I think it’s time to brighten up this section of the forum a little by providing some trip reports where I can! University commitments for me are continuing, albeit online only, so I can’t throw all of my time into this, but I do of course also have a lot of hours to fill now that we’re under lockdown. So, it’s time to get things started with last summer’s trip to Japan. 21/08/19 I started the day by departing from the Mercure Heathrow and jumping on the 140 to the Airport, Terminal 2. It was a pretty calm morning and I was swiftly checked in and my bag was dropped, before I headed through security and picked up some supplies from Boots. My flight today was SQ317, in the hands of 9V-SKS, a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380, which was to take me on the roughly 13hr journey to Singapore Changi. 9V-SKS SQ317, Heathrow by Richard Green, on Flickr Boarding was on time but straight away my heart sank with dread, because while I was sat down in my seat, surrounded by the wonderful smiling staff, a child had boarded, then proceeded to throw itself on the floor and scream. Not just cry, scream. And this was how it was for the entire flight. Where was it sitting? Behind me, obviously. I won’t rant about this, because even at the time, what could I do. The parents were perfectly pleasant and were evidently having a hard time, but at points throughout the flight the child was not only screaming, but violently kicking my seat and even climbing on top of it. Let’s just say I didn’t sleep much! The service was prompt after we took off, and I availed myself of a Singapore Sling and a bag of nuts/peas/snack things prior to food service. I opted for the chicken dinner with potatoes, and a pasta salad, and it was all delicious. Food is served in proper crockery with proper cutlery, and while it didn’t agree with my stomach (both ways, shall we say that my stomach made it clear it wasn’t a fan!) I was kept well fed throughout. After this, it was blinds down for a good nine hours or so, and I drifted in and out of a light sleep as I worked my way through episodes of “Chernobyl”, a very ominous watch when there was frequent turbulence. Eventually though, it was time for breakfast. I was served beef noodles, as well as fruit, yoghurt and bread with coffee and juice. Another proper sized meal, and one that my stomach was most grateful for! Landing was on time, at around 8am local time (having left Heathrow at 12pm BST). 22/08/19 So welcome to the next day, I suppose! I had little time on arrival at Singapore Changi to admire the gorgeous airport, so it was straight to the gate for my next flight, SQ620 to Osaka-Kansai. This was a rather antiquated looking Airbus A330, 9V-SSI, in comparison to the A380, but seating was in a 2+4+2 configuration, meaning that I only had one companion, a middle-aged Japanese bloke who slept the whole way, much better than a screaming kid! Departure was timely once again and I had myself a can of Tiger Beer before food service, I was on holiday after all! This time I had the Japanese option, which was Shoga Yaki, essentially pork in a ginger sauce served with an omelette, vegetables and a side of green tea noodles, and of course, a lot of rice. It was a 3/3 for food so far as this was yet another delicious meal, albeit the only one on this 6hr 20min flight, and after we ate, I had myself some sleep before landing. I landed a little disorientated, but made my way to security and immigration, which was pretty painless, and my passport had a printed sticker placed on it, before I proceeded to completely bungle customs. See, flights tend to knacker my hearing, so two consecutive ones meant that I was barely able to understand the poor bloke. Somehow, despite making a mess of my answers, he didn’t seem bothered and gave me a bow and a “Welcome to Japan!”, leaving me free to wander outside towards the station. My god, the humidity. It was like someone had left the shower on in a bathroom for too long. A sauna, if you will. I powerwalked back into air-conditioned heaven and exchanged my voucher for a Japan Rail Pass before getting an ICOCA card (Like Oyster, but technically speaking, it covers the whole country, and many shops!), loading it up, and tapping in. I descended to the platform for a Kansai Airport Rapid Service, which was cheap, but it was slow. That said, it was comfortable enough, and did the job, with me getting into Osaka’s main station after around an hour, and aimlessly doing a few circles outside. JR Osaka Kansai Airport Rapid, Kansai Airport by Richard Green, on Flickr Eventually, I reached my hotel, the Ibis Osaka Umeda, got into bed shortly before 8pm, and flaked out. I felt pretty unwell from the humidity and jetlag, and my stomach wasn’t dealing well either. 