Takayama to Tokyo, Sunday 13-Nov

It's come down to this. One more full day in Japan, and about six hours of that going from our Takayama hostel to our Tokyo hotel. We got some great views from the trains, and even managed to get a little sightseeing in.

We must have had good timing in the morning since both the kitchen and dining area were almost empty, so it took us no time to get breakfast. We then finished packing, checked out, and headed towards the train station.

When we tried to get past the ticket checker, he said that passengers for our train would need to wait until not quite a half hour before the train departs before we could go to the platform. A few minutes before, a line started to form, then at the appointed time, we were let through the gate, went down to the platform, and proceeded to get into line at our respective cars. We had reserved seats, and our cars were towards the front of the train, while the unreserved cars at the back.

The train on the tracks going the other way started up, and I realized it had been a long time since I'd heard a diesel engine on a train. I then looked up and saw no overhead wires, so we were going to be on a diesel train too. All the other trains we'd been on, including the Shinkansen, run on electricity. Even the freight trains we'd seen ran on electricity.

Our train pulled up, but only in front of the passengers without reservations. Workers jumped onto the outside of the train and opened the passthrough door at the front, then we saw another five cars backing up to it, eventually stopping in front of us. We found our seats and settled in for the 2½ hour ride.

We spent most of the ride following the Hidagawa River, with some great views. We then pulled into Gifu Station, and looking at the map, if we continued on, we would end up really far west of Nagoya Station where we would be transferring. Indeed, the train started going the other direction. The seats on our train were capable of turning around, but no one did that; unless everyone turned the seats, there would be sets of people facing each other. The horror!

Another thing I noticed while we were at Gifu Station was either the train would need to go very quickly, or we were going to be late. Indeed we ended up about ten minutes late, mostly because we had to wait at some stations for other trains to pass. We've found it extremely rare for trains to be anything outside a minute or so off schedule, so it was a bit surprising.

Fortunately, we enough leeway on our transfer, not to mention reserved seats on the Shinkansen to Tokyo. We got to the next platform with plenty of time to spare.

The Shinkansen ride was uneventful, but it doesn't get old watching the countryside go by at about 150mph. At one point I glimpsed what looked like Mt. Fuji outside our side of the train, but it was at a bad enough angle that I wasn't able to get a photo of it. I took a look at the map to see how the tracks would go relative to the mountain and saw that there would be a lot of opportunities on the other side coming up. I went between the cars, but there was a guy there sitting on his large roller suitcase (he probably couldn't get a seat in the unreserved cars), but I was able to get some shots off around him. I went back into the car, and found some empty seats on the left side and took some shots out there, too (but those windows were pretty dirty, and I chose to not do that much postprocessing).

The train conductor went through the car several times, and just like all other JR Trains we've been on, he would bow to the passengers whenever he left the car. We hadn't been on non-JR trains with conductors, so I'm not sure if it's just the company or if it's something that's done on all trains. Even the woman who pushes the food cart bows on the way out of the car.

This segment of the ride was about 1½ hours, after which we pulled into Tokyo Station. And just like that, we were in the last city of our trip.

In Tokyo

It was about a mile walk from the station to our hotel, where we checked in, dropped our bags into the room, and headed back out to see what kind of view of the city we could get. On the way, we saw a marching band going down the street. In fact, we started hearing them while still down in the subway station.

The Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building has a pair of towers, each with an observatory you can go to for free. It took us a while to find how to get inside the building itself, but once we found it, we took the elevator ride to the 45th floor of the North Building and made a beeline to the windows to see what we could see. In theory, you could see Mt. Fuji, but it was too hazy to see. Just like in Hakone, a great view of the mountain, followed not long after by no view at all.

We still enjoyed looking around the still-unfamiliar city and even were able to see people in the other tower's observatory.

Being ready to call it a day, we went to a marketplace in Shinjuku Station to pick up some bento boxes, took the train back to the stop near our hotel, got breakfast items, then made it back to the hotel. We were able to heat our boxes in the microwave in the lobby then took things up to the room to eat.

We knew we would have a few hours the following day, so we made a quick plan, checked into our flights for the next day, and just like that, our last full day in Japan was done.