Monday, January 26, 2009


I went to go partition my hard drive on Friday and in the process, it messed up and nuked all my data. Well, the truth is, I probably could have recovered it, but I was thinking about reinstalling anyways, so I just went ahead and did that.

In the process I was dumb, and a combination of using the first version of Firefox 2 (I don't like Firefox 3), being lazy about installing an antivirus program, and installing a shady file that I shouldn't have, gave me a pretty nasty virus. I was stupid, but after not having a virus for years, I got cocky. I wasted way too much time trying to fix it yesterday and decided that I'm just going to re-reinstall.

On the plus side, before I partitioned I was smart and backed up everything except for a few processed pictures, which since I have the originals, it's not that big of a deal.

Anyways, my posts will be a bit slow as I need to reinstall a ton of programs to get back to normal. So, as always, thanks for reading and I hope you don't hate me for the delay.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

First day of the trip.

I heard about 18 きっぷ (or 18 ticket), which gives unlimited usage of local JR trains for 5 days for a low fee of 11,500 (about $125 at today's rate).  I can use a ticket any day and ride as many trains as I wanted for essentially $25 a day.  I could have used this to see the sights around Tokyo and it would have saved me money if I traveled a lot and exited the stations often, but I wanted to do something else.  I wanted to go to Osaka, Kyoto, Nara, Nagoya, and then back home.
Osaka was the first stop, as I thought it would be nice to go there and then leisurely head back and do the heavy traveling on the first day.  By airplane, a trip to Osaka is a little more than an hour.  By shinkansen (bullet train) it's about 2 and a half hours.  By local trains, it's 8 and a half hours.
Here is the route I took on the first day of my trip.  I think I'm missing some stops, because it was a  LONG day of traveling  Starting in Mitaka, I met my traveling companion around 8 AM and left.
It of course was a regular Tuesday morning rush hour for most people.
From there, we went to the always overcrowded Shinjuku station.  It doesn't look like it, but it was pretty crowded.  This platform was just after a train left.
We boarded ye olde Yamanote line...
Then we stopped for a fast breakfast in Shinagawa.
We boarded our first train that took us outside of the Tokyo area.
 And rode it until the end of the line which was Atami.

After a short stop, we went to Numanzu.
There was a stopover here, and not a whole lot to talk about, but a cute town.  I seemed to have missed taking a picture of the train.  Oh well.
Then came Shimizu.
Shimizu was not a required stop, but was the hometown of the popular comic book and TV Charcter Chibi Maruko-Chan.  It was also known for great tea, and we were getting a bit sick of riding trains, so a well timed break was in order.  Look forward to seeing pictures from that town later.
I was kind of disappointed at the trains I was riding.  Not that they were bad, but they were bland.  I was expecting some crazy trains.  They were all pretty normal.  When I went to the hippie festival I rode some crazy trains, and this was WAY further out than that.
Anyway, feeling refreshed, we got back onto yet another boring train.
We had to change yet again in Toyohashi.
And we boarded yet another boring train.  Although I'm complaining now they were boring, I should be grateful that they were all comfortable.
Here's a map. 
Then it was off to Ogaki.
And finally, an interesting train!  It was pretty comfortable too.

 After Ogaki, we had to change trains at Maibara.
 While waiting at Maibara, there was a guy on the pay phone shouting very loudly and angrily.  First off, I hardly ever see anyone using the pay phone, and when I do, it's only for a little while, rarely a conversation.  Also, this guy was MAD!  I'm not sure what, but it was starting to creep me and my travel companion out.  Apparently he shouted "So, I'm a homosexual pervert, SO WHAT?!?"  In Tokyo, I would have been a little worried, but out here, a family, including a kid that was about 12 were laughing at him and saying "He's drunk.  Hahaha."  It was then I really felt the cultural difference between Kansai and Kanto (Tokyo) people.
The train that finally came was a bit interesting too. 
 Thankfully, the loud drunk didn't get on our train, or was quiet when he did.  either way, it was the last train before...

OSAKA!!!!  After a LONG day of traveling, I was FINALLY THERE!
Okay, we had to get on another train to get to our hotel, but this was close enough.  I didn't take pictures of the last train and stop because I was tired and I kind of felt like the last stop didn't matter as much, because I was IN Osaka.  It was close to 10:30 at this point.  An 8 and a half hour trip became 14 and a half hours.  That's what happens when you take your time.  It was great, though.
So, that was the trip.  I'm pretty sure I left at least one stop off and I'm sure there are some factual errors, but whatever.  Later on, I'm going to post pictures from this day, but that's the route for day one.
In total, this trip would have cost almost 9,000 yen, but thanks to my ticket, it only cost me 11,500 for the whole 5 day pass.
Stay tuned for more pictures and stories. 

Sights from the last day of my trip.

