On My Way to Niigata

Needing to take a long journey in order to get the full value out of my JR Rail Pass, a friend suggests a day trip. From Tokyo it’s two hours one way to Niigata or Sendai. He’s sure I’ll enjoy the view through the mountains or the Tohoku region as the train is a comfortable way to see vast tracts and different parts of the country.

Knowing nothing much of either place, I’m not sure why I choose one over the other. However, the next morning I board the Joetsu Shinkansen (Bullet Train) at Ueno Station bound for Niigata.

Mistake! Still a bit shaky after my severe bout of food poisoning, when I reserved my ticket I neglected to request a window seat and am unable to control the blind or see anything without keeping my head turned 45 degrees. Not a happy prospect.

As we glide north through the miles of concrete blocks pushing skyward which spread across the greater Tokyo metropolis and on through Saitama, it seems as if they’ll never end. But they do. Once into the bucolic Saitama countryside, the sun finally breaks bright gold through the morning cloud cover.

Photo credit: http://www.angelfire.com/nj3/dk/jap/hir/hir.html

Landscape rolling by. Photo credit.

Immediately the window blinds slam down, and the locals settle down for a welcome nap just as the new-to-me views get more interesting.

Mountain view from Gunma, Japan. Photo Credit to Silvio e Hanae http://www.panoramio.com/photo/53336971

Mountain view from Gunma, Japan. Photo Credit to Silvio e Hanae 

Not for me the gradual segue across the plain into Gunma’s foothills, vistas of mountains, black tunnels punched through them or the first sight of the Niigata Plains on the other side.

Simon Pasco Photo  used under Creative Commons License. View over Niigata-ken plains

Simon Pasco Photo used under Creative Commons License. View over Niigata-ken plains

I’m stuck looking at a seat back in a darkened railway car. Shoganai. (Nothing can be done.) Even though I’ve seen nothing but my hotel Toto for days and my disappointment is acute, resignation is a happier state than agitation. Live and learn. I’ll know better next time.

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