kevin_standlee: (Bullet Train)
As those of you following me for a long time may know, back in 2007 after the Yokohama Worldcon, Lisa and I spent two weeks traveling around Japan, and among the things we did was the Seikan Tunnel Tour. This is one of the things I would have included in a "Ten Things I've Done That You Probably Haven't" meme had I decided to try and create one. ([livejournal.com profile] travelswithkuma would have to have been an exception, of course.) While looking this up, I find that the Tappi-Kaitei Station (World's Deepest) is slated to close, along with the museum, when the Hokkaidō Shinkansen is completed in 2015. So if you have a hankering to see this unique piece of railroad tunnel construction — probably the last big tunnel to ever be constructed by the traditional shield-tunneling method — you have only a few years left to make the trip.

Hint: If you want to do this trip, stay in Aomori the night before and take your bags with you to continue on to Hakodate or Sapporo. The only trains that stop here are northbound (Aomori to Hakodate), so if you intend to go back to Aomori or points south, you have to ride north and then back the other way. It's more efficient to just keep going northward, and had we realized this on our trip, I think we would have gone on to Sapporo to spend the night there and have at least part of a day there rather than the mere hour we had changing trains. Tappi-Kaitei station's only active purpose is as a gateway to the tunnel tour (it's also an emergency-evacuation station for the tunnel), and there are luggage cages where you can store your stuff after you arrive so you don't have to lug it around with you on the tour.
kevin_standlee: (Manga Kevin)
Thanks to Lisa'a friend Scott for passing on this picture of a malfunctioning JR train -- at least, one of the comments says that it's a Chou-Sobu line train, which means there's a chance Lisa and I rode on it during our Japan trip when we went to Chiba, where we stopped and rode the monorail, then went on to Choshi and the Choshi Electric Railway.

I've been on a moving train that had a window blow out while in transit, which was rather scary. The problem shown actually might not be all that bad, since passengers would realize there was a problem and avoid it. And I've been on open platforms of moving trains and have even leaned out from open "dutch doors" on steam excursions. (I recommend goggles for that one.)
kevin_standlee: (Bullet Train)
Briefly checking in from PDX here... While I was at OAK, I got a call from the Fremont Argus telling me that they wanted to use my letter, but it's too long -- there's a 200-word limit. So I talked to one of their people and we managed to trim enough words to bring it under spec. We dropped the "15 minute stops" paragraph entirely (as I expected; it's annoying but not part of the central argument) and one sentence elsewhere, and it fits. I reckon it may be in Saturday's paper or maybe a little later. I won't get the paper copy, of course, because I'm in Oregon, but I'll see it online.
kevin_standlee: (Default)
Boarding for our flight begins in about fifteen minutes, so I will be shortly shutting down here. As we'll be going back to Mehama from PDX after we arrive Tuesday morning (it's Tuesday afternoon here in Japan as I type this), I may not get back on line until Wednesday morning Oregon time, the internet access being at my father-in-law's house across the property, and Lisa and I maybe feeling a little wrung-out by the time we get home.
kevin_standlee: (Manga Kevin)
As requested, we got over to the airport more than three hours early. Flying World Business Class means we get the priority check-in area, and only the minimum necessary wait time. Here at Narita, there are procedures that I'd never encountered before. To enter the airport complex, you must show your passport, whether coming by road (like in a shuttle bus) or by train. Good thing I realized that before storing my luggage containing my passport; I made sure to take it with me on our day trip to Chiba yesterday. At check-in, they do an initial x-ray screening of luggage before the check-in desk, as well as an additional one later.

After the usual formalities at check-in -- minor confusion due to the odd-looking list of flights on this reservation number that includes the three legs from which we were bumped and the new flight today -- we went to secondary screening. Being so early and coming at a time when there were no banks of flights immediately due, we had no big rush or pressure, which I appreciate greatly. Then it was downstairs to immigration, where Lisa turned in the slip for the one item of duty-free electronics we purchased. (Pity that Kato doesn't do duty-free sales; it would have saved a fair bit of yen.) Then Immigration processed our departure cards and we could put away our passports until Portland.

