Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Our trip to Japan

Our Japanese trip was planned so that we landed in Osaka by air, stayed for two nights in Osaka; move to Kyoto by train, stay two nights in Kyoto; and then travel to Tokyo by the Shinkansen (Bullet) train, stay for two nights in Tokyo, before flying out of Narita airport in Tokyo.

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip on many counts, some of the reasons are: - 
  • The weather during our trip from 06 May 2017 to 13 May 2017 was just perfect; neither hot nor too cold, we missed the famous spring 'cherry blossom' season by a few weeks.
  • The Japanese people were the highlight of the trip; very conscientious, very helpful ( as a matter of fact some of them went way out of their way to help), very punctual, friendly, honest, etc. 
  • A non English speaking developed country where the basic human values are still intact.
We were looking to go to Dotonbori street in Tokyo after finishing our ride on the Ferris wheel. We took the underground subway and reached the closest station, but did not know which exit to go out from to reach the street. We asked the Japan Rail personnel; they told us the exit number. The subway was crowded; it was around 9:30 pm. We could not figure out and thus stopped a gentlemen in tie who we estimated knew English. He seemed to be returning from work with a brief case in his left hand. He stopped, listened to us, took us to a nearby map and tried explaining to us. After a few broken English sentences, he stopped and asked us to follow him. Despite our protests that he needed to go home and it was late, he persisted. He took us out from the underground subway and walked us down about 1/2 a km to the street, despite our loud and genuine protests. He left us speechless at one end of the Dotonbori street, and this is at 9:30 pm and the man was returning from work. I cannot find myself to have even thought of doing this to a stranger, specially if I am returning after a long day at work, and that is what makes this act great. I have a lot to learn about being human and lesser informed people friendly.

Not only this, many a time we have asked complete strangers about certain directions, help and they have all responded favourably. Young professionals have all taken out their cellphones and got the google directions, and have been willing to walk us in the direction. One girl who did not know the directions to the place felt guilty in saying so, and was nearly in tears saying sorry to us. This is what makes Japan a great developed country for me, with truely Asian values, way beyond what we in India can even think. 'Atithi Devobhaya' needs to be re-learnt by us from the Japanese.

The Osaka Castle with Poonam in the foreground
A battlefield display with minitiature soldiers and horses in the Osaka Castle

The Ferris wheel in Osaka

The Kinkakuji (Golden) shrine, which I call the Shangri-la

The Shinkansen (Bullet) train nose inspired by the Kingfisher birds beak.

The Shinkansen is like a normal express train and runs between major cities from Tokyo. We enjoyed travel on this train with the 7-day JR pass. The trains are capable of speed that are upward of 300 kmph. We traveled from Kyoto to Tokyo on the Hikari bullet train, the second fastest shinkansen. The train covered a distance of 452 kms in 2:35 minutes with 5 or 6 halts in between. The trains arrive and depart on the dot; arriving in to the platform at over 60 kmph; have 16 cars on the long distance routes; hurtle out of the station at over 60 kmph; once outside the train picks up speed and one can feel the acceleration; the turns are banked; the nose of the train has been inspired by the beak of the Kingfisher bird, so as to create least ripples when traversing tunnels enroute. 

The seats recline and are in a 3-aisle-2 format. I noticed that all Japanese people recline their seats and ensure that they leave them vertical before leaving, unlike us who leave it as is for someone else to do the needful.

The Skytree in Tokyo engulfed by clouds

Comparison with other man made structures.

The second tallest man made structure in the world, after Burj Khalifa and also the tallest free standing tower in the world. Leap day 2012 saw the completion of the world's second tallest structure, the Tokyo Sky Tree television transmitter and observation tower. At 2,080 feet (634 m) the tower stands nearly twice as Japan's previous tallest frame, the 1,091-ft (333-m) Tokyo Tower transmitter. It's an audacious technological feat when one considers this is at the heart of an earthquake zone. Nikken Sekkei, the design practice behind both buildings, effectively doubled its personal best in the construction of the Sky Tree, and in doing so employed the latest technology, not to mention the expertise of "more than 100 architects, engineers and planners", to build the capital city's striking quake-resistant giant - a super-tower its designers claim offers "better safety" than any other. It has a 9:1 height to width ratio - a narrow, almost needle-like form. For more details please go to http://newatlas.com/tokyo-sky-tree/21682/  

The Sensoji Temple in Tokyo

A pet Eagle Owl. Japanese have many unconventional pets.

The Cable car on the Mt Fuji circuit tour. One rail track shared by two cable cars, by design, moving in opposite directions

Mt Fuji circuit, an ancient boat ride

Tokyo by night from the 45th floor of the Metropolitan Government building in Tokyo

The moat bridge on the outer moat around the Imperial Palace

Rhododendrons on the main road in Tokyo