Saturday, 31 March 2018

Autumn Aurora in Japan - Day 10

Kanazawa                                                                          Japan

Thursday 13th October 2016

An early rise was on the horizon for us as we woke up at 6am for the long journey to Kanazawa. Usually it would only be one short trip on the JR line north but we decided that we wanted to take the scenic route around making the day of it hoping to avoid the rush hour. Our plan was to ride the shinkansen from Kyoto to Tokyo; then a second shinkansen from Tokyo to Kanazawa. This would also result in us exploring more of Japans countryside knowing it would provide us with fantastic scenery whether that would be countryside or city life. We triple checked everything before we bid farewell to Arlene thanking her for her brilliant hospitality and accommodation and then finally we left the apartment with the sight of Arlene waving us off as we disappeared around the corner.

We immediately headed for the bus stop waiting for bus 206 back to Kyoto train station. At this point, we were already missing our bikes stating that we would have already been at the station if we used them. Anyway, we didn’t have to wait long as the bus slowly pulled up with us climbing aboard and joining the locals who were constantly staring at us. It didn’t bother us due to the fact that we were too busy laughing at the fact the bus driver sounded as though he just woke up or he was falling asleep at the wheel when he was muttering the bus stop names. Eventually, the sleepy driver delivered us to Kyoto train station so we made our way straight for the shinkansen area. We did grab a few snacks for the 2hr 45 minute trip back to Tokyo whether that is crisps, biscuits or our favourite sweet bakes.

Eventually we had found the right platform for our beloved bullet train and no sooner did we stand at the platform did the train arrive so quietly and elegantly. As it was quite early in the morning, we managed to get a seat without difficulty. We were both filled with joy as the train gradually gained speed down the line leaving the brilliant city of Kyoto feeling amazed about how much we had seen these past few days. For the next 2 hours 45 minutes though, we would laugh and joke on also enjoying the spectacular views whizzing by us once again until we approached the Tokyo area. It was at this point that I remembered how busy it was even at 10:30am. We experienced constant battering by the wave of people with their black suits and briefcases as we were trying to find the next shinkansen bound for Kanazawa.

It was a struggle, but once more, we managed to find it climbing aboard. However, we must have climbed aboard quite late because the train was full with no spare seat in sight. We were forced into finding a place at the doors hoping that people would get off the train at the next few stops. In the meantime though, I actually enjoyed the fact we were confined at the doorways as I felt like a true traveller riding the rails not in style and comfort. We were both yet again in hysterics as we noticed the layout of different classes on the train. We were in non-reserved carriages, then there was reserved class, 1st class and then the biggest one; Gran class. We thought it meant to say grand class but it was definitely gran class. What we found funny was we could imagine that class was specific to very old grandmothers in there tweed furniture with doilies, fire lit with pictures of grandchildren on the fireplace as well as a cat called mittens on the arm of the chair while the grandmothers knit clothes.

Time went on and luck came our way, as there were a lot more seats available for us. It was definitely more relaxing, so I didn’t complain moving from the doorway. The views were astonishing with incredible views of the Japanese Alps on our left and the Sea of Japan on our right. Time went on passing a few more stations along the way until finally, the call came out stating we were arriving at Kanazawa. So on went our heavy rucksacks and off went ourselves straight for the main area. Our first port of call was tourist information for some details and maps of the area including bus routes after receiving the important station stamp of course. Thanks to Craig, we eventually gathered the information we needed realising we needed to use a local bus to get to our destination. The bus wouldn’t be arriving for a good while so we made the smart decision to find a bakery feeding our faces with savoury and sweet goods going over where we needed to be. We were surprised too when an elderly woman approached us greeting us and welcomed us to Kanazawa; it was very nice of her to do that to a couple of idiot Geordie travellers.

It was time to head to the bus stop already confused by the bus route and times on the board. At least we knew we were standing at the right bus stop. An old station attendant noticed the struggle in our faces and approached us stating that we were standing at the wrong stop with us adamant we were at the right one. However, we took on his advice heading for the opposite side of the station. At the other side were more bus stops as well as a bus information stall. We got our information and it turned out that we were originally standing at the right stop. However, we realised we had to wait another 1 hour 30 minutes so with that, I parted ways from Craig as I headed into ‘Rinto’ shopping centre in the station. There were plenty to see and browse from cosmetics, chocolate, clothing, jewellery and cafes. In fact, by the sounds of it, it was perfect for women. Once again, eyes were upon me as though I was a stranger, but I was used to it by now and quite enjoying it; it felt nice to be noticed for once.

