JR- Japan Railways

Day 10- As I was affected by a bout of Shinkansen nostalgia yesterday, the lesson learned is: be careful what you wish for. The day trip to Hakone that included a short Shinkansen ride turned out to be a bit more complicated than planed as I forgot my JR pass and my passport on the train. ‘Give me a moment’ said the helpful guy in Odawara station, and five phone calls later, the conductor of the train had located the passport and JR pass to report back that he would drop them at the Nagoya station ‘lost and found’ office. Note that the Japanese protocol excludes that he would simply pass it on to another conductor in the other direction to bring it back: We are not in Sweden where I got back a forgotten cell phone like that. So I must go to Nagoya? OK! It’s just a bit more than a one-hour ride and it’s free. ‘Give me a moment’ said the man, and then he came back to say ‘You have to pay the ticket: Since your JR pass is there and not here, you need to pay a ticket’. Well, enough is to say that this is when I got to realize how much I saved so far with the JR pass (吾唯足知). Through that experience that elongated the day a little bit, I got to observe more of the diligence of the JR system: The station manager who treats every train stop as if the prime minister was in it, the guy behind the gate bowing at the exiting passengers and the efficient cart ladies with their bento boxes and macha ice creams. I also got to notice during the idle time at the office that there had signs on their drawers to say ‘整理整頓’ (Basically: Arrange things in order and fix the mess). I thought that this would be a good mantra for me to practice, and like punished French school kids, I promised myself to copy it 100 times to learn the lesson (With the calligraphy pen). When I mentioned that to the office guy, he burst in a sudden, frank but brief laugh: It felt great to have caught someone off the official script for a second. The JR pass gets you way more than discounted kilometers. But when the Shinkansen arrives at its terminus, you’d better be quick. Within 3 minutes of arrival, they start to berate you, broadcasting that ‘This train is out of service’ every twelve second and within 4 minutes, it is invaded by an army of pink-uniform cleaning ladies. Oh, yes, I got to go to Hakone finally for a quick snap at the torii on the lake. But clouds had gathered over the morning clear skies and there was no Mount Fuji to be seen. The only vision I will keep of it is the glimpse from the Shinkansen (Another bonus I had not thought about).
My friend 柏良 from Taiwan had suggested I should really try Yokohama if in Tokyo. Since it was on the way back, I did for a two-hour self-organized tour package that included a drink at the panoramic tower and a bite at the restored docks. Again a superficial impression, but the skate-boarders, the amusement park and the laid back dining out painted a quick brush stroke picture of a different form of laid back cosmopolitanism: The one that is typical of harbors. It all seemed to say: Next stop: Valparaiso.