04/03/24 – To the mountains by bullet train

Okay, so if you’ve seen the Brad Pitt movie “Bullet Train”, our Shinkasen (aka Bullet Train) was nothing like his. No blood, no guts, no assassins, no people flying through the air as the train crashes. Pretty disappointing, really. But it did get us from Tokyo to our next destination – Nagano, home of the 1998 Winter Olympics.
After sleeping in all the way to 4:45 am this morning, we got in line for our last breakfast at the Keio Plaza Hotel at 5:45. We left the hotel via taxi for the Tokyo Station, which is where one of our ughhhh problems from our Mount Fuji tour occurred. Tokyo Station is huge and packed with millions and billions of people trying to get to their destination. (Kathy thinks it was billions; Dave thought it was only millions, so hence the compromise of millions and billions.) In her role as Transportation Coordinator for this trip, Kathy was able to guide us to our correct platform with minimal difficulty. We had planned on getting lost for hours, so we had a few hours to kill before our bullet train arrived. Dave tried to find some soft drinks to hydrate us, but after walking 1.2 miles (and a text from Kathy asking if he was lost), he returned empty handed, as well as thirsty. As the time for our train drew near, Kathy got us each a “Bento Box” and a drink for the trip. The Bento Box is a uniquely Japanese “delight” filled with local cuisine. It was not a hit with the pair as neither one finished the meal.
Arriving in Nagano, and aided by Google maps, Kathy and Dave trudged the 750 meters in the rain to our next hotel and checked in. The hotel was not up to the standard of the Keio Plaza, as the TV needs a paid card to run in English, the bed is small and has only two pillows, and the toilet does not even flush itself! Oh, well, into each life a little rain must fall. And rain it did. We walked around Nagano going into several different shops while a steady rain came down. We were really not looking to buy anything in particular except for a couple of cookies, but going into the shops was an insight into Japanese culture.
After drying out a bit back at the hotel, Kathy and Dave went out for dinner at a nearby ramen restaurant. The food was good and plentiful. Dessert came from the nearby 7-11. Dave entertained the clerk and several customers as he paid for the items by placing various coins into the slot on the register as it counted down how much was still owed. When he got down to the last 8 yen, he placed a 10 yen coin in the slot and cheered like he had won at “The Price is Right!”
Back at the hotel for the night, we are hoping to get a good night’s sleep and for the weather to clear in time for our next tour to see snow monkeys at the Jigokudani Monkey Park. Dave is also hoping to avoid getting accosted by thieving primates for the first time in a while…

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