We briefly looked at the duty free shops full of stuff we would never want to buy, like liquor, cigarettes, and perfume. And for that matter, why are there luggage stores post-check-in, where they will do you no good at all? Instead, we fell victim to a gewgaw shop, where I bought yet more souvenirs, with the hope that I can get something for everyone, even if it's relatively minor. I bought a nice sake serving set for my VP in appreciation for him letting me take so much time off at once.

Then it was into the NWA WorldClub. As advertised, this is a pretty nice club, with lots of food -- and not just crackers and pretzels -- a lot of space, plenty of computer connections, and even showers if we needed them, which we did not because of the pleasant timing. We settled in for a while. Our flight is at 1520, and boarding apparently begins around an hour before the flight itself, with last call at 1450, so we have around another hour here on the ground at Narita before we leave.

Moving Out

Sep. 18th, 2007 10:35 am
kevin_standlee: (Default)
We've had way too much to eat at the breakfast buffet, so we're finishing packing and will go for a walk for half an hour or so before checking out and taking our mountain of luggage with us down to the shuttle bus for the airport. We should be at the airport about three hours early, so it's likely I'll get one more chance to check in from the WorldClub before our flight.

Nice Night

Sep. 18th, 2007 08:54 am
kevin_standlee: (Kevin Talking)
Originally our plans called for us to fly NRT-HNL-SEA-PDX starting last night, arriving just before midnight after a marathon series of flights and spending the night at the PDX Sheraton. Now we'll be flying directly and arriving 0805 -- about eight hours after we were originally scheduled to arrive. I've canceled the hotel reservation (thank goodness for the internet!), and we'll just collect my van from my co-worker in Vancouver and drive back to Mehama. And this room at the Radisson Narita was indeed very nice. The bed was probably the most comfortable of the entire stay, and I felt better when I got up than I think I have the whole trip.

All in all, this bonus 21st night in Japan was a real winner. Now to get dressed and go take advantage of the free breakfast before taking the 11:30 shuttle over to Narita and check in for our direct flight to Portland.

I'm trying to avoid feeling smug, lest Murphy strike me down for my presumption. Possibly we've made so many sacrifices to him that he smiled upon us and sent some good luck. And it makes me smile to think of the people who had a coach reservation on the Northwest flight last night but no seat assignment who, when they turned up at Narita, were told, "We've upgraded you to World Business Class; enjoy your flight to Hawaii."
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
I've posted a back-dated entry about our trip to Chiba to ride the monorail there today and about wringing as much value out of the Japan Rail Pass as we possibly could. It's just gone Midnight here, so our three weeks of train travel are now officially over. Of course, originally we would have been part-way across the Pacific by now, but instead we're laid up in the hotel here taking it easy before going to bed. And we do have to be up early enough in the morning to get cleaned up and take advantage of the included breakfast before being out of here for the 11:30 shuttle back to Narita Airport.

All in all, I'm amused that Northwest ended up putting us on the flight we wanted to take in the first place but which they wouldn't give us due to their policy on frequent-flyer mileage use.
kevin_standlee: (Default)
When Lisa and I arrived to check in for our 20:55 flight this evening (having arrived 2 1/2 hours early), they asked for volunteers to be bumped. I reckoned that I could, at worst, just take another day off from work and they'd understand, and asked for more details. They said there was nothing tonight on which they could send us as an alternative. I said, "That's okay, as long as you send us tomorrow and put us on comparable seats and put us in a hotel tonight."

They looked around for a while and noticed that our ultimate destination is Portland, Oregon. They offered to fly us out tomorrow on direct flight to PDX, with a pair of World Business Class seats, put us up in the Radisson Narita, provide dinner tonight and breakfast tomorrow, and give me an $800 Northwest travel voucher. (It's actually 2 * $400, but Lisa doesn't fly much so they made it out to me as a single voucher.) We said, "Sold." In exchange for flying out the following afternoon, we will actually arrive in Portland only about eight hours later than originally scheduled, thanks to not having to do the double-connect thing through HNL and SEA.