I kind of want to explain my trip... I got a 18きっぷ or 18 ticket, which means I could go anywhere using JR local trains and could get on and off the trains for 5 days. The first day, me and a companion went to Osaka, which was a LONG trip. The second day we chilled in Osaka. The third day we explored Kyoto. The fourth, we went to Nara on our way to Nagoya. The fifth was enjoying the city of Nagoya, and the last day was going home. Here are some pictures of the last day. If you want to know more about my route, check here for a mostly complete order of the stations I got on and off at.

On the way to Nagoya station, I saw the largest rubix cube I've ever seen.
There was also this large, dramatic sculpture.
I took some pictures as we were leaving the city to head towards the mountains.

You could see people gathered by a river and it looked like they were barbequing and fishing. It was Sunday after all.
Here is a better picture of them close up.
At this point outside of Nagoya, you saw lots of mountains. I didn't realize how mountainous my chosen route was. Train maps don't show things like that.

There was a brief rest stop at Nakatsugawa. There was still SOME city left at this point, but it was getting towards no-man's-land.
This area was famous for chestnut sweets. I went in a lovely little shop and had a slightly pricey sweet, but they gave me free tea and another snack, so it was an incredible deal.
The mountains kept getting bigger and the towns got smaller.
Here are some concrete erosion barriers.
I've seen pictures of them, but never really in real life. Apparently they are there to slow down the effects of erosion, but it's been said that cities put them up due to corrupt politicians with pockets lined by construction companies, which themselves are controlled by organized crime. I don't quite understand why they were at this river. There seemed to be plenty of natural rocks to prevent erosion.
Here is a shot of Nagiso.

It was a tiny speck of a town that seemed like a good place to take a break from the real world. It was also freezing.

More pictures from the train:
In this one town in the middle of nowhere, there was a steam train just hanging out.
I don't know if it was a monument, a train just sitting there, or something that was actually used from time to time, but it looked like it was in great condition.

Here is a shot from Shirojiri station.
There was barely enough time for a hot meal, so I enjoyed the local delicacy of Soba.
It was without a doubt, the best soba ever. After that, I darted back to the station.
It was getting dark fast.
My camera might be nice, but there is nothing I could do about the glare from the lights inside the car.
But here at a stop you can see how snowy it was. This was really mountainous and very far from anything.
I don't know where or what this is, but I kind of liked this picture. It almost looked like a castle outpost or maybe a small castle itself.
After that, my camera was useless. I couldn't see anything anyways. It was an amazing trip and I hope I'll have time to share my stories and pictures.

Last day of the trip.

My thoughts and photos are all scattered from this trip. I want to write about all that happened, but that would take ages. I think I'll start right now at the end. When viewing them later, it will make more sense, but now it seems odd. Anyways, here is the last day, which was riding from Nagoya to home.

The last day, Nagoya to Tokyo: The entire Chuo line.
My closest station is on the Chuo line and I ride it almost every day, but it goes all the way to Nagoya, which is really far. Here's where I stopped and what trains I rode.

My first train:

This says "Nagoya"

I changed trains at Nakatsugawa. There was about 1/2 hour before my train left.

The train I got on:

I had to change trains at Nagiso.

Which led me to this train.

This train was abysmal. Not the train itself, but it was full of some really creepy people. Also, because of the cold and how small the towns were, not every station had a ticket window, so people could only use the front doors of the train. Both the front and back cart smelled pretty odd, but the worst was the air was so thick, it was like breathing soup. Kind of ironic that in the mountains, with incredibly fresh air, I was stuck in a train breathing something awful.

I was happy to get to Shiroji.

The train I got on, I was at the longest. I had a 1/2 hour break in which I ate and that's it. I rushed back to make the train, so I didn't get a picture of it.

FYI.. Shiojiri with that kanji literally means "Salty butt" (塩=しお=shio means salt 尻=しり or in this case じり= butt). They had this lovely place that served mountain soba (buckwheat noodles) that were really good and the people were really friendly.

The train took a brief rest stop in Kofu.

This was about an hour and a half on the same train, so I was pretty sick of it by then. I grabbed a beer and a snack. That beer was one of the most satisfying ever.

Then I got to Otsuki after another hour and a half.

Otsuki is the last stop on the normal Chuo maps that I see every day, and it was also a normal Chuo train so I didn't bother to take a picture. I could have gone straight home, but near the end, every stop the doors opened as the train sat there for a minute or so and let in freezing cold air. Then after we got moving, the heat would crank up and it would be boiling and I began to look forward to the doors opening again. Then the process repeated. It was making me kind of ill, plus 3 hours on a train and one minute to change made me a bit sick of moving, so we stopped at good ol' Tachikawa.

Next stop for any logical human would have been home, but I wanted to go ALL the way down the chuo line, which ends in Tokyo station.

And that was it. Starting at about 12:20 and ending at about 10:10ish, that was a long train ride. It was an amazing trip, and I hope to write more about it (and in a more logical fashion) later, but I have to organize my pictures and thoughts any more.