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Japan Trip day 5: Off to the coast

Fifth day, finally one where I wake up on time! Could also have something to do with the collapsing-in-bed thing, but who could tell.. Heads up: This post is going to be a long one...

Before Leaving Fukui: A Wordy Way to a Train

Breakfast consisted of toast, juice, tea, shredded vegetables, some fruit (slices of apple, pineapple, banana, watermelon, what might've been small) grapes and a bit of I have no idea.) Replace this with your post

A pretty shrine in the same neighbourhood as the hostel I was staying in

Figure 1 - A pretty shrine in the same neighbourhood as the hostel I was staying in

At first, I was going to the wrong station. I was at the tram station, while I wanted the train service run by the same company. Confusingly enough, the route maps for both system was printed on the same map. When a station attendant cleaning the station asked where I was going, I pointed at the station I wished to go to, and I heard something about it not being the right station, at which point she starts leading me across a road and on the path to walk through Fukui station to the other side. It was time to utter the magic phrase: "Wakarimasu". With that and a thank you, she headed back to where I interrupted her.

Getting a ticket to ride the train, just like last time I rode a private railway, involved a ticket counter at knee height. I don't get why they do it, but since I've now seen it in multiple location, it'a probably some weird tradition.

Good old paper tickets. Sadly, they were colleced, I could not keep them

Figure 2 - Good old paper tickets. Sadly, they were colleced, I could not keep them

They are building a tall high structure next to Echizen Railway station, maybe the new shinkansen station? I'm fairly sure I've read somewhere that the station is already under construction despite opening of the new shinkansen segment being years away. Anyway, this station is what I'll use to get to my next destination.

Before Leaving Fukui: A Side Trip

If you want to experience questionable rail standard, I suggest riding a minor private railway. They tend to run everything on a shoestring budget, and so far, this and the Chōshi line has been quite bumpy...

I got off at Mikuniminato, and I figured that it'd be a 30 minute walk, and I planned thereafter. Turns out, the road I had intended to follow got a bit too dangerous to walk after a while, requiring me to backtrack towards smaller, safer roads. Eventually, I get led onto a rather scenic path along the coast, with lots of nature right along its side. And when I say nature, I mean the path is sometimes entierly blocking all sunlight and you will almost wade through grasshoppers. Luckily, I didn't get stung or bitten, and I didn't see anything masty. It wasn't a 30 minute walk, more like a 55 minute one. I did take myself a good 10 minutes to enjoy the view at least, now that I had spent so much time getting there. But I was finally there, Tōjinbō.

A very green path

Figure 3 - A very green path

It's difficult to get the scale across. The view was quite stunning

Figure 4 - It's difficult to get the scale across. The view was quite stunning

Now, I was in a hurry to get back. I remembered there is a bus back, which is good, since I would'nt have made it back in time to catch a train to catch another train to catch yet another train to have a late lunch. So I start looking for the bus stop, figuring it has to be beyond the street of food stalls, so I head that direction. The food stalls just seem to go on forever, but eventually I get to a clearing in the form of loads of parking lots. After running about for a bit I spot a sign pointing towards a bus stop. I make my way there, to be greeted by a timetable all in japanese. I figured out which bus to take, But it was marked in yellow. I see a note about yellow marked entries, but I can't make any sense of it, with or without google translate. But it put emphasis on the characters "holiday/closed day" and "stop", which was worrying enough that I asked some young women who just arrived to wait for the bus. With some embarassingly simple phrases and lack of grammar, I manage to get a unison "daijōbu". So now I knew I would be able to take the bus to catch my train to catch another train to catch another train to have lunch. Great.

As I get of the bus and heads towards the station, I realized I had a few minutes to spare, so I stopped by a vending machine, and as luck would have it, I had exactly the amount of coins to buy a drink! That's how you win the coin game.

I keep forgetting soneting. If there is 5 minutes to change trains, they probably intended for you to make that connection. Yet I keep running like a stupid tourist thinking the last train was late, the next train is early, and the distance to cover is a lot larger than it actually is. With my powerwalk, despite stopping to buy a drink, I make it to the train with plenty of time to spare.

Leaving Fukui, Heading Towards MysteryPlace™

Same story back in Fukui, I powerwalk through the station, through the ticket gate, up to the platform, and all the way to the end of the platform where my car number will board. Before the train gets there. The train wasn't even late. Despite waiting for a train from the opposite direction twice (the entire line is single tracked), I was off the train at 13:31. Exactly as per the time table.