Now, it took a little while for them to do the paperwork, and Lisa was starting to show signs of strain, as was I, but eventually it got done. Unfortunately, we had to wait most of an hour for the next shuttle for the 20-minute ride out to the hotel. On the brighter side, instead of a "contractual obligation" airline-crew room, we got upgraded to what I consider a mini-suite -- a room that would be fairly spacious in the USA, let alone Japan. (Lisa has found some faults with it, however, and notes that it's really designed for a single person, despite the king-sized bed.)

Now I need to cancel my hotel reservation at PDX and let my co-worker in Oregon know that I won't be back until the morning after we originally expected. Then we need to pop down to the nearby konbini -- which unlike last night, isn't a bus ride away -- and lay in a bit of stuff that the hotel doesn't provide but Lisa and I want, like milk.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
After checking out of the Holiday Inn, we took our bags over to Narita and put them in storage for the day. Then we caught a Narita Rapid train (Green car available, unreserved) out to Chiba, eating our bento boxes and finally getting to see the Narita Airport railway line in daylight. At Chiba, we boarded the Chiba Monorail, buying a minimum JPY190 ticket each.

We boarded the first Line 2 train that arrived, rode it to the end of the line, then back to the other end, then back to Chiba, where we changed to the Line 1 train and rode out to the end of its (much longer) line and back. Lisa shot vast amounts of video, mostly high-res stuff, and burned through the rest of her batteries and mostly ran out of memory sticks. Along with what's on my PC and all seven memory sticks, she's shot more than 40GB of video during this trip. Editing it into usable form looks to be a winter project.

To economize, we changed lines again and rode one stop out Line 2 before exiting the system and walking the 500m back to Chiba Station. Although we were inside the system for about two hours, exiting where we did meant we were charged only the minimum system fare.

The Osaka Monorail is a SAFEGE type, one of only a few of the French-designed underslung monorails ever built. Because of how it's suspended, you somewhat get the feeling that you are flying over the city at about 20 m AGL or so. It's pretty cool, and no amusement-park ride, as shown by how packed our train was as we headed back toward Chiba Station around 1630 or thereabouts. It's a serious piece of transportation in a country that has to move a whole lot of people efficiently.

I composed this message originally (handwritten) on the 1720 Airport Rapid to Narita Airport from Chiba. Our green car emptied out in Chiba's suburbs, and we ended up with a private car (or part of a car -- the green cars on this train are double-deck between the trucks, and we have the upper deck to ourselves) for our final ride on JR during our trip to Japan.

It would be difficult to work out how much we saved over individual fares for the travel we've done these past three weeks, but we think it must have been substantial. Of cours, part of that was that because we had already bought the passes, we had every incentive to use them as much as possible, whether it was a Shinkansen from Tokyo to Hachinohe, the Kamome from Hakata to Nagasaki, or just hopping on the Tokyo loop line for one stop because the station udon was better there than at Shinagawa.

Lisa, who handled our reservations, pointed out to me as I read the above back to her that in some cases, the only reason we got a seat was because we had Green cards, because there were only green seats available. Although not all trains had green cars, if you're going cross country the way we did, I'd have to say that the green card was well worth the difference in price.

It's going to be very difficult to go back to a country with a third-world transportation system.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
I have now posted back-dated entries about our day out to Choshi. I will shortly be shutting down the computer here and packing up before we haul out stuff to Narita, and then take a train back to Chiba, where we plan to ride the monorail there and have lunch before returning to Narita for our evening flight back to the USA.
kevin_standlee: (Manga Kevin)
Have made it to the Holiday Inn Narita Airport, after a long day playing with trains in the Japanese countryside. I will post back-dated entries about it later, but wanted to check in right now from the hotel once I got the internet working.

