Thursday, April 12, 2007

Train adventures

The Fav Aunt and I got up Sunday morning and turned on the TV as we got ready to start our last day in Tokyo. The first thing that we saw was that a big earthquake had JUST hit Ishikawa prefecture (just west of Toyama). We watched the video clips over and over and it seemed pretty serious. Text messages were sent to Sista K and others to make sure things were OK at home. Just a lot of rattling in Toyamam according to most.

We stayed in Ueno that morning and went to the ticket office to get our tickets home. During an encounter with possibly the rudest JR worker I've dealt with in Japan we were told that we couldn't get seats together (I already had a reserved seat and M had a rail pass) so we decided we'd have to ride unreserved. No problem I thought, I've done it before. I wasn't until we got on the train that I realized 3 big mistakes that I should have know better not to make. Oh, and we had tons of luggage to take back with us and that did nothing to help our situation -most of it was stuff for me from home.

OK, the first mistake was that we should have gotten on at Tokyo station, not Ueno (the second stop) because by the time we got on it was already packed, and we had so much with us we hardly got everything on before the train whistle blew. There was no room to stand, let alone sit. We decided that I should go to my seat to check it out, and M would stay with the bags.

That's when I realized my second and 3rd mistakes - I was in car 8 and M was in car 1 (the unreserved car). It took me 10 minutes just to walk the length of the train to get to my seat, there were people standing in the aisle of all the unreserved cars so I had to jostle me way through with the bags that I had. We should have BOTH gotten on car 8 first...BECAUSE when I got to my seat I realized that there were plenty of seats available -just not the seat beside my reserved one. GAH. @#^$#! I was so ticked both at the JR guy for not suggesting to change my ticket or to just put M in a seat near to me, but also at me for not getting us both on car 8 first. So even though I got to sit for the train ride, I was fuming the whole time because I couldn't go back to get M -just simply too much luggage and too many people to get through.

So at our final stop I was praying that she could get off by herself. I jumped off the train as fast a possible and rushed down to the other end of the platform to see her calmly standing with all of our bags. Seems she had some help -not at all unusual in this country.

On to the next train...when we got to our transfer spot we were told that our train had been canceled due to the earthquake and we'd have to take the local train which could only take us half way to our destination. We'd then have to change trains once again and take another local train.

So we followed the crowd and were squeezed onto an already too crowed train. I had found a small niche right near the door and was hoping M would be able to get in beside me but I turned around for just a moment and before we knew it, a group of women were forcing themselves into the train and the just kept pushing M further and further into the train! She ended up about a third of the way into the train before it started to move. I was hoping that being a local train, people would be getting off and we'd get more space, but instead, more people just got on at each stop. A couple of times people DID want to get off, but the train was so crowded that they couldn't get to the doors in time! We rode like sardines for about 90 minutes. At every stop, we would crane our necks to see each other and I'd nod "no, not our stop".

Finally at our last transfer station we found our last train without any problems. But there was a problem...they didn't know what time the train would be leaving! We waited for about an hour before it finally rolled out. Another 2 hour ride to Nyuzen, a five minute car ride to my apartment and we were home safe, sound and exhausted.