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:
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.
This California Street cable car is part of the museum's collection. There were pictures of the official presentation to the museum included with the display. We found this very amusing for some reason.
We took many photos, but as usual, there just isn't enough time to process and upload them.
Lisa does want me to make a point of showing the above two photos. Those of you riding around Japan may not be aware of it, but there are two different rail gauges -- that's the distance between the rails. The Shinkansen high-speed lines are American/UK standard gauge (4'8.5"/1435 mm), while all of the other rail lines -- what I've been calling the "classic" lines -- are the Japanese standard gauge of 3'6"/1067 mm. These two photos have wheel sets from Japanese standard steam and electric railways, plus a Shinkansen wheel set, so you can see the difference in gauge.
Oddly enough, because the Japanese appear to be much more generous with the loading gauge of their trains than the British, Japanese trains, even though running on track that is 25% narrower than the the British, appear to be about as spacious inside as those we rode in the UK. Shinkansens trains are even bigger, of course, as they have more room to play with.
After spending several hours at the museum, we took the train back to the hotel, where after dropping off cameras and such, we ventured forth into the vast warren of underground chambers that lies below Osaka, and eventually found a place serving relatively simple ramen noodle soup. We've been eating a lot of ramen and udon, because we like it, it's simple and understandable, and we probably can use the liquids poured back into our systems.
After lunch, it was off to the KATO Hobby Center, which is one of two "company stores" for this manufacturer of model trains that Lisa likes. She bought three sets of trains for a layout she's contemplating, and I realized that we need to save the receipts for these sets -- she now has bought five during our trip, including two back in Yokohama -- just in case we should happen to get up to our $1600 (combined) duty free allowance. I don't think we'll hit it, but we need to declare what we bought anyway.
Walking back to the subway station from the Kato store, we decided to go into a grocery store in this area, because the ones in the Osaka station area are too high-end or don't seem to carry things we want. World Porters in Yokohama was easy because it had lots of English signs, but these stores are more difficult. Certain sundry items in our personal kit like body powder seem to be running out faster than I expected, and some things don't seem to exist here, at least in the product niches I would expect to find them. We'll make due, of course -- we've only got another week to go.
Hauling our load of model trains, groceries, and general goods with us, we headed back to the Granvia hotel at Osaka station on the subway. By then, it was time for dinner, and during our wanderings in the warrens beneath the city, we had spotted a Botejyu Okonomiyaki restaurant. We've been told we should try this, and while chain-restaurant fare isn't necessarily representative of the local dishes, this place was convenient, and we enjoyed what we had. I did try to not think too hard about what was in it, as it appeared to contain vegetables that I usually don't really care to eat. However, as long as I didn't think about that, I found that I rather liked it.
Lisa said we needed to go for a walk after dinner, which was true, so we spent an hour wandering the streets and warrens of the area, including some rather, shall we say, colorful areas. If I hadn't been constantly reassured that rolling the foreigners isn't a popular local pastime, I would have been a little worried. Honestly, I would have been really worried if I'd wandered into some of the equivalent areas of San Francisco, but nothing came of it, and we eventually made our way back to the hotel after 10 PM, where I've spend much of the past couple of hours trying to compose this and reply to e-mail.
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.
10:19 Lv Shin-Osaka Shinkansen Hikari 408 (Gate 26)
13:13 Ar Tokyo (Gate 14)
13:56 Lv Tokyo Shinkansen Hayete 21 (Gate 21)
16:55 Ar Hachinohe
17:07 Lv Hachinohe Limited Express Super Hakucho 21
18:04 Ar Aomori
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.