I turned in my rented phone. Like it seems everyone else who rented phones from G-Phone, the people at the desk had no idea about the deal offered to us with no minimum usage charge. (This despite the fact that there is a prominent sign at their desk announcing that this is where Nippon 2007 members can turn in their mobile phones.) It's only about a $30 difference in what I'll pay, but it's the principle of the thing. They say they'll investigate and let me know later what goes on. But anyway, that's one less thing I have to do tomorrow before my flight, which isn't until late in the evening anyway.

The luggage I had delay-shipped from Yokohama was waiting for me when we arrived, which was a great relief.

This hotel is the most Western-style in which we've stayed, which means the room is spacious and you can't do anything without having a car. It's so isolated that the hotel runs a one-shot shuttle bus to a local convenience store at 22:00 (only), waits for you ten minutes at the konbini, and takes you back to the hotel. We're booked for the shuttle ourselves. I think that we're going to miss having 24-hour convenience stores practically on our doorstep.

For anyone trying to contact me, I expect to be at this hotel until maybe Monday, September 17, 1200 local time at the latest, but then to be without internet access except maybe in the Northwest WorldClub or equivalent in Narita Airport and at Honolulu until we get to Portland, which won't be until around Midnight that same day local time in Oregon. Bleah. In other words, expect contact with me to be sporadic until you see otherwise from me here.
kevin_standlee: (Wig Wag)
After our local train rolled in to Choshi on time and after a brief stop at the restrooms at the JR station, we went down to the end of the platform on which we'd arrived, where stands the tiny station and single car of the Choshi Dentetsu [Electric Railway]. It seemed like a significant number of the people off of our eight-car commuter train were trying to fit into the single car of the little electric line. We bought a couple of day passes (JPY620 each) to give us the flexibility to get on and off as we chose, and squeezed aboard the little electric car.

This railroad is in chronic financial trouble. Lisa observed that if the line ran this full every day, rather than just on Sundays, they wouldn't have to worry about money. We bounced and jostled our way down the 6.4 km, ten-station, mostly single-track railway to the end of the line at Tokawa, where stood one of the most dilapidated train stations I've ever seen. Yet the station reproduced in miniature many of the things we've seen at mainline stations throughout Japan. There was a ticket gate, food service (a couple of vending machines), station information, and even coin lockers (only the little ones).

We could see the sea in the near distance, and at Lisa's suggestion, we walked down to the harbor and looked at the fishing boats and the queue of our fellow passengers at what at the time looked to be the only restaurant in the village (this was not the case, we later found). Fortunately, we were not hungry thanks to having eaten on the train down from Chiba. Having exhausted our interest in the waterfront, we walked back up the hill, passing a man patiently slicing up squid by the side of the street.

Lisa was thirsty, so the first shop we passed that had cold soda in it, she bought one. It looked like the proprietor was running a konbini out of the front room of his house. At the top of the hill, we found a grocery store, which was good because Lisa needed to buy more batteries for the cameras. Our cameras are good, but they go through batteries the way fans go through chocolate. Our timing was good, as the next inbound train to Tokawa was arriving as we got back to the station, giving Lisa a good shot at recording it. After a short layover (trains run three times an hour or so), it headed back, with us aboard.

We rode only one stop this time, to the line's main station at Inoboh, where they have their gift shop, restaurant, and other things to occupy your time. (See this link for someone else's video of one of the line's cars -- not in service the day we rode -- arriving at a much-less crowded Inoboh station.) Had we enough time, we could have gone out to the lighthouse that is one of the area's attractions; however, we did not have that time, and contented ourselves with exploring the gift shop and buying souvenirs. Our day passes included one free rice cake. Apparently sales of the rice cakes and other confections are (barely) propping up this railway line's finances. The crackers have an interesting taste, but not one Lisa cared for that much.

After exhausting our interest (and wallets) here, we caught the next train heading back toward Choshi. Due to the large numbers of people on the line today, they were now double-heading one of their trains, and we hopped aboard the trailing car, which was being towed by the car we'd came out on originally. (Actually, it's unclear whether the car was being towed or if the two were simply coupled together and being operated individually, a la steam train double-headers.)

