See: Japan Trip 2012 itinerary and summary
Day 10: December 5
Fifth day of 7-day JR pass
Following on from the previous day where we weren’t able to get a clear view of Mt Fuji all day because of persisting clouds, I hadn’t expected much waking up on our last morning. We were checking out in the morning to head off to our next city.
I woke around 6:30am to have a peek outside. The skies (and our view) were beyond perfect.
There were really no words to describe the feeling. We had come all that way, the stars had lined up for us, and we were treated to this beautiful view during our last few hours in Kawaguchiko. It was probably the happiest moment in Japan.
After a long time of taking photos and admiring, we went back to sleep because it was still too early. When we woke properly, the sun had fully risen and it was the most glorious day with clear blue skies. I can’t not include another set of select photos in broad daylight…
One thing I hadn’t touched upon was how everything is “Mt Fuji” themed in this area. For example, the complimentary bread we received from the hotel? Mt Fuji. The trains? Mt Fuji! (But I expect no less, because it’s Japan.) Fuji-san is the region’s pride and mascot, as it should be!
After checking out of the hotel, we took the hotel shuttle to Kawaguchiko station. From there we took the bus all the way to Tokyo station (around two hours). At Tokyo station, we had some high drama.
We arrived around 11-12pm, and our shinkansen out from Tokyo station to Nagano station was at 3pm. The plan was to eat some lunch and have a look around the shops. My mum needed to use the restroom, and there was a sign for one on the lower floor, so I waited at the stairs with our luggage while she went downstairs. I waited over half an hour, worrying whether she had gotten lost or if there was just a ridiculous queue. The problem was once I left my post, we would both officially be lost and looking for each other. Finally I decided it had been long enough and it was time for me to look for her. The coin lockers weren’t far away so I stored our luggage away, and went down the same stairs. The restrooms were very close so I couldn’t imagine how she could have gotten lost. Nonetheless I decided she must have logically taken stairs to go back up to the floor we started on (she couldn’t have forgotten which floor we were on). I decided I just have to walk around on that floor. I mentioned previously about Japanese train stations, but to reiterate, major Japanese train stations are HUGE, often over several floors, and seem to be arranged something like a grid or labyrinth. There are countless exits and arcades. Now Tokyo station was newly renovated (completed just over a month prior) and it was a monstrously complicated station, probably one of the worst in Japan. I had absolutely no idea where I was walking. My only hope was that as long as we were on the same floor, we might eventually bump into each other. I literally had no choice as there was no other way of contacting her. Surprisingly I wasn’t panicked yet, just walking around and keeping my eyes wide open. I planned to continue aimlessly like this, hoping for a miracle, before resorting to figuring out how to get the train station to put out an announcement for me.
Actually after about half an hour, somehow my ears picked up my name over the announcement system. This was already kind of remarkable as I wasn’t paying attention to the Japanese but somehow caught my poorly pronounced name. I guess there’s something about name recognition! Unfortunately I didn’t hear the announcement at all. I went to a gate staff and tried to explain that I had lost my mother and had heard my name over the PA system but needed to know what it said. He called someone (I guess wherever the announcements come from) and got a location. He got a map and circled the JR East Travel Service Centre. Despite holding a map, I still had trouble finding it and needed more help along the way. Eventually, I arrived, all flustered, at the centre… BUT WHERE WAS MY MUM?!
I was telling the staff that I thought my mum would be here and that I had lost her. When they realised I was “the daughter”, they got excited, telling me they had taken my mum to the other building where the bus stops were (probably since we arrived by bus they would try to find me there). The staff contacted their staff to bring her back while I waited. In the mean time I explained how we had gotten separated. I also confirmed out shinkansen was at 3pm, and they were relieved because my mum had told them it was 2pm (it was already 1:30pm) and they had been most worried about that (haha!). Then my mum arrived and we were reunited!!! I think you can imagine how incredibly relieved we were. We thanked everyone profusely and left to retrieve our luggage. My mum explained how difficult it had been communicating to anyone in English and how long it had taken for someone to vaguely understand that she had lost someone and they eventually dropped her at the JR East Travel Service Centre. The staff actually assured her that since the newly renovated Tokyo station had opened, heaps and heaps of Japanese people were also getting lost every day and ending up there! I was proud of my mum for holding it together and figuring out a way!!!
We ended up grabbing some conbini food, found our way to the shinkansen platforms and just waited for our shinkansen. We didn’t feel like trying to tackle the labyrinth of Tokyo station anymore. The shinkansen to Nagano station took around 1.5 hours. At Nagano station, as always we spent some time trying to figure out which exit to take for our hotel. A kind man noticed our struggles, knew our hotel and pointed to and exit and that it was straight down the road (and visible).
In Nagano, we stayed at Hotel Sunroute Nagano. I’ve stayed at many hotels in the “Sunroute” franchise. This hotel is located on the main road that leads from Nagano station and only about a couple of minutes by foot (the majority probably just crossing the road), so it is super convenient. It’s not it’s own building, but occupies the upper floors of a small building. The room was very standard for Japanese business hotels, incredibly compact and simple, but efficient and very clean. I really liked this hotel.
It was already night time, and we were so beat from a day of travelling (and the drama) plus we would be getting up really early the next day, so we just went downstairs and ate in the first restaurant. We both ate doria (Japanese rice gratin).
Returning to the hotel, I spent some time getting help from the staff with some transportation queries for the next day (the lady was incredibly helpful, printing out maps and timetables and double checking dates when things were/weren’t running)…