From Tokyo to Yamaguchi

I’m living in Shunan-shi, Yamaguchi-ken, but just how did I get here? I took the shinkansen, or what many call the bullet train. But before that, I must go back a few days before that. Oh, by the way, the picture above is not from Shunan, but from some place I passed by on the train.

I arrived in Japan on Friday, Feb. 26, 2010. I took the Narita Express, an express train from Narita Airport to Shinjuku-ku, a ward of Tokyo. I then took a train from there to my friends’ apartment nearby. My friend and his wife have been great friends of mine for several years now. In fact, he was my first Japanese instructor I had when I lived in Houston. When you expand your horizons and try new things you can meet all sorts of interesting people.

On Saturday night, my friend, who happens to be fluent in Japanese and English, helped me purchase my shinkansen ticket for Sunday’s departure. The form we had to fill out to book the ticket was entirely in Japanese. I didn’t ask him, but I wonder if there’s an English form. If there is, I’d have been lost on my own.

Sunday morning came and I took a train to Tokyo-eki, one of the largest stations in the city. From there I took a shinkansen down to Hiroshima, where I had about a 20 – 25 min layover before my next shinkansen arrived that would take me to Tokuyama.

“Tokuyama? I thought you were in Shunan???” I am.. in both. You see, less than 10 years ago, several cities, Tokuyama being one of them, merged together to form Shunan. The main station here is still called Tokuyama Station, or Tokuyama-eki. On maps, sometimes the area shows up as Shunan, sometimes it’s still named Tokuyama.

The trip in total from Tokyo to Tokuyama was about five hours. The ride was smooth, smoother than almost all plane flights I’ve been on in my life. There are bathrooms, vending machines and even a lady or two who come by with carts full of snacks, bento meals and more. I had a snack at my transfer in Hiroshima, so I didn’t buy anything on the trains.

I arrived at Tokuyama late in the afternoon, got a ride to my new apartment, unpacked, went out for a bite to eat, and returned to wait for my luggage to be delivered. Rather than deal with the arduous task of carrying three suitcases, a backpack and briefcase all over the trains of Tokyo and the shinkansen, I used a courier service, or takkyubin.

When I arrived at the airport on Friday, I went to a takkyubin service there in the terminal, dropped my two large suitcases and paid a paltry fee of about $35 to have my bags to be delivered on Sunday afternoon. It’s quite easy to do, and I recommend everyone use it if they have many things to move and don’t want to both lugging it around for a few days.

So Sunday night my bags arrived, and I prepared¬† for my first day of work on Monday, March 1. It’s been so busy since I arrived, so I have not had a chance to tidy up my apartment.. hence no pictures of the inside. Instead you can see these pictures looking out from my apartment windows. =)

The rest of the pictures can be found here.

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