Today was a travel day from Nagano to Sendai for the most part, just like the headline says. I sent a third package home, and my luggage is still heavy. I still don’t get it. Maybe the junk in my bags is breeding?
The shinkansen is no longer exciting for me. Instead it makes me sleepy. I guess I’m finally used to that bit about being here. The ride from Nagano to Omiya on the Asami was nice, albeit a bit foggy. One really nice part– the Asami cars have a baggage nook I can stick my Big American Suitcase into.
From Omiya to Sendai, I rode on the Max Yamabiko, which is a double-decker shinkansen . It’s pretty cool, except the bit where I had to lug my suitcase upstairs, because there are no baggage nooks. I had to resort to the usual “tuck it behind the back row” trick.
The Max cars are also nice because each car has a little built-in store, so there’s no waiting for the carts to come down the middle of the train cars. They even sell beer, to make the trip a little more relaxing. But, I wasn’t in the mood for beer at 1 in the afternoon. It’s just too early for me.
Finding a Hotel in Tokyo
One thing that really gave me some peace of mind was finally finding a hotel for my 6 days in Tokyo. I was up until 4 a.m. last night trying to find a hotel free for all 6 days, and coming up with nothing. I don’t mind smoking rooms for a night, but for 6? No thanks. So I kept at it. Then I had a brainstorm in the shower this morning, and hit Travelocity. I had tried Expedia, Rakuten, and hotels.co.jp, and had no luck.
Travelocity had a nice hotel in Shinjuku, which is where I wanted to be in the first place. Shinjuku is a great location because it’s where every line runs, so you can pretty much go anywhere from there.
Having the hotel straightened out took a huge weight off my shoulders. I’m sure I could have found something when I got there, but I might not have found something nice. For most of my trip, I haven’t been too obsessed with getting hotels, because it hasn’t been too hard. But certain cities can be a pain to find rooms in. Tokyo and Kyoto come to mind. Osaka and Nara were mildly irritating, but not impossible. Fukuoka, Hiroshima, Nagano, and Sendai were pretty easy.
My advice is plain common sense– if you’re going to a big tourist destination, try to nail down a room a bit sooner than you think you’ll need it.
Arrival in Sendai
I have arrived in Sendai, which is on the northeast coast of Honshu, the main island. It’s about 2 hours north of Tokyo by shinkansen. When I got here, I did my usual “Find the information booth” dance, and got some pamphlets, but they were all in Japanese only. It’s a bit frustrating. I wanted some good info on seeing Matsushima in English, but no luck.
I also wanted to see if I could make a short trip to Mt. Zao before heading to Tokyo on Thursday, but that’s going to be a bust. From what I gathered, the buses don’t run all the way to the crater, and only stop at the hot spring. To get to the crater, you have to rent a car in Sendai, and I’m not doing that. Drive on the left? No thanks.
After getting info, I checked in at another Comfort Inn. Another nice room for 6,250 yen a night (go AAA discount). Then some time to play with the TV– very nice. It’s HD, and I think if I feed it money, I can see the HD cable channels. I’m not too sure about that yet. For some reason, someone’s ad text is all over my CNN-J channel, and I can’t get rid of it.
It reminds me of the guy in The Diamond Age who got infected by a virus that made him see Indian TV ads in the corner of his eyes 24/7, and he eventually went insane and killed himself.
But it’s not that bad. It’s more background noise than anything else.
Wandering in Sendai
I did some strolling around Sendai. It’s a very lively city, and a very cold one, too. There are some nice shopping arcades as well. I found some department stores and raided their basements for dinner. I scored some chicken-katsu, a potato croquette, and a sandwich with a chocolate croissant.
On the way back, I saw a very busy taiyaki vendor, and I would have stopped if I didn’t already have food… and hunger. Taiyaki is a fish-shaped pastry filled with sweet red bean paste, and in this shop’s case, white pastry cream. I will go back there tomorrow to sample some of their taiyaki. The line was huge, so it must be good.
The rest of the evening will be spent resting, doing laundry, and puttering around. Matsushima will take a lot out of me tomorrow, so I need to rest up for it.
The longer I’m in Japan, the more I’m loving it here. For a while, I was really wanting to go home. Now I really want to explore more here, but that’s not in the cards for now.
I’ll worry about that when I get home, I guess.
I do think I’m going to get serious about looking for work here when I can get my Japanese to an acceptable level. Japan is fascinating, mystifying, and a hell of a lot of fun all at once, but I need to seriously level up my language skills.