Finally, I left the shopping area finding Craig through the flow of the people crossing each other’s pathway. It was Craig’s turn to head into the shop just before we departed for the bus stop hoping it would show up after all this waiting. Right on time it had arrived which I loved about Japan. We hopped on with the locals squeezing down the aisle with our big rucksacks, grabbing a ticket and taking our seats. We soon realised we were heading the right way which meant we could relax once more but only for a brief moment. What was even better for us was that the driver assisted us very well with where we needed to be and to be honest looked a lot more awake than the driver in Kyoto was.

We were only on the bus for 15 minutes until the driver stopped and informed us that we had arrived. We got out paying the right amount, thanking the driver and then figuring out where to go next. The area we were in definitely was out of the way, as it appeared to be nearby an industrial area with large metal buildings, chimneys with a few homes and apartments. Apartments were what we were looking for, but the directions we were given were quite vague for us to follow. We did narrow the location down to two buildings close to each other but still not at all sure which one it was. We seemed to be going around in circles too, but eventually, we stumbled into the right building, found the right room and the key hidden well. What a relief it was when we entered into the very small apartment; a type of room a young person would have with unique pictures on the wall, books, modern furniture, etc.

We dumped our heavy rucksacks down and noticed the tomato slippers at the entrance that made us burst out laughing; it was good the host was not in. We spent the next half an hour relaxed figuring out what to do with our only full day tomorrow; we picked out a good few places but still struggling on a means of transport to the places. Therefore, we waited until our host ‘Garu’ arrived to advise us on transport and use of facilities. We were bored of waiting so we decided to take a walk around the area but by this point, it was pitch black.

We knew there was a retail park close by so that was where we headed. There was nothing to see along the way but the gloomy glow of streetlights and the odd brightness of vending machines scattered across the route. Suddenly, a bigger glow of the retail park was dead ahead and the first sight we could see was the name of the retail park; ‘Aeon town’. It actually sounded like a futuristic lawless town but as we got closer, it was the total opposite. It was a nice little shopping area full of unique shops. Therefore, we decided to enter a few of them and each one we entered, we loved. Shops such as African themed trinkets, clothing and treasures was one of the best and we spent quite a bit of time in here trying not to knock things over. Then we walked into a brilliant shop called, Village Vanguard. It looked like Christmas present heaven with many toys, merchandise and memorabilia as well as more trinkets from recognisable super heroes and villains; my favourite being the joker related merchandise.

Unfortunately, most of the amazing items were too difficult to bring along with us. We soon left the area catching sight of an Italian restaurant. It looked promising for something to eat as we hadn’t eaten for a while. Then we caught sight of a bike shop hoping they would hire bikes out to us two idiots. Unfortunately, when Craig asked, they didn’t have them which was a real shame. We headed back to the restaurant and walked in hoping someone would be kind enough to take us to a table. Luckily, we were greeted by a shy waitress and placed at a table taking our time picking our food.

I eventually picked a type of potato and cheese melted dish with a small baguette; it was delicious nonetheless when it arrived. There was a very nice atmosphere in the restaurant too even though small children and some adults were looking at us. It was time to head back to the apartment hoping Garu would be back there. We were enjoying the peace and quiet of the night realising it was completely opposite surroundings to Tokyo; it was a bonus to catch sight of the stars for the first time on this journey too. As we entered into the apartment, Garu was nowhere to be seen. It wasn’t long before he walked through the door 10 minutes later welcoming us to his apartment. The trouble was his English was not the best so; I was relying on Craig’s Japanese to get through the conversations. Garu did use his translator on his phone but I could see that would be useful. It took a while to get the message across about the house rules and use of facilities. We somehow managed to get the necessary information we needed but it was upsetting to hear that he didn’t have any bikes for us either.

Bike rental in the city seemed to be our only option but we would have to worry about that the next day. Finally, it was time to rest but there were no proper beds for us. We had to sleep on 2 separate couches but it was too awkward to sleep on due to the fact I was longer than the couch I was on. Luckily, I decided to pull out my sleeping bag and mat from my rucksack and had a much comfortable bed to sleep in on the floor. As for Craig, he stayed on his couch with his feet dangling way over the side and so we drifted off to sleep trying not to laugh about the tomato slippers but only thinking of tomorrow’s adventure into Kanazawa.

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