Saiko no Densha

(I think that's right-- we're drifting into phrasebook stuff, here...)

Another day of tourism, another golf shirt with visible salt crystals from dried sweat. Did I mention that it's really frickin' hot?

Today was a split day-- we spent the morning looking at temples near the Kyoto station, and after lunch took a train down to Himeji to see the Tokugawa-era castle there. It was a great day all around-- Too-ji temple was having their monthly flea market/ fair/ whatever, so we picked up some souvenirs, and I ate some weird food-- deep-fried bait (some sort of minnow-like fish), and fried octopus balls (that is, spherical dumplings with octopus in, you filthy perverts). Himeji castle is spectacular, and had very good English explanatory text along the tour route, which was a nice bonus. I took something in the neighborhood of 150 pictures, so more detail will be forthcoming.

The post title is an attempt at "Best. Train. Ever," as a result of taking the shinkansen down to Himeji and back. These are amazing trains, and such a good way to travel-- they're a little like a thought experiment from Relativity, in that the ride is so smooth you can't tell the difference between sitting at rest in the station, and cruising down the track at constant speed. And the "green car" seats are really comfortable.

If you're going to visit Japan, I can't recommend the JR Pass highly enough-- getting tickets is trivial, and getting onto the trains themselves is really slick. These will pay for themselves in no time, if they haven't already.

And if you have any ideas for ways to get trains this good in the US, for God's sake, run for office and put them into practice, because this is so much better than any American travel option that it's not even funny.

Off to plan the next day of sightseeing, and ponder why the Japanese can't manage to produce a useful weatehr forecast. Mata ne.

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"And if you have any ideas for ways to get trains this good in the US..."

Make the country smaller :)

"Best train" would be "ichiban densha" ("number one train" literally).

Brian: Japan has an extent roughly comparable to either of your coastal areas; areas which are also heavily populated. Implementing something similar along your East coast shouldn't be any more troublesome than the Japanese system was. And sparsely populated countries like Sweden (which is larger than Japan) also manage decent train service, if not at the level of the Shinkansen.

Shinkansen is great. Osaka-Tokyo is actually faster than with airplane, and the trains go every twenty minutes or so, so you don't even have to book ahead or catch a particular departure. Just go to the station and hop onto the next train.

I ate some weird food-- deep-fried bait (some sort of minnow-like fish), and fried octopus balls...

HA!... if you get desparate enough, there's a McDonalds in Morioka, and a Dunkin Donuts in Hachinohe.

Every time I travel to some place with a functional rail system, I weep. Because we will never have something like that here in Los Angeles, not with all of the NIMBYs and budgeteers getting in the way.