Wednesday, August 11, 2010

August 10: Goodbye Hot Springs, Hello Tokyo

We went to the baths for another hour before breakfast this morning to get all relaxed and limber before our long train ride. It was less busy in the morning and the different baths looked different in the light with their various minerals. The outside bath is particularly blue in the light from the white mineral in the water.

We had the buffet breakfast and finished the last of our packing and had some tea before going down to check out of the hotel. Our friend at the front desk was wearing our Canada pin and was very touched by our gift and he gave us something which turned out to be Hokkaido (the north island where Sapporo, Otaru, and Noboribetsu are located) key chains. Very generous.  We had a water in the lounge and then sauntered down to the bus station. After some confusion we bought some tickets for the bus because apparently this ride was not included with our JR bus passes and you must have to pay to leave like taking the ferry to Saltspring when you just pay to go there but don’t have to pay to leave.

We hopped the bus for the 10 minute or so ride down to the train station. We caught the train to Hakodate without incident (2.5 hours) and then had four minutes to change to a new train in Hakodate. We had a bento box for lunch on the first leg of the journey. From Hakodate we headed to Hachinohe which requires going under the sea by tunnel in the train because Hachinohe is on Honshu the main island. The Seikan tunnel is the longest undersea tunnel in the world (the Chunnel is shorter, but has a longer portion that is actually under the sea bed).

We were perplexed at one point in the journey when people were getting up but not leaving and then they started turning the chairs. It turns out that the train changes direction at this part and so people turn all the chairs to face the new direction. We were separated by the aisle on this train because it is  a busy route. We also had troubled finding a place for our larger suitcase on this one and fortunately no one showed up in the seat beside April so she could put the suitcase there beside her.  This juncture of the journey was four hours. Then we changed to the next train in Hachinohe which we had about eleven minutes to do. We made it  on fine and this next train was fine for stowing luggage. It was a Shikansen (bullet train) which went faster and made fewer stops. We were on this train for three hours. We finally got a bento box about half an hour before getting off. We were very hungry by this point and very thirsty. At the Tokyo station it was a maze of people and tracks but we just went towards the local lines and asked a transit worker how to get to Shinjuku where were staying and he told us the track number and how to get there and we went there and caught it almost right away. A short ten to fifteen minutes and we were at the Shinjuku station where we asked a transit worker where our hotel was. He pointed us in the direction and told us where to turn. We found the Sunroute Plaza Shinjuku hotel with very little difficulty and checked in. There is definitely more English spoken here and we saw plenty for foreigners. We went up to our room which was bigger than the one in Sapporo but naturally not as large as the one in Noboribetsu. The bathroom is larger than both and there is a comfortable bed and large television. The hotel has English translations for many things and had useful amenities like laundry facilities and a humidifier for use from the front desk.

We were very tired from our 11 hour journey and ordered from the room service menu. We had a pizza and Caesar salad. The menu has nothing Japanese on it and is clearly geared towards foreigners. We slept well. 

Pretty scenery
Shinkansen are fast

Enjoying the 10 hour trip

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