On our epic local train journey home from Hakuba to Kisarazu we stopped off at Matsumoto to visit the famous Matsumoto-jo.

While I was disappointed that it wasn’t covered in snow like every building was in Hakuba, we were still able to enjoy the pigeon-mountain on top of the castle.

Looking across the inner moat at Matsumoto-jo.





Returning home to Chiba-ken

18 08 2009

Today we had a really long train journey ahead of us. With the help of the hyperpia website we planned our transfers – most were only a few minutes long and not even enough time for a toilet stop.

We went from Uzumasa to Kyoto, Kyoto to Maibara then Ogaki, Toyohashi, Hamamatsu, Okitsu, Atami, Kawasaki and to Tachikawa. Perhaps because it was the end of O-bon the trains were extra busy with people returning home. On some stretches we didn’t even get seats and had to stand up with our luggage. It made for a tiring day, even if the trains were air-conditioned. It was just as well we had packed our bento the night before otherwise we wouldn’t have had time to buy any food for lunch without missing a transfer. We bought an eigo no shinbun (English newspaper, The Japan Times) and read it on the train then did the crossword together on the way home to Kisarazu.

We went a little out of our way to Tachikawa, to the west of Tokyo, as there was a vegetarian taiwanese/chinese place in the station building, Chein Fu. We had tried to go to the Nagoyan branch but it had closed. We were looking forward to dinner and it was fairly good. We had wontons with vegetables, black soybean tofu, cashew and pineapple konyaku ‘prawns’ and guava juice.

Then we still had about 1/5-2 hours on the train to go back to Tokyo, through Soga and onto Kisarazu. Half the people in our carriage had come from Tokyo Disneyland and had Disney popcorn, bags and toys with them. We caught a taxi home from the station as the last bus had already gone. The taxi cost three-quarters of what it cost us to travel by train all the way from Kyoto to Kisarazu. That is, 10 hours of train travel almost 600km cost the same as a 10 minute taxi ride travelling about 5 km. Just goes to show the value for money of the seishun 18 kippu.





Fireworks (hanabi) in Kyoto

7 08 2009

We got up at 7am, had breakfast, made bento, packed our bags, checked out and walked to the station to be on the train by 8.45am. From Hiroshima it was over 6 hours to Kyoto, transferring at Itozaki, Okayama and Aioi. We arrived in Kyoto at 3.30pm. After picking up some maps at the TIC we dropped our bags off at the hostel, went shopping for groceries, made dinner and went out to fireworks at Lake Biwa. It was sooo hot and humid. These summer fireworks (hanabi) were huge – over 10,000 fireworks and 350,000 people. Lots of the girls were in their yukata.

We returned in the throng of people to Kyoto station then returned to the hostel, having an iced chai latte before bed. It was still very hot and humid.

Summer fireworks over Lake Biwa.

Summer fireworks over Lake Biwa.