On one of my most recent trips I have finally fulfilled a dream I had since I was a kid: I travelled on the Shinkansen train in Japan. The super fast trains, also called Bullit Trains, have been in operation for a very long time, I just never had the opportunity to actually ride on one.
The reason I wanted to travel on this train was because when I first saw them on tv in a program about technology and the future, I thought they were sooo cool and futuristic, I just HAD to travel on one some day. Never knew that day would actually happen, be it a bit late.
It was a very short business trip (48 hours on the ground in Japan) so I had planned my trip well in advance. I figured out the train fare (about 18.000 YEN), the schedule, the ferry times and had booked a Japanese family run inn on the island of Miyajima, just off the coast of Hiroshima.
Due to the fact that I have used public transport in Japan before I didn’t have any trouble finding my way around the stations and work my way to the separate Shinkansen section of the station.
I can still hear the almost celestial voice on the PA: “Welcome to Shinkansen. This is the Nozomi Super Express bound for Tokyo.”. Music to my ears.
Due to the hilly surroundings between Fukuoka and Hiroshima most of the Shinkansen track was through tunnels, but I loved the see the Japanese landscape whizz by. Finally sitting in the train I wanted to travel on since I was a kid, now a normality instead of super futuristic, listening to some music on my iPhone.
Riding the Shinkansen wasn’t a goal on itself (like riding the MagLev in Shanghai may be for me), but also a means to get to the island of Miyajima, off the coast of Hiroshima. The plan was to photograph the Otori, which is part of the Itsukushima shrine which makes the entire island a sacred place.
Perhaps you have noticed while browsing my blog that I really like the vermillion gates, or tori in Japanese. During a similarly short stay in Osaka, I went to Kyoto to visit Fushimi-Inari-Taisha to see the torii there. You can read about it in the blog post called ‘The path is long‘.
What makes this tori stand out compared to all the others is that it is built 200 meters into the sea, so that during high tide it seems to float on the water. This landmark is one of the three sites declared ‘Most beautiful sights of Japan’ by the Japanese government. So when I learned I was to travel to Fukuoka, I looked at special places within reach to visit. You can imagine when I saw the images on the internet and learned a bit more about Itsukushima, I just had to go. The fact that by doing so I could also make a childhood dream come true made the whole thing even sweeter!
For someone who sits in airplanes on average 590 hours a year it may surprise you that I’m still not so adventurous as to explore all the places in the world I have to visit for work. So these trips I make in Japan (I am so fascinated by that country and its people!) are also a way for me to get out of my comfort zone.
Everything worked like clockwork! This is rather the norm in Japan! Shinkansen trains for instance depart EXACTLY on time, not even a second late, trust me on that one.
I arrived nicely on time at the inn on Miyajima Island and was made familiar with the inn, some Japanese customs (most of them I already knew from past visits or from research) and information about the small town, where to find what kind of restaurant, their closing times (most as early as 22:00) and quite unexpectedly I was also given a tidal timetable. I had printed one at home but left it in the hotel in Fukuoka.
Off I went to wander around and take some photos, not caring about the non stop rain.
I decided to have an early dinner and go back to the inn to rest a bit and get out of the rain. Also decided that I wouldn’t explore the entire island, even though I would have had the time. I wanted to leave some things to see for the first time with my partner when we plan our trip to Japan together.
Unfortunately the jet lag (I had arrived that morning and not slept on the flight) was getting a bit to me. It took me quite some willpower to not take a nap as I knew I would not wake up until in the middle of the night (like many Japanese inns or Ryokans, mine had a curfew) and not being able to try to make the photo that I came all the way to Myajima for.
This trip was worth it on all imaginable levels!!
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