Thursday, January 22, 2009

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.


Jay Livingston said...

Keith, What a coincidence. I got to your blog from your comment at SocImages, otherwise I never would have known about it. The coincidence is that I lived in that "tiny speck of a town" Nagiso (a.k.a. Midono) for six months. Mukashi, mukashi, aru tokoro ni -- so long ago that the kisha-popo you photographed and wondered about whether it was actually used, well, that was the only kind of engine you could get on the Chuo-sen. The train cars weren't air-conditioned, and when you went through a tunnel, you had to close the windows so that the smoke from the engine didn't come into the car.

(If you want more info, e-mail me -- jl2109 [at]gmail [dot]com)

Keith said...

Wow, interesting. Did you like it there? I think six months is an appropriate amount of time up there. Any more and personally, I'd go a bit nuts.

Now the Chuo all has electric lines above it, so they don't need steam powered locomotives, but I'd really like to ride one sometime, at least once.

How long ago was this? I've heard about closing the windows in tunnels, which at first seemed surprising, but if you think about it for a few seconds, it's a very real problem.

Anyways, thanks for reading!

Jay Livingston said...

I was there from Sept. 1963 till March (or was it April?) 1964. The town didn't even have a plumbling and sewer system.

I had found a job teaching in the local high school, which served the region -- about 500 students in 10th, 11th, and 12th grades. I was a sort of celebrity -- the first Westerner many of them had ever seen in the flesh.

I'd been in the country only a month when I started, so I had practically no Japanese. I was learning Japanese, learning the culture, learning about teaching. The Kiso gorge is beautiful, and I had a good time -- never felt lonely even though there was only one person around who spoke English with any fluency. I don't know how long I could have stayed there.

Keith said...

They didn't even have a plumbing and sewer system? How did that work? Did everyone have their own pumps/wells or was there a communal one?

Sounds like you had a great experience. It's rare that you see someone who's never seen a foreigner these days, especially in Tokyo, but when you're out in the country, non-Japanese people are a bit rare. I occasionally get the cowboy in a saloon feel where everyone stops and looks but pretends not to, but rarely.

On the few occasions I've taught high schoolers, and sometimes they also treat me like a celebrity. It's a big ego booster.