TRIP | TOKYO : that time when you thought the Shinkansen would be empty on a Monday at 1PM [J-Spring16]

Nara, 4 April. The check-out of the apartment where I stay is at 12:00, but I’ve been busy since 9:45 am in order to get everything done (usually, I like lounging until the last minute) : dishes, shower, vacuum and then tetrissing up the luggage. At 11am, I go to the supermarket to buy dashi and rice. A month in Japan and what do you buy as souvenirs? 5 packets of dashi in sachets, a bottle of liquid dashi, 2 dashi tablets looking like bouillon-cube… And a 5kg bag of rice. Obviously it’s gonna be funky to carry everything : between that and my computer/camera bag, I already knew my arms would be mangled.

The first few minutes of walking are rough : I took off my coat, scarf, sweater and all the stuff decency allows me to in the blink of an eye. The 200 meters that separate the apartment from the station seemed endless and once on the train to Kyoto, I slouched on the seat, out of breath and dripping with sweat. In Kyoto, I caught the Shinkansen going to Tokyo.

Crowded. Like crazy. Not a single empty seat in any of the 3 “unreserved seat” cars. At the ticket office, the agent asked me what kind of seat I’d like to purchase, between the reserved seat fare and the unreserved. I told myself on one hand we were going back to Tokyo so chances are many people would ride the train. On the other hand, I was like “oooh come on, it’s okaaay… Who on Earth would take a train at 1PM, seriously? On Monday… Really, who?”

Well, everybody. The 2:30 journey towards the capital started off real bad. And this is when the unthinkable happened : for once in my life, luck was on my side as the crowded trains fairy heard my prayers. In Nagoya, the next stop about 20-30 min from Kyoto, two girls who were in the closest seats (I was standing in the aisle) got up and left. A Canadian tourist and I took those seats real quick, like :

I’ve never enjoyed a train ride so much.

On arrival, I took the Yamanote line until Nippori* to put my 300 kilos of bags and then I went to Ikebukuro ** to enjoy my last moments in Japan.

* One of the connections to the airport
** A young and lively district

Then I went back to Nippori to pick up my load and go to Narita Airport for my last night.

Yes, a night at the airport, again. This time I chose to spend my night at the airport to avoid carrying around my big bags on public transportation as rush hour in Tokyo is no joke. It also allows me to test the other international airport and to my surprise, Narita is really crap.

Shops close early, restaurants too (McDonald’s closes at 8pm ?! Really?), the atmosphere is dead, you could see some tumbleweed rolling. You can’t sit freely because in fact, past 9:30 pm, the security agents pick up all the travelers and send them to a room : a meeting point I think, a sort of refugee camp for travelers.

This place was the opposite of Haneda : comfortable seats, indeed, but dazzling lights and above all, annoying people. Lone travelers were usually quiet but groups? Oh my… they just wouldn’t shut the hell up! You try to sleep but there’s an endless walalalalala in back ground noise. A Russian girl tried a loud “huuuh, huuuum” to make people understand they were a nuisance but nope… In vain.

The most annoying ones were probably those 2 Asian women who, instead of sitting next to one another and talking quietly (whispering, that is), they sat 2 benches apart and were talking loud like it was nothing. I just wanted to get up and tell them :

But I held it inside, cowardly. This was the last night in Tokyo. As MC Solaar would say, I had to disappear to reappear : I left Japan to find it again. A page turns, a new one is written with less procrastination I hope.

Chrys Prolls

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