Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

Tramspotting in Tokyo

Having decided to leave the main tourist areas of Tokyo and instead look at the oddball stuff, we set off this morning about 10:30 to look for the Arakawa Tram Line.

I only wish that we had bought the all-day pass variant that included all trams, because we ended up hopping on and off the tram several times, at a flat fare of JPY160 each trip. Instead, because we misread the types of passes, we ended up buying not a flat-fare pass, but a stored-value card with JPY1000 on it, with the relevant fares deducted from the card (like a BART ticket) at each station. And worse, that card doesn't work on the streetcar line. The artwork on the card is nice, though, and we ended up using most of the value in the card, so it was only a little waste.

Arakawa is a nice little tram ("light rail" to Americans) line running through parts of Tokyo not frequented by many tourists except nutty transit buffs like us. You can follow the link for someone else's pictures of the line. At the Minowabashi terminal, we walked around the neighborhood, which includes a covered shopping street that was interesting, and we bought some tram pins as souvenirs. (The problem I have with buying gifts to give to people when I get home is that nearly everything I buy is train and tram related, which rarely interests the people back home.)

About mid-way along the tram line is their shops and yard, along with a small static museum with a couple of "stuffed and mounted" streetcars. As we were walking up to take photos, a Japanese woman stopped to take a picture of the line with her camera phone, and Lisa engaged her in conversation. Turned out that she had been born in Eugene, Oregon, but had moved back to Japan about twenty years ago.

We rode all but the last couple of stops at the Waseda Terminal, on account of we cut cross-country, so to speak, over to the Tokyo loop line to take us on to other things. By then it was long past time to eat lunch, and on a whim, went into a Denny's, just to see what their menu looked like. I had that all-American meal of curry beef over rice, while Lisa had udon soup with chopped beef and vegetables including mushrooms. Not exactly the sort of things I'd expect in a Denny's back home, but things we like to eat, nonetheless.

Then it was back on to the Loop line to head to Shinjuku on an errand. Specifically, Lisa needed a new piece of luggage to hold all of the stuff -- mostly model trains -- that she's bought during this trip. Her luggage is bursting at the seams, and I don't see having enough space in my own bags either. She had seen a largish computer bag in a used-goods shop near the Kato train store, and at JPY2000 it was a better bargain (and better made) than bags she's seen new in stores around this week. So it was back out the subway line to that store, where the bag was still sitting. She made the purchase, and then, since we were in the neighborhood, we went to the Kato store again.

I sat down and waited for Lisa to finish buying more model trains. Oh, my aching feet. We've been on our feet a lot. Many of the trams and trains on which we've been riding have been pretty full, and getting a seat has been an exception, not the rule, plus we've been walking all over the place, particularly when various transit routes don't quite connect. Heck, given how some of the stations sprawl, it can be hundreds of meters of walking from one line to another even inside the same nominal station complex.) It's good for my health, but not for my feet. Fortunately, I've developed no blisters, thanks to the expedient of wrapping the part of my feet and toes that are prone to blisters in surgical tape each morning.

While waiting for Lisa to pick out more things, the American sitting on the bench opposite me struck up a conversation. He is an SF fan, has attended the LA-area Gallifrey conventions (it didn't take long to discover that he was only one person away from me previously), but hadn't heard about the Worldcon, and was unhappy in a way to hear about it, because he had been in Japan for a month and would have loved to attend had he known it was going on. That's at least two gaijin we've encountered this trip that would have gone to Nippon 2007 if they'd known about it.

After Lisa did more to use up our import allowance -- although it doesn't look like she'll exceed even her personal allowance, let alone our combined $1600 allowance -- we headed back to the hotel. As usual, everything we'd tried to do today had taken much longer than I expected, and thoughts of sightseeing various other places in Tokyo were discarded. Oh, well, there's too much of Tokyo to see in only three days, so we're trying not to let it get to us that we haven't seen everything that was on our list. We've made up for it by seeing the more oddball and out-of-the-way parts that you won't see on the ordinary tourist map. Besides, we probably met more interesting people this way.

One more train trip, of sorts, was on tap this evening. Our hotel includes a theme park ("Aqua Stadium") that includes a roller coaster themed after Galaxy Express 999. Lisa is very fond of this, so we went to ride the coaster. The build-up for the ride is good. The ride itself is a little weak, however, and I felt like JPY1000 per person was a bit of an overcharge. Still, we got it out of our system.

It was after 2100 by then, and we ended up having dinner in a typical hole-in-the-wall ramen shop that is one of those where you buy your meal by putting money in the machine and punching out a ticket, which you hand in at the counter. For only about JPY600 each, we both had big bowls of ramen or udon and separate servings of rice that filled us up nicely. We don't need fancy meals here; fast, cheap, and filling isn't a problem.

Back in the hotel room after something like ten or eleven hours of trooping around Tokyo, we put together plans for tomorrow. In order to have any reasonable amount of time to explore the oddball little electric railway out at Choshi and not have to spend an inordinate amount of time on a commuter train getting there, we need to be on a 9:40 AM train out of Tokyo, plus allow enough time at Tokyo station to find a couple of JPY600 (large) lockers for our luggage. Looks like we'll be wringing lots more value from the rail passes tomorrow as we go from Tokyo to Chioshi to Tokyo to Narita, probably not getting to our hotel in which we're spending our last night in Japan until after 2130 or thereabouts.
Tags: japan, tokyo, trains, trams, travel
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