Wednesday 17th October
Our holiday is nearing an end. We took off for some final photos of Tatsuko in the morning sun before breakfast. Grabbed the hotel shuttle to Tazawako Station. We were there at 9:30am so I had our tickets for Tokyo changed from 11am to 9:57am. We had to sit across the aisle from each other but better than hanging around a station for an hour and a half. Every train has a lady who goes from carriage to carriage with her trolley of hot and cold drinks and foods. Also there is a pedal on the side of each set of chairs that enables you to swivel them 180 degrees so if four of you were travelling together you could face and talk to each other. We should have tried it and scared the life out of some business men behind us.
A 3 hour trip today and an hour into journey we stopped for mere minutes at Morioka Station and attached another train and then we really did pick up speed for the rest of the trip. We arrived at Tokyo Station around 1pm and we were stumped. People going everywhere, lots of different names and train lines and we just needed to get out to the Metro lines but had no idea how.
We tried studying a map and one Japanese fellow tried to help but he was also a visitor. Finally found an Information booth, once you get to there you are ok but we had a devil of a time locating this one. The lady there wrote down the names of the two Metro train lines we needed and the stations we needed to get off for each (after checking her train guide and consulting with the other woman working there) then directed us to the Metro. Basically follow to end of the long hall we could see, turn left and keep going until we see the red Metro circle and we needed to go to the basement for our first train. Chris thanked her and commented how we would never have found it and she laughed and agreed saying there were too many train lines. We needed to get our tickets from the machines once we were in the Metro section. Her directions were accurate and the ticket machines have an English option and the stations are alphabetically listed on a board above with the fares next to them.
Once you are in the Metro system it is quite easy to follow. You follow the train line name you want and on the track are two poles, one either side, with all the stations that the train stops at and an arrow that shows the direction the train stops at them, so you know which side to stand. They run about every 3-5 minutes and they are very quick.
In Tokyo the train tracks are secured from people by doors which only open once the train has stopped and opened its doors. These were only at the Tokyo Metro stations and none of the other stations we went too, maybe the sheer volume of people using the stations in Tokyo warrants this for health and safety.
We travelled from Tokyo on the Marunouchi Line (Red circle with an M) to the first stop, Otemachi Station and then followed the crowds up the escalators to the next level where we found the Hanzomon Line (Purple circle with a Z) and followed that symbol to the track and our train to Suitengumae Station, the second stop. From there we walked upstairs and as we exited the ticket gates asked the ticket checker man which exit we needed for Royal Park Hotel, and he point to the 4 just up the hall from us. When we got there, there was the name of our hotel and the entrance straight from the subway into our hotel. How cool was that.
Two flights of escalators up to the front counter but we needed the 16th floor as we were staying on the executive level and they have their own check-in area. How flash. We were given cold refreshing cloths, which you needed as the metro was really hot, while we checked in and had a coffee while the final inspection of our room was done. This hotel has wi-fi everywhere available for its guests, yippee.
View from room is glimpses of Sumidahawa River, that leads into Tokyo Bay and looking down on several levels of expressway. It has started to rain.
At 5pm we made our way back to the station entrance we came through into the hotel to wait for Maho, the Japanese student who stayed with us for 10days in Brisbane last year when her school came over as part of Erica's schools exchange program with Omiya High School. We could see her as she came up the escalators and she ran through the ticket gates to greet us. So lovely to meet with her again and she would have travelled over an hour to get to Tokyo straight from school. she is the same age as Erica but they have an extra year at school before going to university. She wants to be a tour guide translator which takes four years.
We were going to look outside for somewhere to eat but it was still raining so we had coffee and cake in the hotel lobby lounge and looked through photos of our trip. She had bought some jam filled pancakes for us to try and a picture of a fish that her grandmother had painted for her to give to us. We tried to Skype the girls while Maho was with us but Erica was at work early and Richelle just heading into a play. She was not familiar with this area so we said we would travel back to Tokyo with her, since we now knew how to travel from there but she had come through from Ueno Station. We went as far as her first change of train at Mitsukoshimae but then she was worried we would get lost at Ueno Station as it was so busy and wouldn't let us go any further with her. While at Mitsukoshimae we looked at before and after photos of Fukushima from the earthquake and tsunami last year and the rebuilding work.
Made it back for the final hour of happy hour, and yes, we left happy.