The boat from Southern Korea was smooth and fast, crossing the Sea of Japan in just under three hours. It’s my first international crossing on this trip without using an airport. As the Japanese tourist train pass can only be bought outside of Japan, I managed to pick one up in Busan before I left Korea.
I have time concerns, this weekend starts Japan’s ‘golden week’, a busy national holiday. In addition, I have unlimited bullet train travel but only for seven days. It’s also cherry blossom season, and the Japanese are blossom crazy. The news has a blossom report just before the weather.
Like Japan itself, Japan’s rail network is futuristic and also really quaint. It’s funny to see the platform staff bowing to the bullet trains as they pull into the station. The speed of the network has allowed me to hop around Kyushu island and southern Honsu is just two days. I trying not to look lost in public as a helpful conductor will be trying to assist me in less than three seconds.
The train network consists of hyper-fast maglev trains (>350km/hr), and vanilla bullet trains (>300km/hr). Off of the main network you have to settle for just a tilting ‘sonic’ train (>200km/hr). No train I have yet ridden is slower than the fastest train we have in the UK, except mabye the Eurostar.
My first stop was Hiroshima Peace Museum. This is a misleading name, it was jammed full of school kids and anything but peaceful. I gave the Peace Bell a good ring on the way out.
Last night I visited rural Japan looking for Aso Volcano. I arrived three hours late, as an earthquake had damaged the train tracks (alas, even Japanese timetables arn’t earthquake proof). I was worried I would need to spend the night in a Pachinko casino; luckily my host was awake to check me in.
On the hike to the volcano my luck didn’t look good, it’s classed as ‘semi active’ and a eruption last year had destroyed both cable cars. I managed to get within a kilometre of the crater before the signs turned me around. Walking around on fresh ash was an experience, it’a just a shame I didn’t get a pic of the sulphur lake.
Next stop, Tokyo (with a few detours).