This time, we rode to first stop out from the line's origin at Choshi, that being Nakanocho, the line's shops. We spent a few minutes exploring the line's yard and shops -- they let people wander around and take photos, giving it the air of the Oregon Electric Railway Museum to us. I wanted to buy the commemorative pin set, but they were sold out, so I settled for yet another key ring. The double-headed train came back through, and we got to see them cut out the second car and take it out of service, passenger loads having subsided sufficiently to do so.

Finally, we boarded yet another car -- we managed to ride all four cars that were in service on the line today -- for the 500 meter ride back to Choshi. Here we had roughly an hour to explore the area near Choshi station before the Limited Express Shioshi #14 was scheduled to leave for Chiba. (A couple of local trains came and went while we were around.) We walked a few blocks out and back from the station and picked up some take-out food for the return trip. Unlike the morning express out to Choshi on which we were unable to get a seat, this train seemed mostly empty, and only a handful of people were in the Green car.

The relatively luxurious limited, with transverse seats, fold-down (albeit unstable and tippy) tray tables, was a great contrast to the local commuter train on which we'd come to Choshi. Of course it doesn't run as often, and it makes fewer stops, and covers the distance back to Choshi much more quickly.

We had a great time at the Choshi Dentetsu. While it imitates mainline railways in miniature, what it really evoked to me was the classic interurban railway (except for the lack of street running), with its bumpy track, slow speeds, un-airconditioned cars, and tiny stations. It also got us out into the Japanese countryside, away from the big cities, which people have been insisting that we should do at least once on this trip. In the end, we missed some of the "big name" attractions in Japan, but have seen other things that we thought were at least as interesting, if not more so.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
The local train to the end of the JR line at Choshi is definitely an all-stops service. The first stop seemed to me to be as close to Chiba station as Montgomery Street station on BART is to Powell Street -- about two or three train lengths. Fortunately, the subsequent stops are a little bit more separated than that. Unlike the limiteds, Shinkansens, and suchlike that we've mostly been patronizing, this is clearly a high-capacity, low-frills service intended for lots of people standing, much like the local loop line trains in Tokyo. Seats are longitudinal (down the length of the train), not transverse (across the width), and there's lots of standing space and strap handles for standees. Today was quiet and everyone got a seat, and only about half the space in our car was filled.

It takes nearly two hours to get to Chiba, through some pretty semi-rural areas, punctuated by small towns, farms, and the seemingly inevitable pachinko palace. We weren't the only people digging in to our bento boxes as the train rolled through the Japanese countryside. It looks to me like people who can afford it must be moving out here and commuting to jobs in the Tokyo area, which is feasible given the good transport.

The only drawbacks to riding on this service is that in the commuter-type seating you don't have tray tables or anywhere to put things while you're eating, and also while the air conditioning on the train is good, with three doors per side, all of the cold air leaks out at each station stop and you have to start over again.

After eating my lunch, I watched the land roll by, dozing from time to time with the rocking of the train. Even Lisa, who doesn't sleep well at all on any form of transport sitting up, napped a little bit.
kevin_standlee: (Kevin and Lisa)
We were out of the hotel by 0800, and after a routine and quick check-out, we rolled across the street to Shinagawa Station. There we decided to go ahead and get up to Tokyo before making seat reservations for the limited express train from Tokyo to Choshi. This may have been a mistake, but it's hard to tell. We popped down to the Loop Line and caught the next train up to Tokyo Central, but then -- thanks to our unfamiliarity with the station -- exited the wrong gate and had to go back in the same gate we exited after Lisa had a session with the only groundside reservation agent at that gate. She said he talked like he had marbles in his mouth and she could only barely understand him, but that it appeared that the train we wanted had no more seats, green or otherwise, available to reserve. He did, for some reason, go ahead and book us reservations on the return train from Choshi to Tokyo and a Narita Express from Tokyo to Narita Airport that evening.

