September 9th, 2007

Bullet Train

Osaka: Getting into Training

Today's main event was the Modern Transport Museum, which purports to be a general museum of transportation but is mostly about trains, with one gallery devoted to everything else.

But before we could get going, we needed to get some cash, as we've pretty much burned through most of what we had. All of the tourism advice said that the ATMs at the post office take international ATM cards, and the Osaka Central Post Office is across the street from the train station, so we went over to get money. Neither of our ATM cards, from two different US banks, would work. Well, we still had some money, and we knew that 7-Eleven stores had ATMs that worked, so we decided to put off doing anything else about it for the moment and headed down to the railway museum. We used our JR rail passes to go around the Osaka Loop to the stop near the museum. "Near" is right, incidentally, as part of the train tracks go over the museum building, and there is an auxiliary entrance to the museum built into the train station itself.

It's a good thing we went around to the main entrance, because as we rounded the last corner, we came across one of the more than 500 7-Eleven stores in the Osaka area. Going inside, we easily withdrew JPY50,000 in the form of 10,000-yen notes. Americans thinking of these as US$100 bills will be reluctant to spend them, given that most US merchants won't take $100 bills; however, as ATMs here in Japan seem to dispense JPY10K notes routinely, this isn't a problem for merchants here, and even some vending machines are programmed to accept them and give you back change in bills. The museum's admission-ticket vending machines were among the machines that did this.

I'll eventually pour the photos up to Flickr, but you're seeing one of them as the new user icon. That is the first ever Shinkansen "Series 0" -- the so-called "bullet train" -- and it's preserved in the museum. That's pretty cool. Here's a bigger photo:

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Most of the signs in the museum are in Japanese, and even the English-language pamphlet we got at entry was only slightly useful. However, Lisa and I know so much about railroads on our own that we were able to figure a lot of this material out for ourselves. And there was at least one exhibit about which we were really familiar.

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We took many photos, but as usual, there just isn't enough time to process and upload them.

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Earlier this evening, we worked out the trains we plan to take tomorrow. Between Lisa wielding the paper Japanese timetable and me double-checking schedules online, we got a route that suits us. I wrote it out in English and Lisa then rewrote it into Japanese and we took it downstairs to the reservation desk. The agent seemed pleased with this and quickly issued us reservations for the following trip.

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This schedule doesn't include the short jump from Osaka to Shin-Osaka, but trains are running on that line every two minutes or so. We'll give ourselves extra time, though, and we already figured out the no-stairs access from the hotel to the platform we want -- no small task with all the stairs and construction going on around here.

I assume I'll have e-mail access from the JAL City Aomori, but can never guarantee anything on this trip.