Japan current location11:11 am on the train to Misawa.

Pretty normal morning. I got up at 6:30 feeling much better than last night, and wrote yesterday’s log. I wish I had had more time to automate this stuff, it’s taking way too long IMHO.

I took a shower (OWCH HOT WATER) and thought I had forgotten my razor. I used the hotel razor and probably creamed my face in the process. As soon as I went for my toothbrush, the little gremlins that follow me around returned my razor. I also noticed a really funny English bit on the soap (Brian, this one’s for you). I prepared pictures from yesterday night, repacked and went downstairs to upload. As it turns out I have some issues on the production server (I’m developing on a local virtual machine and posting changes to the remote server) so I need to work on that. Natch. At least I got some of it up with some manual coaxing.

I went to the front to pay and I realized I’m in my normal progression – first day I can somewhat speak Japanese, second day I completely suck. I was terrified to speak to the otoosan and okaasan. How annoying. I forced myself to speak up and say, “my Japanese sucks” in Japanese to them. They disagreed, but I know I’m right. It’s okay, I know by tomorrow I should be getting better. I verified with them I needed to go to Ueno to catch the Shinkansen to Hachinohe, then change trains for Misawa. I said goodbye, said I might be back in October, then walked to the subway. I noticed along the way a store that is selling The Dog big towels. I might have to stop in when I get back to Tokyo to see if they have a pug one. I miss my puppies. :(

I used my own advice and walked to the far end of the station before getting on. Perfection, it let me off right at the stairway back up. When I got into the ticket purchase area of the subway station (Angela, this is where we left you the first time) I noticed a new escalator I hadn’t seen before. To save myself some lifting, I took it. It exited into the main area of Ueno station, and I was really surprised. They were working on it last time I was here, and man has it changed. It looks like a shopping mall now, and even has a Hard Rock Cafe! It’s really nice looking. I started to go get my tickets but realized better plan, get food, THEN get tickets. I always seem to get tickets with three minutes to get to the train. I stopped into a really nice panya (bread shop) to the left of the Midorinomidoguchi (ticket office) and got a potato croquette, mini pizza, and chocolate cruller. SO not Atkins friendly.:) You walk in, get a tray and some tongs, pick out what you want, then take the whole thing to the counter. The woman at the register, as expected, wrapped each item individually, then put all of them in a bag.

Back in the Midorinomidoguchi, I waited in a long line that went quickly and got tickets for the trains. Sure enough it’s about a four hour ride, three to Hachinohe (not bad for all the way from southern Japan to northern Japan), then about 45 mins to Misawa from there. I should be there by three. You go to the counter, show your rail pass and tell them where you want to go. They’ll always try and find the fastest route, from what I can tell, and they provide you with tickets that show what car, seat, and times when you’ll get there. They’ll also explain where you need to change trains and show you how long you have to do it. Very very handy. When they ask about “tobako”, that’s if you want smoking or non. “Irimasen,” (I don’t need it) I always say.

My train wasn’t going to leave for about half an hour, so I thought about walking around a bit, but changed my mind. I went through the gate and got some coffee from the convenience store to the right of the gate. Dang good, Milk Coffee from Nescafe I think. I walked around a little looking for a bentoo (box lunch) to eat on the train for lunch. I thought I’d shop around but had a sneaking suspicion that all the bentoo places at Ueno sell the same stuff. I was right. They do have bentoo places all the way down on the tracks, and even sell them on the train if you ever forget to get food. I was looking for this escalator that goes up to the mall level that’s over near the shinkansen (bullet train, means “new line” basically) gate, but realized after I was already inside that it was around the corner to the left of the gate. Ah well, too much effort to go back out. I went down the World’s Longest Escalator to the basement which was still one more escalator from the actual tracks. I was about to go down but decided to go back up the long escalator to get a bentoo lest there not be one at the tracks.

At the bentoo place I tried to say “I want this 690 yen bentoo” and was failing, so the guy looked over and I pointed. How freak embarrassing. After he started wrapping it up, I did a novel thing and READ THE LABEL which was in katakana. “Oh, Jambalaya Bentoo,” I said, chuckling to let the guy know I was a moron. “Hai,” he responded. He asked if I wanted tea (ocha) but I said I didn’t need any. Down to the track I went again, where I sat down and ate my carb-laden breakfast. Carb laden, but it’s Japan, and this is breakfast before a shinkansen ride. Period.

I had also purchased two more coffees – Kirin White, which is describes as “Tasty coffee and smooth milk. A great combination. Enjoy your WHITE COFFEE!” Pretty good. I’m sipping on the Tully’s Mocha, which isn’t as good, but not bad. All were cold coffee, by the way. I also noticed at this point the first evidence that Japan is concerned about terrorism. There was a sign posted in Japanese and English that said that all of the trash cans on the shinkansen were “disabled” for the time being. Also, I noticed that all of the trash cans/recycling bins now have clear bags and clear plastic sides, when they used to have stainless steel.

I realized I needed to call Gene and Lou so they knew when to pick me up, and it was getting close to time. Japanese trains run ON TIME and they’re not kidding. I walked towards where my car was going to end up when the train arrived. There are markings on the ground, signs, etc about what car number is going to be at that spot when it shows up (trains usually pull in, stop, and leave within about two minutes max). However, there are so many of these, that I’ve just figured out how to read them. If you can’t read Japanese don’t bother, just ask.

I got to my car and whipped out my laptop, which I love, by the way. I didn’t write down the number so I had to boot up and get it out of my docs. I got on the crappy green phone and couldn’t find my phone card for a second. When I finally was talking to Lou on the phone it was already 11:01 and the train was leaving at 11:02! I quickly told her I was leaving, then snatched everything up and dove on the train, trusting that picked the right one. It was. My seat is in the back, and my suitcase is right behind me. Usually when I first get here I’m all concerned about my luggage being nowhere near me, but I eventually get over that. Japan is disgustingly safe, but I guess it can’t hurt to keep your guard up. Right now we’re traveling at 171MPH parallel to the Tohoku Expressway, about to cross Kuroiso according to the trusty GPS. Thanks for the maps, Cloyce! What’s most interesting is watching the wireless pick up all the networks around. At one point as we were moving, I could see 22 different networks at once! Crazy. It also occurred to me, it’s not very nice, but I could just wander around until I find a random unsecured wireless network to get Internet access. I should have tried that last night! Another thing I think is really cute are the women who are walking around pushing the carts for refreshments. Actually what I think is cute is the voice they use to announce themselves. It’s a manner of speaking that is pretty much how most announcements are done in Japanese, and I’m not sure if I can explain it very well. It’s just very cute and I’ll have to see if I can record it next time they come through.

Man, I love shinkansen.

-Hikaru