Heading into the station core, we went to one of the larger reservation counters, where Lisa found a female agent she could understand better. (Lisa says she can understand women speaking Japanese much better than men.) She worked out that while the limited express was sold out, the local all-stops train is unreserved and would still get us out to Choshi with a few hours to do what we wanted. Furthermore, we could get on an "Airport Rapid" train to Chiba, then come back from Choshi only as far as Chiba before taking the Narita Express to the airport (and thus on to our hotel by shuttle bus). This was overall a better deal for us, because it meant we could go store our luggage at Chiba rather than at Tokyo, saving us around two hours of back-and-forthing to retrieve it. So Lisa booked the tickets and we hied our way down to Chiba.

Exiting the Chiba station, we looked for lockers. Good news: Several of the large lockers were available. Bad news: while internally they were large enough to hold my bag, the doors were too narrow for the bag to fit into the locker. I had to partially unpack my bag to get it to compress thinly enough to fit through the door. The ten minutes or so we spent fussing over luggage meant that we couldn't even try to get on that limited express train to Choshi (it had been gaining on us from Tokyo). That train has unreserved standard seats as well as reserved and Green cars, and we might have been able to grab a couple of seats, but we'll never know.

Anyway, with 40 minutes or so to kill before the local to Choshi, we went looking for breakfast. However, we were unable to find much close and convenient to Chiba, so instead we grabbed a couple of breakfast pasteries from a cafe next to the station and then bought bento boxes, rice, and drinks from stores in the station, and headed up to the platform for the nearly 2-hour slog to Choshi.
kevin_standlee: (Conrunner Kevin)
While wrestling our luggage on and off the Cassiopeia a few days ago, it dawned on me that what we should have done is taken out of our respective bags just what we needed for the night on the train and then had the hotel ship our bags down to the Shinagawa Prince Hotel here in Tokyo, where they would be waiting for us when we got there. We're used to thinking in American terms, where convenient luggage-delivery services don't exist. And as far as having oversize luggage on the train goes, an Amtrak overnight train has an area on each car where you can store the big bags while you only carry the small ones up to your room.

Ah, well, like many of the things on this trip, this is something we'd do better if we were doing the trip again someday.

Speaking of luggage, we have to do some shuffling today if we want to not be loaded down with luggage. If we knew that the train station in Chioshi had the large-size lockers -- one of my bags won't fit anything smaller -- we could take our stuff out there on the limited express we expect to take this morning. Because we do not know this and don't want to get stuck in a bind, we'll instead take our luggage the short distance up to Tokyo station, store them there, then take the limited express to Chioshi and spend the day exploring that area and its quirky local train, then come back to Tokyo on another limited express, get our bags, and return to Narita and our hotel nearby. Fortunately, we can sleep in tomorrow.
kevin_standlee: (Manga Kevin)
While looking around Toyota's "Megaweb" auto exhibits on Odaiba Island on Friday, we encountered their test track for their little two-person electric commuter car. For JPY200 per person, you could ride around their test track in the car. The car steers itself; you don't do anything other than press the start button. After the ride, we stepped out and I climbed into a static model nearby for a photo opportunity (shown behind the cut).

How hard do you have to pedal this thing to get it started? )

Later, I noted that Toyota are really clever. They've managed to set up an exhibit where people pay them to test-drive their vehicles.

I will add, however, that this little car is surprisingly comfortable, even for a big guy like me. Assuming it had sufficient acceleration and top speed, I could easily see using something like this for commuting to work (50 miles/80 km round trip) or for short trips around town. I certainly wouldn't want to take a cross-country trip in it, though.
kevin_standlee: (Wig Wag)
Having decided to leave the main tourist areas of Tokyo and instead look at the oddball stuff, we set off this morning about 10:30 to look for the Arakawa Tram Line.

