PTSJ18 Day 5A: Niigata by Parcly Taxel

PTSJ18 Day 5A: Niigata

Parcly Taxel

15 December 2018 at 09:40:36 MST

Princess Luna: Actually, Parcly didn't eat the Poké Ball doughnut immediately after dinner, but for breakfast the next morning. It was delicious.

Parcly Taxel: Train service reaches many of the significant population centres of Japan and buses link those centres with many smaller outposts, but whether a train or bus will arrive in some specified window can be a hit-or-miss affair. There may be signal upgrades, planned and unplanned maintenance, demand-based rescheduling and even accidents, though the last category of unpredictability is very rare (only one fatal accident has happened on the Shinkansen in its entire history).

Throughout this trip I would be using HyperDia as an itinerary planner for train rides. I spent a good chunk of time trying to minimise travel duration followed by number of transfers, figuring that the 9:14 train from Fujisan Station would be best.

Spindle: The pony who was kind enough to provide us the accommodation – and who also operated a nearby restaurant – drove us to the station, sparing the hassle of dragging luggage through wintry air and over rough pavements. Like most outdoor stations, there was a comfortable waiting room with brochures to read and tables to eat food on.

While the train we had planned to take was limited express, stopping at only three stations besides Ōtsuki, Japanese train tickets only indicate the endpoints and we had arrived early enough to catch the 8:54 local, which despite stopping at every possible opportunity would finish its run earlier, partly because some stations had zero passengers embarking or disembarking.

Parcly: Names of stations also vary widely. On the Fujikyu Railway there is the one-character Kotobuki (寿) and the mouthful of Tsurubunkadaigaku-mae (都留文科大学前). JR stations tend to have a more uniform, descriptive naming scheme than those of private railways, two to four characters in most cases.

We faced a delay at Tanokura (田野倉) because of lagging forward trains, but still arrived at Ōtsuki at 9:40. From there we continued on the Kaiji, retracing our steps into Shinjuku and enduring long standing periods because all the non-reserved seats were occupied continuously, even at the intermediate stops of  Hachiōji (八王子), Tachikawa (立川) and Mikata (三鷹).

Spindle: The Chūō Rapid to Tokyo Main presented itself when we arrived at Shinjuku, so I blew myself and Parcly to the opposite platform. She just managed to cross the closing doors, which was enough since I could phase through them; the interior of this third link had hoof grips and more standing space, reflecting its role as commuter rail.

Princess Cadance: Although Shinjuku is the busiest station in the world, it doesn't have Shinkansen service, which lies at Tokyo Main instead. Because such journeys can be very long, upwards of two hours, there is a store selling ekiben (駅弁) for consumption on the trains. My Crystal Heart, they are legendary, with bento from all parts of Japan available. Parcly bought a nice beef bento with an egg and beancurd for her lunch.

Parcly: Once again, I had to run to catch the 11:40 Jōetsu Shinkansen (上越新幹線; No. 319 Toki とき) bound for Niigata, though I had a bit more "wiggle room" in this case. Its first few stops up to Ōmiya (大宮) are shared with the Tōhoku Shinkansen (東北新幹線). It then splits north, traversing the central mountains of Honshū via many tunnels, for which it is advised to bring something offline to read since these tunnels are not porous to telecommunications signals.

Spindle: I first sighted snowfall, delightful and magnificent snowfall, coming into Echigo-Yuzawa (越後湯沢). It was so heavy that sprinklers were showering hot water onto the train to melt accumulating snow. My tempestuous body convulsed and fluttered in joy, releasing diamond dust.

Upon reaching Niigata after two whole hours, however, the snow that had fallen there in the morning had been shovelled aside and melted, at which I winced (being a windigo, and thus unable to blush). A little orienteering across carparks and wide streets took us to the Dormy Inn.