Japan, May 2014: Day Eleven

You know that face you make when you’ve been standing next to a train for 3 minutes and just as you watch it leave you realise you were supposed to be on it? Well we were sporting that exact expression of confused despair as the Hikari 464 pulled out of Shin-Osaka.“I think we were supposed to be on that!” Is something I’d rather never have to say again.

We had a transfer to make in an hour and with our bullet train disappearing fast, we were left with two options; go to the ticket office, rebook the days tickets and hopefully catch another train later. Or… Jump on the next train without a ticket and hope we get kicked off at our original destination for the leg, Nagoya, and catch another transfer train when we are there.

Being the honest people we are, we ran down the platform and jumped on the next Shinkansen to travel through Nagoya. The train we boarded was pencilled to arrive just 10 minutes behind the train we missed. Fortunately the Japanese rail system runs on time, every time, so we could bank on exiting the train at 11:41 on the dot. Unfortunately the Japanese rail system runs on time, every time, so our transfer train would leave at 11:43 – leaving us just two minutes to clear the ticket gate, run up or down through the major station and find our train!

Frantically googling station maps of Nagoya, we concluded that we’d arrive at platform 14 and leave from platform 11. The Shinkansen and local trains are in different areas and with only two minutes between trains, we’d have to run to stand any chance of making it. There was a train later in the day, so if (when) we missed it, we’d just have to hope there was spare seats on that one.

As we rolled into Nagoya, we prepped bags, stood by the doors and as soon as we’d stopped we were off like a couple of parents reluctantly participating in a kid’s sports day. Flashing our JR passes at the attendant, we barged our way through the gates and with the sound of train preparing to leave, we powered up the stairs to platform 11. The guard was just giving the signal to leave as I hurled myself at the only open door on the train. Emma was close behind and although we may have made them 30 seconds late – we were aboard! Luckily it was our train… I’ll be honest, I didn’t know until we reached the first station.

The train was a Hida “Wide View”. With more glass than previous trains, we were able to enjoy the spectacular scenery as we ascended into the mountains. The small Onsen (hot water springs) resort of Takayama was our destination. Two hours later we arrived at the small station and quickly googled where our hotel was. Luckily it was a few minutes walk from the station and although we were early, we were made very welcome.

The hotel is ryokan style and very traditional looking on the inside. The staff are super attentive and it feels odd to have people doing stuff for you. However, we’ll go with it as they’ll be offended if we don’t. Once we’d taken off our shoes and swapped to slippers, we were asked to sit in the lobby whilst they took our bags to the room. We were given some green tea and something that resembled snot In jelly – it was green tea flavoured and not as bad as it looked or sounds.

Once we’d checked in, it was time to choose our yukatas (dressing gowns). We were then shown to our room on the top floor. It’s as big as a house and has four rooms; with a tatami mat floor, it’s as close to a traditional inn as you can get without having to share a toilet. The hotel has public onsen baths and one private bath that we have booked for a late night splash. We are currently waiting to go down to dinner Yukata’d up and ready for some raw fish!