23/08/19 I didn’t surface until around 8:30am, and was certainly feeling better, but my stomach didn’t actually get used to the heat for almost a week, and my ears took a good few days as well. Naturally, I didn’t go nuts and started things slowly! I had myself some breakfast from the hotel (a reasonable, but very random selection, including “Taco Rice”- literally Chilli Con Carne. I stuck to the fruit and pastries), before deciding that seeing as my pass wasn’t to start until tomorrow, I made my way to Osaka Umeda Station, home of the Hankyu Private Railway, which runs a series of services on a small network around Osaka, Kobe, and Kyoto. Here is a map: Buying the ticket (a tourist pass, valid on all their services), I headed for the 10:00 Limited Express service, formed of 7013/7113, across to Kobe-Sannomiya. It was certainly an experience, with some nice blasting AC as we rattled our way through the majority of stations, arriving around half an hour later. 7113, Osaka Umeda, Hankyu Railway by Richard Green, on Flickr Interior, 7000 series, Hankyu Railway by Richard Green, on Flickr With the help of the ICOCA card, I was able to saunter over to the Kobe Port Liner light rail system, and caught a set to Shimin Hiroba, so that I could travel over the other side of the loop, and return fairly quickly to the Hankyu station, and pick up some supplies from the FamilyMart. 2611, Kobe Port-Liner by Richard Green, on Flickr Interior, Kobe Port-Liner by Richard Green, on Flickr Map: It was now time for a nice bash along most of the network, firstly picking up 7008/7108 back along the line as far as Shukagawa, to the first of the small branch lines. It was 6021/6121 taking me along to Koyoen, which didn’t take very long at all, and I was quickly shuttled back to Shukagawa, having spent my time sat behind the driver admiring their way of working. It was also a swift, perfect connection back onto the mainline and catching 1107/1107 to Nishinomiya-kitaguchi. This connects onto another small line to Imazu, and it was 6020/6120 doing the honours for the short return hop before 5001/5053 were taking me up to Takarazuka. 6021/6121- Shukugawa, Hankyu Railway by Richard Green, on Flickr 9010/9110, Ishibashi, Hankyu Railway by Richard Green, on Flickr Over the next couple of hours, I then made my way through ticking off the entire network on the map (other than the Nose Line), where I later experienced a pretty interesting form of operation as I tapped in my ICOCA card to join what was technically a Hankyu service out of Tenjimbashisu. It joined the Osaka Metro and became one of their services- and I stayed aboard to Kitahama. 6351/6451, Arashiyama, Hankyu Railway by Richard Green, on Flickr 9305/9405, Ibaraki, Hankyu Railway by Richard Green, on Flickr It was then a walk through the streets of Osaka to Temmabashi, via the Keihan Railway, and onwards to Umeda via the Subway, where I had begun. The journey on the subway was like it was out of those videos you see online where everyone’s cramming themselves in. One bloke was even using a laptop in the crowded carriage but the way to travel on these services is to be assertive. Don’t be afraid to elbow your way off! It was however not the end of the day, because I had myself a walk over to the Osaka Skytree, and took in some views of the skyline, before having a walk back to the hotel. 24/08/19 It was time to pack up and I was underway at shortly before 8am out of Osaka, with my Japan Rail Pass now being valid. It was stamped, accompanied with a bow, as I headed for the 0810 Thunderbird service to Kyoto, and on arrival, took a while to find the right exit for the Ibis Styles Kyoto Station. Eventually though, I found it, and was greeted by a bunch of lovely staff who took my case and said my room would be ready later this afternoon. All I really wanted anyway was to get the case off my hands, so that would do nicely! The first stop today was the Kyoto Railway Museum, so I took 221-K16, a smart but very overcrowded unit, on the 0914 to Umekoji-Kyotonishi, and the sun was