It was time to get this trip started. Before we left Canada we followed a few peoples advice and bought a JR pass prior to arriving in Japan. If you go do this as well as buying the pass in your home country will save you thousands of yen. To use the pass we needed to get it activated at a JR office so off we went to the local Takatsuki Station to do this with plans on taking a train in the direction of Tokyo
. Unfortunately we found ouyt only a few of the JR offices can activate the pass so we had to either chose to head to Osaka
Atami castle. Was home to a minor lord. The view from up here was great.
Osaka was in the wrong direction and we really did not want to go to Kyoto yet but at least it was heading in the right direction. Later we found out we should have activated the pass at the Kansai airport when we first arrived but you learn these things when you travel.
We only stayed in Kyoto long enough to get the passes ready so we did not go see any temples yet. However the Kyoto station was impressive. It was not as large as the Osaka station but it was more open and you could see the dozens (or so it seemed) of tracks and the different trains. As we waited I could see several types of trains coming and going and watched as hundreds of Japanese hustled and bustled on and off trains. One of the strangest things I found in Japan was people would run to catch a train.
Found a great little resort called Atami not far from Tokyo. On the JR line between Osaka and Tokyo.
In Vancouver it makes more sense were trains out of the city only run once or twice a day but in Japan they run sometimes every ten minutes. What possibly could make a young Japanese lady in high heels risk her neck to run up stairs just to catch the next train to Yokohama?
As I waited for our train a few shinkansen trains, that did not stop in Kyoto rocketed past. If the train was passing on the track you were near an alarm would sound and metal gates would close in front of you so you could not get dangerously close to the tracks and then the train would scream past. I took several photos but only a couple turned out with my cheap digital camera.
If you ever do ride the shinkansen be ready to hurry. From the time the train arrives at your station to the time you leave is only 4-5 minutes at most.
The train stops and immediately people hurry off the cars and as soon as the last person is off other passengers pile on. You then get a short alarm and the doors shut and off you go. As you ride make sure you know the stop before your stop. There are always announcements (both in Japanese and English) so if you listen carefully you will hear when your station is coming up. Just make sure you are getting ready as the train leaves the previous station as there is no time to get organized when the train arrives, you only have time to get off or you will be trampled by the boarding folks.
As we rode the train we made a random choice on what city to make our first stop. I do not remember how we chose but the choice was Atami
, a resort town not far from Tokyo.
My first Asian beach
Atami was a very good choice though as it was right on the ocean and had a really nice white sand beach. The weather was great for December and as it was the middle of the week there not many people there. We found a nice beach front hotel for a good price and we settled in for a couple of days. Atami is full of privately run onsens inside the many inns and hotels. Our hotel had a small onsen in the basement that resembled a small bathing pool.
The beach front area of Atami is fairly small so we spent some time just walking the boardwalk and watching some young Japanese play beach volleyball. At one end of the beach it ends in a cliff which has a small castle at the top. To get to the Atami you need to buy a ticket and ride a short gondola up to the top.
This is were it gets weird. After you get off the gondola you see the common little shops selling junk to to tourists and another ticket office that looks like it leads to a museum. Seeing that we were heading to a castle I was thinking it belonged to that attraction but oh no not even close. For no reason I have been able to understand the museum was a Japanese sex history museum. Now I am far from a conservative prude but that was not why I was at the top of this cliff so we passed on this novelty. Instead we exited the building and walked up the hill to the castle and looked around.
The castle was alright but what I remember was the view. I took a number of photos from a different views and basically enjoyed the weather. The sun was wonderful and a big surprise. Just a few days before I was still in Calgary and it was 20 below zero. On this Atami days it was close to 30 and almost no clouds.