the problem was i have no one to travel with. well, it'll be very boring to spend time so much time on trains alone.
and suddenly, on a sunday night, i brought this plan upon my friend who surprisingly eager to do the same thing too! so right after the iftar, we bought the ticket, and then the next day, we took off! yeah, i love you, Arini Nuran to make my wish come true!
okay, the plan was to go as far as we could with the available timespan. as it was only permitted to travel using local trains, we'll need to change trains a whole lot, so when we ask the person at the counter, we learnt that from omiya, the farthest we could reach in a day is aomori. and the route is something like this.
Day 1 (15th Aug '11)
to catch that first train from omiya, i had to depart from the nearest station to my house at about quarter to 6 in the morning. the bus hasn't even started running at the time, so i had to cycle from my house as early as quarter after 5. now i'm ready for adventure! we travelled through tohoku main line from omiya up to the end of it at morioka. that's 546.1 km with 6 transits in between and a total of 114 stations along the line. during the transit at sendai, there was more than an hour free time before the next train, so we explored a bit around the station. it really feels a lot like omiya station! honestly. at morioka, to our surprise, when we board the IGR line as recommended next in the guide given by the person we asked, it's not included in the ticket so we had to pay extra -.- that's 82km more, dotted with 18 stations until Metoki station. then it became aomori railway line which thankfully is included in seishun18 ticket. that tops 123.3km more to our journey as we passed another 27 stations before we finally arrived at aomori. the whole journey for the day took more than 14 hours but it was worthwhile as we can see beautiful sceneries along the way~~
express hamanasu (this really reminds me of galileo galilei's song-hamanasu no hana), it's a overnight train that carries us up to sapporo in hokkaido in seven hours to travel on a nearly 500km track from aomori. though we know it goes through an underwater tunnel (which i discovered later named as seikan tunnel), of course it just feels like any other tunnels :P so, in about 24 hours, our journey transported us from omiya where we began, to sapporo in the north of nihon. from saitama prefecture where we started, we travelled across 6 prefectures-ibaraki, tochigi, fukushima, miyagi, iwate and aomori before reaching hokkaido! that feels good in a way^^ a sad thing that i was sound asleep to see the scenery during the morning, Arini told me how beautiful it was though, the view of sapporo after dawn. now, that's more the reason i should go again. (click for photos of day1^^)
so, on to day 2 (16th Aug '11). when we arrived at sapporo, it was a bit after 6 in the morning. nothing was open, and we were pretty worn. desperate to find somewhere to clean ourselves up and to actually lie down and rest, we eventually found an internet cafe that allows us to do so, which is located just in front of the station! we took a breather there, and we construct a plan of what to do the whole day we have in sapporo. unfortunately that day, it was raining :( prior to the trip, i checked around and planned to go to kaitaku no mura-some kind of outdoor museum featuring the village in old times. the rain ruined it all. so the plan was reduced to only 2 places, shiroi koibito-a chocolate factory and another one is wintersports museum. at the factory, i can't help but be reminded of willie wonka! all the chocolates makes my mouth watery already. i was being a bit stingy to only buy a little, the chocolates are really yummy! afterwards, to reach the wintersports museum, we had to walk a bit, the rain did not even help. back at home it's so freaking sweltering hot, but here added with the rain, the temperature dropped as down as 18degree celcius. here, as the name applies, it showcases about wintersports, but during summer, they also used the okurayama ski jump place for summer jump. it does look scary to jump that high, but in the midst of rain, we witnessed some people attempting the jump! i was never short of amazement to see those. in the museum itself, there's interactive attraction that enables you to get to know the sports and the people involved. well, until now i'm still not sure what's the distance that they measure to pick the winners, i know i'm a bad learner.
and when dusk falls upon us, it's time for iftar. how useful the internet is, i can easily find a halal restaurant, in fact a 100% halal unlike the ones i usually find (i still feel somewhat wrong for a muslim store to serve liquors). it's a indonesian restaurant named 'warung jawa' located few stops away from sapporo station. the shop owner is very friendly. i'll surely come again for my next hokkaido trip (i wonder when i'll be able to do this again, next time until wakkanai). we spent time at her store until a bit before our departure. we already learnt our lesson, we should arrive at the platform early to get the seats. even before the the train comes, people are already in queue. we took the same train we boarded last night-hamanasu back to aomori. (click play for day2^^)
we got our seat, though it makes no point to get window-seat but i still prefer this one. but then, yeah, it was crowded that night too and someone took the seat beside me. arini got another seat all for herself. next to me was an old man. honestly i was wishing to talk to someone on this journey, but then i'm really not good when talking to old folks. i just can hardly comprehend what they say, it's like a bit of another language for me to understand. and this guy was passionately making a conversation with me talking about this and that which i only catch a bit of it. poor him when i only gave half-hearted response to his story. and as tired i got for the day, i fall asleep pretty fast.