Today will mostly be about making progress, sitting on a lot of trains. That's okay, it's time I can spend on writing the blog instead of doing that at the hostel, and there is a lot of scenery to enjoy on this stretch of rail. I will arrive at my accomodation late tonight, so I made sure top do my half hour of japanese before I left this morning.

As I'm getting ready to get off the second train, I see a message scroll across the train info display saying something about 15 minutes of delay in the JR-west area. I wonder what that's all about... The train I was on seemed to be a minute late though, I don't know if I can forgive that... Of course I can, I had a record 9 minutes to make the change, and I got onto the train with 6 minutes to spare. As I get on, I notice a western looking family, it sounds like they are speaking German. I wonder what they are doing out here... It sounds like they just ran into some people they haven't seen in a while, now I'm curious. If you're playing along at home with a map, I just changed train at Tsuruga, can you guess where I'm stopping for lunch?

The environment the train is very hilly, with the hills covered in a thick layer of lush green trees, with houses packed into whatever flat valleys there are. The line however, does not have a welded track, the characteristic thumping of the train rolling across the rail joints and the sharp turns gives it all a quaint feeling. The clear skies and strong sunshine probably helps with that.

In case you guessed it, yep, I'm on the Obama line, and I'll be stopping for lunch in Obama.

:: Picture 1362 give up your seat

Manner Up! A very japaneesy sign about giving your seeat up to someone who needs it

Figure 5 - Manner Up! A very japaneesy sign about giving your seeat up to someone who needs it

A Short But Strange Stay In Obama

As I make my way from the station towards my pre-selected lunch location, I happened to see a shop with the words I've been looking for; "kusuri", "doraggu". In other words, a pharmacy. Thanks to my dictionary, getting the desired item across was no problem. ¥200 and two minutes later, I was on my way out. Boric acid GET! What am I going to use boric acid for, you may ask? My shoes (quite regular one, not open like a sandal) and socks have been smelling awful since I landed here. I've heard sprinkling boric acid in your shoes can almost completely get rid of foot odour, so for ¥200 I'm giving it a shot.

And right around the corner was the resturant I was looking for: MOS Burgers. In Sweden, he have Max, in Japan they have MOS. Surprisingly, this place also had an English menu, taped to the counter and hidden under a menu in Japanese. I got a chicken teriyaki burger with a large fries and drink. Or small, as they'd be called in the west. The burger too was kinda cheese-burger sized, except with more and better filling. Unlike the fast food restaurants I'm used to, you don't wait for your food at the counter, it is brought to you. And like every other Japanese restaurant, the dishes are brought out as they are done, not as the set you ordered. The cachier also seemed to be the one cooking the food, I didn't any other employee there. And at ¥800 for such a set, it's a pretty expensive type of fast food by Japanese standards.

I came across some weird cult group thing marching and chanting down the street dressed in all black. I'll refrain from posting anything while I'm still in Japan, but they seemed like one of them dangerous cults you want to stay faaaaaaaar away from, so I got a bit curious about what kind of loonies they were.

If trump gets his wish through, there will be no more obamacare. However, I suspect that at the Obama ciy hospital, you will will be able to get some "Obama" care ;)

Figure 6 - If trump gets his wish through, there will be no more obamacare. However, I suspect that at the Obama ciy hospital, you will will be able to get some "Obama" care ;)

The Long Journey Onwards

As I board the train onwards, I seem to be stuck with some kind of rush, the train is packed with kids in sports clothing.

Weird group of youngings boars, playing music loudly on the train, English lyrics and I recognize the song, but I'm just too ignorant to recgnize it. Looks like they've been to the beach. With bleached hair, they must be some of them rare teen rebels 8]

I just spotted one of those japanese giant hornets on the train. I hope there's only one of them... It seems distracted by the ceiling lights, so I guess I don't mind that.

Well, once again, the train was just on time. It is almost getting redundant to check the time. Even more impressive is that the time table I used is from half a year ago with two chances for them to update it. With the change right over the platform, this change was an easy one. In fact, the long pause there almost feel like it's a conspiracy by the vending machine vendors, to give people time to bus a drink before continuing on. It probably isn't though.

Just before departing, I see a Kyoto Tango Railway train pull up on the other track, It's a rather posh blue/purple/gold train. This change was in Higashi-Maizuru. It is one of 3 changes, it's a long way to go by train... This one is even bumpier though, the door between the two train cars is sliding open and closed on its own!