Natter about trains and trams )

Back in the hotel room after something like ten or eleven hours of trooping around Tokyo, we put together plans for tomorrow. In order to have any reasonable amount of time to explore the oddball little electric railway out at Choshi and not have to spend an inordinate amount of time on a commuter train getting there, we need to be on a 9:40 AM train out of Tokyo, plus allow enough time at Tokyo station to find a couple of JPY600 (large) lockers for our luggage. Looks like we'll be wringing lots more value from the rail passes tomorrow as we go from Tokyo to Chioshi to Tokyo to Narita, probably not getting to our hotel in which we're spending our last night in Japan until after 2130 or thereabouts.
kevin_standlee: (Manga Kevin)
Having been warned that Tokyo Tower is probably not worth the time, cost, and aggravation, we're considering other things of a more obscure nature to do today, such as riding the Arakawa Streetcar Line, Tokyo's sole remaining tram line. So I guess the danger of giant monsters attacking Tokyo or mystic storms zapping the tower and turning us into magical girls is significantly reduced.
kevin_standlee: (Formula 1)
[Photos referenced here are in my Flikr albums and have had no work done to them."]

This was our first full day in Tokyo, but in fact we haven't really made any plans to speak of, so we sort of decided to go see what we could do in the way of interesting transit and trains in the area. We rode the loop line up to Yurakucho to find the Tourism office shown on our map, but before we could go there, Lisa got distracted by an electronics store and ended up buying more camera memory. I slowed things down by noticing after she had bought it that purchases of more than JPY10000 could be made duty free, so we spent time fussing around with the paperwork to get that fixed before going to the Tourism office, which was mostly a bust other than to find a few English-language maps.

After that, we went to Shimbashi Station, examined the steam locomotive on display in the square to the east of the station, and walked over to Old Shimbashi Station, a reproduction on the spot of the original station by that name. Those of you who were at Worldcon who had JR passes with you may have noticed that there was a JR station down beyond the Landmark Tower. Japan's first rail line ran between that station and Shimbashi, some 29 km. The Shimbashi area has been turned into a bunch of office buildings on the site of the former rail yard, but they've preserved some of the old station excavated during construction, and re-located the line's Milepost 0 to its historical location, which is where we took the photos.

Turning from the old to the new, we rode the Yurikamome Line over to Odaiba and somewhat randomly got out to look at things. We ended up riding the big (115 m) Ferris wheel, but the most interesting thing may have been Toyota's Formula 1 exhibit. The driving simulator was for a touring car racer, so we skipped that, and unfortunately the exhibit where you can attempt to squeeze yourself into the seat of an F1 car for a photo opportunity was closed, but they had a lot of the parts of a current F1 race car on display with exhibits about how they work, including the vastly expensive steering wheel and the absurdly powerful-for-its-size engine.

After a late lunch at one of the many places in the Odaiba area, we rode the Yurikamome line back across to Takeshiba, where we walked to Hamamatsuchō, where we boarded the Tokyo Monorail out toward Haneda Airport. Not wanting to pay full fare twice for what was just an out-and-back excursion, and not wanting to risk falling into the clutches of Airport Security, we got out just before the Airport, went around to the other platform, took some pictures on Lisa's camera, and then rode back in, getting off at Tennōzu Isle station, which was around a kilometer or so from Shinegawa. This meant we only had to pay the minimum fare, as we entered and exited only one station apart.

Back at Shinegawa, we bought stuff for dinner in the room tonight and breakfast tomorrow morning, because we were too tired and footsore from all the walking to go out for dinner again.

It takes us a long time to get anything done here because, everything being new, we're gawking around like the tourists from the backwoods that we are. And we're already pretty tired, so I shouldn't expect to get much done. But I keep hearing voices telling me how much I'm missing. You could take a year trying to explore just Tokyo and not run out of things to do. We've got three days, so we're concentrating on the more oddball rail and transit-related things to do. Above-ground transit and monorails have an advantage in that you can see out while you're traveling.

Saturday's plans aren't particularly firm, but probably include going to the Tokyo Tower and visiting the famous Ginza shopping district for Lisa's benefit. I reckon I need to keep a running total to make sure we don't run over our $1600 duty-free allowance.

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