Day 3 (17th Aug '11). it's a day wholly on trains again. this time we decide to ride until nagaoka. we left early so that we can have long transit time at akita. this time we travelled along the west coast, the view is clearly different from the previous one we had. firstly, before leaving aomori, we crossed through vast area of apple orchards. okay, my first time seeing such sights. then we entered akita. i was very excited! there were a lot of houses with old-style roofs. i don't know why but i just like seeing those. it's beautiful. i also saw a one-coach-train in one of the stops, i was ecstatic enough though i didn't actually manage to board one. there's also quite a long stop at Sakata station in yamagata where i discovered that 'okuribito' is filmed in that area. from aomori to nagaoka, there were only 5 transits, travelling on half of Ouu Line until Akita for about 185.8km, then changing to Uetsu Main Line that starts from akita and we crossed throughout the whole line of 271.7 km until Niitsu in Niigata prefecture. there we hopped to another line, Shin'etsu Main Line that carried us to nagaoka. once we arrived, mimi and mr. hayakawa kindly greeted us and even brought us for dinner. well, i know saizeriya is practically everywhere in japan :P. total number of stations we passed for the day : 38+60+14=112 ^o^
Day 4 (18th Aug '11). here's where arini and I parted ways. i had been to nagaoka just recently before that but it was the first time for arini so she stayed for another day there. whereas i continued on the journey from the morning alone. actually i got an event to attend in the evening in tokyo, so i took the train from nagaoka station headed to my final destination, yurakucho station in tokyo. what makes me happier this time is i'm crossing another prefectures. from niigata prefecture, i passed through gunma (there are a lot of advertisements on gunma at the moment), then back in saitama before reaching tokyo. the sceneries was beautiful too but unfortunately the window had no great clarity, i can't even view the whole awesomeness, let alone taking photos of them. for the lines that took, from nagaoka, it was Jouetsu Line that spans from nagaoka till takasaki, afterwards i hopped on Takasaki Line. i could have just rode it until the end of the line at Ueno, but then i remembered of my phone which was lacking in juice. Ueno station is big and it'll be tough to find my way to the nearest softbank centre. so i hopped off at akabane which is smaller in scale and softbank center is very near to the station. i regretted a bit, apparently here they only charge the phone for a definite time unit that is 30 minutes and my phone only managed to regain its juice up until 50% only. finished with that, i rode another line very familiar to me, Keihin-Tohoku Line until i reached my destination, Yurakucho that is only 13 stops away and had the fun i sought for the night. well, that's beyond the range of this post's theme so i'll skip about it. the journey for the final day took only 5 and a half hours and passing through about 70 stations^^ (click play for day 3&4^^)
when the day ended, so did my whole journey. it was quite a long one. but travelling this way is somehow fun. indeed, the whole things with transits might be a hassle for some people and any other faster means are preferable, but along this journey i could witness a variety of sceneries. well, i admit when the tiredness got the better of me, i'm dead in sleep :P but yeah, it was only for 4 days but it was worth it. and i got to discover that actually for trip to tohoku and hokkaido like this, rather than seishun18 kippu, there's another value ticket that's more convenient. i learnt my lesson so next time i alredy know.
as numerical values are so much fancied by human beings, to record it, for the whole journey, the total length of the tracks we travelled on was about 2500km, or maybe more because i didn't count the one i used to return to saitama after reaching tokyo. and the total number of stations we passed through was roughly about 340. the plan was done in a whim but it was satisfying. definitely gonna have such adventures again, maybe to the other side of nihon. nihon has 47 prefectures in total, and i've only ever been in less than a quarter of all that. i still got lots of others to explore.