Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Japan - Day 13

     Today is primarily a travel day.  We need to take the shinkansen to Shin Osaka, then transfer to Tokyo. We now have 3 small suitcases, having bought one more for the souvenirs we are accumulating.
     We are awakened by a thunderclap like Thor's hammer striking right beside our beds.  James says the lightning was impressive too, but I was facing away from the window and missed it. The thunder was sufficient to wake me though!  I get up and play on the computer for a while until James gets up around 7.  We pack everything carefully and are out of the door by 8:00.
      Our ryokan proprietress asks us to wait while she takes a picture, then prints a copy for us.  Juggling suitcases, backpacks, and umbrellas, we head out into the steaming rain for the tram. Oh my gosh!  It is PACKED with people, a few get off, more get on - goodness knows how, bodies are crammed against all the windows and there are people standing in every available space.  There is absolutely no way we are going to make it on there with 3 suitcases, 2 backpacks, and our American sized-selves.  We wait for the next one- which is just the same.  Several uncrowded trams pass, but none are going the right way.  We hide in a doorway to shelter from the rain, after the 3rd packed tram, I decide it is hopeless.
     We head back to our ryokan, knock on the door, and ask our erstwhile hostess to call a taxi.  She does and we chat in our very limited Japanese and her very limited English while we wait for 15 minutes or so.  It is so hot and damp in her entryway- hard to believe so early in the morning.  She gives us a couple of fans from the travel agency and they help a lot!  No wonder fans are so popular here!  When we leave, she has us keep the fans.
     I worry about how much the taxi will cost.  The tram ride here was over 30 minutes, and that was early in the afternoon in light traffic.  Now we see tram after tram backed up along the road.  The taxi arrives and the driver is fearless! He whizzes in and out of traffic and between trams and buses like a motorcycle driver.  (I am getting used to driving on the left side of the road and no longer think, "I'm going to die!!!" every time we come around a corner to face a car on the right.)  He gets us to the train station in record time and the fare is only $1600 yen, or about $20.  It was soooo worth it!
     Now we've seen rush hour in Japan.  It's not a pretty picture!  I'll take LA any day.  At least you're alone in your car fuming at the delay instead of crammed into a heaving souffle of humanity! Most of the rest of the day was spent on various trains.  We didn't get back to Keiko and Katsuo's until about 7 pm.  Ugh.  We visited with Katsuo for a while, then he went off to work the night shift and we went back to dinner at the little restaurant around the corner we've grown to like so well.  James ordered the shrimp ramen this time, but it came with 5 large squid tentacles.  He chickened out and didn't eat them.  (The cook looked a bit miffed but I think we were forgiven when we gave the grand daughters their Pez candy.)
     Tomorrow our flight leaves at 7:30 pm, but we don't have as much time for sightseeing as we'd thought. We can't take the train until 10 (rush hour again) and need to catch the bus for the airport at 3.  We'll see what we can fit into those 5 hours.

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