|Aboard the Shinkansen 'Hikari'|
After eating the so-called "breakfast of champions" at Tsukiji Market, I hurriedly went back at 7:30 AM via subway to Asakusa and checked out from the hotel. This being a morning rush-hour, I faced the prospect of being squeezed with the riding masses, bags and all. I had a train to catch bound for Hiroshima but thanks to the ever-reliable Hyperdia, I was able to find out which subway line would give me less connections. Thank God, despite the crowd, I managed to get into Tokyo Station in one piece, excited at my first ever ride on the Shinkansen or "bullet train".
|Tagalog ad on the subway: para sa mga Pinay na buntis|
|Bento boxes for sale|
I've said it before and I'll say it again: using Japan Rail Pass is a cost-effective way for anyone traveling extensively around Japan. A round trip "Ordinary" ticket between Tokyo and Hiroshima alone currently cost 22,680 yen ($292), but for $340, this gets you an "Ordinary" pass for 7 days of unlimited travel on the extensive JR network of trains, buses, the Tokyo Monorail (for Haneda Airport) and the Miyajima ferry.
The rail pass is valid on all Shinkansen trains except Nozomi and Mizuho, considered the fastest among "bullet trains" (since they only have a few stops between destinations). It doesn't matter really to me - the Hikari train taking me to Hiroshima is still assuredly fast with a maximum speed of 270 kms/hour.
|My seat with plenty of leg space|
With my rail pass (which is bought before arriving into the country), all I had to do was either 1) show up at the station and get a seat in the non-reserved section of the train or like what I did, 2) made reservations the day before at the station for a window seat at the train's reserved section (which is normally an extra charge if you buy single tickets). Doing the latter is way better of course and a real no-brainer for those already with the rail pass.
|Train crew always make a bow before and after entering each car!|
|My lunch: Tonkatsu & Unagi with rice|
Before walking into the train platform, I bought a bento box for lunch just as everyone else seems to be doing from one of the many shops inside the station. Price varies from 800-3,000 yen depending on what's included but just looking at the samples on display already made me hungry. They all look so good it was difficult choosing but I eventually got one with Tonkatsu and Unagi which cost about 1,200 yen. I've got about 4 hours of travel time on the train, which is plenty of time for a leisurely meal.
|My connecting Hikari 'Rail Star' train in Kobe|
|At Kobe Station|
The Shinkansen have two seat types - the Ordinary and the more expensive Green Car - but even the Ordinary is already quite comfortable with plenty of leg space that makes economy class on airplanes look cramped. Seating arrangement is 2x3 with all-forward facing seats. Everything is immaculately clean, including wash rooms and lavatories. Overhead bin space is generous. With polite Japanese as fellow passengers, there's really nothing to complain about. In fact, save for onboard announcements, the train is eerily quiet as most passengers kept to themselves without ever using mobile phones or hardly even talking to their seatmates.
|Cloud-covered Mt. Fuji|
VIEW FROM THE TRAIN
From Tokyo, the Hikari train left at exactly 9:03 AM and zoomed all the way to Kobe, a distance of almost 590 kilometers, in just 3 hours and 15 minutes (with stops in Yokohama, Nagoya, Kyoto & Osaka). At the station in Kobe, I waited for my next train, another Hikari, which promptly arrived 17 minutes later. I got onboard and was once again whisked in speedy fashion to my final destination, leaving Kobe at 12:35 PM and arriving in Hiroshima at 1:54 PM. I'm really floored by the promptness of Japanese trains - you can even set your time with them!
|Queuing for the ride|
|Paying on the tram: by tapping a prepaid card or in cash|
|The Peace Memorial Park and A-Bomb Dome as seen from my hotel room|
|Closer view of the A-Bomb Dome from Sunroute hotel's restaurant|
To get to Hotel Sunroute Hiroshima where I was booked, I needed to ride on Tram No. 1. I asked around at the station in really s-l-o-w English. A very kind janitor stopped what he was doing, escorted me and didn't stop walking with me until he was practically pointing at the nose of the tram. This ebullient display of kindness is one of the most endearing traits of the Japanese. All I could do was simply say "arigato" and give him a big bow.
Once on the tram, my thoughts were now finally on Hiroshima the City - a city that I came to know back in high school as one that was devastated by the Atomic bomb during World War II. While Japan's northeast had to endure a nuclear meltdown resulting from the recent earthquake, here I was in this city that has risen literally from the ashes of war.