certainly beating down already. I joined the queue into the museum and sat down in the shade with a bottle of water. It was getting busy already, and the cultural relationship that Japan has with its railways was very stark here. It was full of families, and there was a lottery system used to have a go on the simulators, along with plenty of dressing up, and even a recreation of the ceremony that JR newbies go through when they join the company! JR 221 Series, Umekoji Kyotonishi by Richard Green, on Flickr I was content however with just having a look at the cancellation and playing with a few of the small simulations, including buying a ticket and putting it in a gate There was also a roof terrace, but it was much too hot and so once I was satisfied that I’d seen everything, I got on my way, and it was 221-K7 taking me back to Kyoto. I then picked up some more drinks and navigated my way through the huge station onto the 1133 to Nara, in the hands of 220-3, another fairly similar, and well loaded unit. At least this time I had a seat though, and it was a pleasant enough run through the countryside. Indeed, this area of the region, around Nara and Oji, is home to most of Japan’s green tea production. There’s a wide selection of gifts made from the stuff in Kyoto station. JR 0 Series, Kyoto Railway Museum by Richard Green, on Flickr JR 500 Series, Kyoto Railway Museum by Richard Green, on Flickr Kyoto Railway Museum by Richard Green, on Flickr I jumped on a bus when I got to Nara as it seemed like a rather long walk to the historic centre, and buses in Japan are certainly a rather different experience. I sat myself at the front across from the driver and the sheer care and attention was insane. The driver wore a microphone and would greet everyone, as well as bidding them goodbye personally. We stayed right to time and payment was on exit (I think it was around £1.50), again with the ICOCA card. I was deposited at the Nara Park, which is home to a lot of very very tame deer, as I had neglected to research, and I must say it was a very pleasant surprise! The scenery and sights were gorgeous, I won’t pretend that I know loads about them, but I had a pleasant two hours or so wandering around, before getting a late lunch and having an afternoon on the railways, this time having a slow wander down to the station. 220-3, JR Nara Station by Richard Green, on Flickr Deer, Nara by Richard Green, on Flickr Nara Kotsu Bus by Richard Green, on Flickr Nara by Richard Green, on Flickr It was 221-47 taking me along to Kyuhoji, essentially heading around the bottom of Osaka and aiming to knock off some lines around there. It was a much more interesting, and older, 201-93 taking me to Shin-Osaka, which is essentially a station on the edge of the city that serves as an interchange for the Shinkansen Lines. This line, the Osaka Higashi Line, was fairly lightly used at this time of day, and it was a pleasant enough 40 minutes trip or so, before I headed across to Osaka and had a trip around the Loop Line, around to Tennoji, where I headed along to Kyuhoji, just to plug the gap in my coverage, before heading back over and going through to Osaka-Namba on 201-92. JR 201-93, Kyuohogi by Richard Green, on Flickr A short trip back to Imamiya followed, so I could rejoin the loop, with the final conventional line of the day to tick off being the line to Sakurajima, Universal Studios. I was however keen to get back to Shin Osaka for something a little more exciting. JR 322-LS19, Nishikujo by Richard Green, on Flickr It was only a short trip, but I headed to the Shinkansen platforms to take a Kodama service to Kyoto. It was pretty empty (the service starts at Shin Osaka and calls at all stations to Tokyo), but it was N700-F3, one of the newest sets on the system, taking me along to Kyoto for just after 6pm. JR N700-F3, Kyoto by Richard Green, on Flickr As I was making my way along the concourse, an older unit caught my sights, and so I had a short trip out to Yamashina on 117-603, before returning on 223-W15. JR 117-304, Kyoto by Richard Green, on Flickr I returned to my hotel, to be told that my case was already in my room, and that I’d been left a drink, a pack of rice crackers, and some useful maps. Well timed, as tomorrow it was time to have a proper explore of Kyoto, before the masses came out to play. Thanks for reading, this will be continued shortly! Any questions too, fire away.