[Posted 14 September]
After only four hours' sleep, we were up again at 6 AM and madly packing our bags, having had to leave much of our laundry from last night hanging about the room to dry on account of the coin laundry's driers being so inefficient. But we somehow managed to get out of the room on the stroke of 7 AM.
An aside about the room: This was the first time I've stayed in a hotel room where in order to get the room lights to turn on, you have to put your key card in a slot and leave it there. When you remove the card, a few minutes later the lights (but not the power outlets) shut off.
We were checked out and walking down the street by 7:05, and at the station by 7:15, with plenty of time for us to pick up a couple of bento boxes for breakfast and get over to platform 6, even with a large group of kids on what looked like a school outing of some sort ahead of us.
Aomori station has escalators that go up to the bridge over the tracks, but neither escalators nor elevators back down to the platforms. I presume there is some alternative route for handicapped people – I saw what the British would call a barrow crossing between the platforms at the station mouth. At the top of the stairs down to platforms 5/6, an older Japanese woman appeared to be struggling with her luggage, and I offered to help carry her bag down to the platform. She declined, and explained (in passable English) that her husband would help her. She asked where we were from, and we said, "California" – no reason to confuse people with the complicated actual situation – and she said she had visited Virginia.
We boarded the train, but found people sitting in what we interpreted to be our seats in car 2. Examining our seat reservations, we realized that we had been reading the wrong ticket, and that car 2 is where our seats for the connecting train from Hakkodate to Sapporo are. With five minutes left before train time, it was easier to get out and walk down the platform to car 6, where we boarded our private car and private compartment. That is, there was not a single other person in car 6, and thus we had the Green Car (the rear half of car 6) completely to ourselves.
Although the trains we took yesterday to and from Tappi-Kaitei also had Green Cars, our reservations were not in them. We figure that was because of Tappi-Kaitei's short platform only serving car 2 of the six-car train sets, and the desire to book us as close to that car as possible. If I'm reading the signs correctly, car 2 is non-reserved, but car 1 is, which is why our seats for those trains were on Car 1.
Anyway, as we headed north again from Aomori, the tea-trolley lady came briefly through our car and checked with the rear train attendant riding in the rear cab if he wanted anything to drink, and then, much to our surprise, rolled right on past us without even a suggestion that we might buy something from her cart. We felt mildly snubbed.
We then settled in to eat our bento breakfast and watch the sights. At Tsugarimabetsu (I may not be spelling that one correctly, as I couldn't see the platform signs – the platforms are short and our car hung off the end of the platform), Lisa commented, "If it wasn't for the people, I'd think I was in British Columbia." And she's right; the climate, lay of the land, and some of the architecture evoke BC to both Lisa and me.
I decided to make one more try at getting a coffee on board and headed up the train. I found the trolley, but not the attendant, who I assume was holed up in her compartment. Instead, I gave up and drank the Coke Zero I'd bought from the vending machine on the platform before we left.
The train trip to Hakkodate was smooth and quiet, and while we passed through the Seikan Tunnel again, I decided to try and get ahead a bit and write up my notes on this morning. Unlike the ambitious story I wrote last night, which I can't post until I get all of the LJ photos annotated and labeled, there's no photographs to go with this story.
We have a five-minute, cross-platform transfer at Hakkodate in a bit over fifteen minutes as I write this, so I'd better shut down and pull my stuff together so we're ready to disembark when we get to the station.