In Nishi-Maizuru, we're left standing several minutes after departure time. It seems there was a delayed connection, and a whole bunch of people ran over at time of departure. 3 minutes after scheduled departure, the train leaves the station, I wonder if the delay will stay to the end... It was kind of quite watching the station personel making sure every one made the connection before it departed.

There are spiders crawling around in this train, I'm guessing this general area is quite rural. I can't say I've seen many non-asian people for the past couple hours, something I expect to stay true, at least until I reach todays last stop before heading to the minchuku I'll be spending the night at. The sound when the train crosses bridges with steel plate sides really is thunderous, especially in combination with the loud track thumping. It feels like the train is going really fast, maybe they're trying to take up lost time? The train arrived about 3 minutues late. The horror. With 3 minutes to spare and an over the platform connection in Fukuchiyama, the delay has probably been swallowed entierly. Now I'm on the long and even more rural San'in Line.

As the town passes by in front of me, I can see that the Japanglish used for marketing, is now seemingly written in katakana. While the surroundings are very scenic, it is now too dark outside to see any of it. Yes, It's pitch-black by 19:15. Crazy. Parts of track really is in awful condition, the entire train shakes voilently as it makes its way across the track. Both the kinds of bumps from going over a pot hole at highway speed, and also side-to-side jerkings with lots of screetching sounds. I think the typhoon that went through here a day or two may have had some effects on the track.

From electric to diesel. The line segment the next service runs on will reach beyond the electrified section

Figure 7 - From electric to diesel. The line segment the next service runs on will reach beyond the electrified section

At the change in Toyooka, I bumped into a guy from Canada. (Toyooka is, for whatever it's worth, the point the trains switch from electricity to diesel.) It seemed he was several hours late due to a delayed train and missed connections.. It's these kind of encounters I like. When we got to kinosaki onsen, I ended up showing him his way to the ryokan he was heading (apparently, he hasn't realized the importance of a data connection, and didn't have an internet connection.)

While completely packed with foreign tourists, the athmosphere was great.

Figure 8 - While completely packed with foreign tourists, the athmosphere was great.

Afterwards, we ended up walking around the area, I took some pictures, and we watched the small firework show in the rain. Eventually he found a restaurant he wanted to try, but I felt it was a bit short on time (literally an hour before the train is scheduled to depart.) And I'm glad I did.

Making it to the Minshuku

I was so confused by the map that a 5 minute walk took over half an hour. But I made it in time. Hopefully, I will get to the place without any problems. I still don't even know if the owners will meet me up at the train station, the e-mail was in Japanese and not very clear.

During my wait at the train station, I also had my first encounter with mosquitoes. I got about the train, and it quickly started feeling like a subway due to the long and many tunnels. I now see why they on one-man trains only let you off at the front door if the first car on stations without a ticket gate, the driver will personally validate your ticket/payment. People look quite drunk/tired, some are even laying on the seats. I guess that's to be expected from a rural last train for the night.

I arrive at Satsu station. It's a rather sad and run-down place, although the rain probably didn't help that image. I am the only person to get off at this stop. As I cross the tracks via the walk bridge and make it to the station entrance, I see someone. Not only did someone meet me up, I got a ride back in their car.

I was expecting a one-room ordeal with it being run as a side business from the family home. Instead I am greeted by what could rather be described as a proper hotel. There three staff members there showing me around. None of them really speak English, but as usual, even a little japanese abilities gives you an insane amount of milage. The room itself is quite big, about the size of a business hotel, except that without any other walls or fized furnature, it feels really big. It's 7½ tatami mats large.

The room I got was a great deal considering its price and location.

Figure 9 - The room I got was a great deal considering its price and location.

Other Notes

I've noticed that my Android phone is making a really loud shutter sound whenever I take a picture, despite it being off since I got the phone. I guess this is a latent feature in all Android devices that turns on when it notices that you're in Japan. I've heard a law about that to prevent pervs from secretly taking up-skirt pics. My 7-year old compact camera bought in Sweden is not that clever though, and happily takes pictures silently. Maybe not as stealthy though, what with the large protruding lens. And the fact that it's bright red-orange.

On another note, I find Japanese place names really hard to remember, they consist of many syllables with few consonants, like Mikuniminato. A westerner like me who is used to fewer, but more complicated syllables, might find them a but overwhelming a few syllables in.

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