Monday, April 29, 2024

A Slice of Japan


Tokyo SkyTree Building
Japan is a land of multiple hues and one needs extended time to explore this multidimensional nation. On one end of the spectrum are the natural wonders like Mount Fuji, several lakes and seashores, riding in bullet trains and cruises on board boats, climbing skyscrapers like the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building, Osaka Cosmo Tower and Tokyo Skytree, visiting shrines that offer tranquillity and peace and above all exploring the Japanese food which is unique, wholesome and attracts tourists like none other thing. 

Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building
No matter where you travel in Japan, the best use of cutting-edge technology in every walk of life like multiple-level locking systems in rooms and accommodations, vending machines at every corner, and automated restaurants that dispense food using robots can, sometimes become overwhelming. A few things that make this island nation unique are its pursuit of honesty, very high levels of integrity, friendliness and, above all, a helping attitude notwithstanding the language barrier. I was lucky to find helpful strangers coming to my assistance at railway stations, bus stations, and cafeterias. and road intersections when Google Maps would render itself useless.
Inside the Shinkansen Bullet Train
In this post, I will share my thrilling experiences that pumped adrenaline levels to a new high. A ride on the legendary Bullet Train or Shinkansen when in Japan is a must. In my itinerary, the best opportunity was during a day trip planned from Osaka to Kyoto. The distance between the two places is 75 km and takes from 45 min to one hour depending on the chosen mode of travel. I discovered that it takes just 13 minutes to cover this distance and lo and behold we were at Shin Osaka station. The rush was phenomenal as several trains arrived and departed at this mammoth station. Although vending machines were available, I chose to go to the counter and after about 20 minutes of waiting, I bought the ticket. 

There were Bullet trains at 20-minute intervals and since it was a short journey I did not consider making reservations necessary. After reaching the platform the signage in Japanese and English facilitated in choosing the spot for boarding. It is important as there were five compartments for unreserved seats and knowing beforehand helped. At the designated time the train sailed onto the platform very silently like a dragon just tamed to bring it to a halt. In seconds the barriers on the platform were raised and the gates opened. All the people that had queued up earlier smoothly entered and settled into the seats. A brief announcement was made, and the barriers on the platform came down and the gates closed. The train gathered momentum in no time and soon we were cruising at a speed of almost 350 km/hour without experiencing any jerks. The only indication of the enormous speed was the quick disappearance of the scenic views outside the window.  In a couple of minutes, the train decelerated and gradually halted, at an impressive Kyoto station. The entire experience was like a fantasy for which I had prepared myself. The reality was far beyond my expectations.

Umeda Twin Towers in Osaka
Climbing a skyscraper was next on the agenda. The Tokyo Metropolitan  Government Building offers panoramic views of the city including the man-made forest around Meiji Jingu Shrine. On a clear day, one can even see snow-clad Mt Fuji! A visit to the 190m tall Umeda Twin Tower in Osaka needs to be shared, Osaka Umeda Twin Tower is a landmark near Umeda station in Osaka. The 190m tall structure has three basements and 38 stories with an impressive observatory. As we stepped out of the Umeda station we saw a maze of buildings and due to some construction work, we soon lost track of the route. On requesting an office goer to guide us, the man took us for a 15-minute walk leaving aside what he was pursuing. This action of kindness was the second repeat in less than a few hours where earlier when exploring the port area we visited a similar skyscraper called Cosmos Tower. A young lady who had overheard our conversation at an eating joint came to help us. She took us to an enquiry counter and interpreted it in Japanese for us to find our way to the bus stop. She walked with us for almost 10 minutes till we arrived at the place to take our bus. The two such quick encounters in the kindness of locals have left a lasting impression on how the Japanese deserve full marks on human values as a society.
The escalators connecting the Umeda Twin Towers on 40th storey
There was a huge queue of visitors at the Umeda Twin Towers basement near the escalators. The twin towers are connected with the glass bridges at the uppermost 40-storey. The observatory atop the towers offers splendid panoramic views of the city. It is also known as the ' Floating Garden Observatory'. It is a must-visit place in Osaka.
Sailboat Santa Maria and Tempozan Ferris Wheel in the backdrop

Osaka abounds in a wide variety of experiences.  It includes a 45-minute sailing on the sailboat Santa Maria. The ride becomes memorable with lasting impressions of the skyscrapers, multi-level bridges and expressways that one encounters while sailing.

Inside the Santa Maria sailboat
Yet another experience is riding on a Ferris Wheel which takes one back to childhood except that the Ferris wheel in Osaka is one of the largest ones in the world with a height of 113m and a diameter is 100 m. The Tempozan Ferris Wheel is located next to the Aquarium. The aquarium is one of its kind with a rare collection of aquatic creatures.

The Tempozan Ferris Wheel
The rare experiences in Japan have been chiselled in the memory for a long time to come. No matter how much one sees, the craving for more does not end. At the end of the day, one runs out of steam to go beyond and has to call it quits. Will share more unique offerings of Japan in the next post.

PS- All pics are mine

No comments:

Post a Comment