Eating on Bullet Trains

Japan’s Shinkansen, the Bullet Trains, remain iconic although there are many different superfast trains around the world now. The first Shinkansen ran two weeks before the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Since then, running times have been shortened substantially by changing the shape of the nose of the locomotive from a bullet cone to the duckbill that you see above. I enjoy train rides in Japan, and prefer them to flights. Getting from Hiroshima to Tokyo by the Nozomi super-express that you see above took us 4 hours. A flight would have taken an hour and a half; not enough of an improvement to really matter.

That wasn’t our first bullet train ride on this trip. We decided to go from Kansai airport to Hiroshima by taking a Shinkansen from Shin-Osaka. That came with the completely superfluous opportunity to buy a little box of Ekiben, a lunch box to take with you on the train. We did not need this, but who can pass up an opportunity to eat a few pieces of Sushi at tea time? The box we chose had two pieces of each kind of Sushi, making it easy to share.

Travelling from Hiroshima to Tokyo we had a much wider choice of ekiben. We took our time choosing. The Family got the mixed spread in the upper panel: pickled ume (plum) and veggies, lotus stem and some mushrooms, a little pork patty, half a boiled egg, seaweed over rice. I looked around and took a more meaty selection. We took out our lunch boxes at about the same time as a family across the aisle, and out of the corner of my eye I saw that they had a much more elaborate meal. Perhaps we should have looked harder, but I was happy enough with this meal.

We have a sweet tooth. So after an hour or so of happiness I reached into my backpack and extracted an omiyage that I’d picked up at the station. Omiyage are gifts that you bring back from travels, so I must have stretched the definition a bit by presenting this packet to The Family and me: freeze dried strawberries infused with white chocolate. Like many Japanese sweets it was more tart than sweet. I don’t know what to call this specialty from Nagano prefecture, so in keeping with the daruma doll motif from the package, let me just call it daruma ichigo.

Leaving Japan

kobetowerMy week in Japan is over, faster than I realized. As always, I leave Japan with regret. I love the energy of the country. On these short visits there are so many things you wish you had done which you could not. These range from the simple things like taking a look at the statue of the robot Tetsujin-28-go to the more time-critical walk up Mount Rokko. Perhaps I could have squeezed the time out for the robot if the typhoon had not appeared. Another thing I would have liked to squeeze in was an evening of shochu and yakitori with old friends; again, the typhoon warning interrupted that. In any case, I managed to walk down to Kobe Harborland and click this photo of the Kobe tower.

Leaving was hectic. I had to run out of the last meeting to take the train. When I bought a ticket for the Shinkansen to Tokyo in the morning, the ticket clerk told me to budget around 20 minutes for the subway from Sannomiya to Shin-Kobe. It turned out to take about 5 minutes! I spent the afternoon in the Nozomi going to Tokyo. The Tokyo station is chaotic. I’d left myself sufficient time to get to the Narita Express. Although it says you need to reserve a seat, there is no difference in price between tickets. I’d bought a return ticket on the way out, and the return did not contain a seat reservation. The train was almost deserted, and the conductor didn’t bat an eyelid when he saw my ticket. The shuttle from the airport to the hotel worked flawlessly. Eventually, it took me about 5 hours end-to-end.

The hotel has a bar on the top floor with a view on to the airport. I had a quick dinner there, as I watched planes taking off and landing. Tomorrow I have to leave early, so I need to turn in soon.