A lush valley of rice fields surrounded by browning bamboo forests

In 17 weeks I have not hit every tourist attraction, but one thing I have seen more than the average visitor sees, is scene after scene after scene of Japanese countryside, cities and towns. This post is dedicated to the indisputable beauty of the country of Japan. I am going to take this opportunity to display only train-related images. I took all these shots. Please click any photo for a larger version.

Glimpse of the sea as the Shinkansen passes north between the islands of Kyushu and Honshu

Murals at the Shin-Iwakuni station

Rice fields and green hills

Rocky cliffs exposed

Since June I have been riding trains in this country. The small ones I call the “clickety clack” trains. And then there are express trains. There are subways. There is the deservedly world-famous Shinkansen! I’ve been on all of them. Sometimes I’m crammed in and forced to stand; sometimes I’m practically alone; sometimes I find myself on the wrong one! Often I am the only non-Japanese person around.

From the new shin side of Tokyo Station, viewing the old Marunouchi side. The red building you see is Tokyo Station as it was constructed in 1914.

castle

Every train is a potential adventure, and many trips turn out to be an actual adventure. All trains provide a seat and a window. I provide the camera.

Because they are my medium of travel, my portal to another world, the trains themselves fascinate me. The tracks that carry them. The stations where they stop.

I hope the trains and tracks and stations are not boring to you. They hold such electricity for me when I look at them; I simply can’t help myself but take more photos. My external hard drive here in my room is bursting at the seams with train photos.

Station stop for the Iwakuni Shinkansen station.

I know the routes so well that once I realized I was on the wrong train because I heard the announcement in Japanese for the next stop of Tokuyama, and realized I was heading south instead of north. I know the sights so well that I noticed a photo incorrectly placed in my digital folder for Misawa. It was a photo of Hakata station, which is not on the way to Misawa.

I know there are more pines in the north of Honshu, not only because I have seen them, but I can smell them up there. There are more tunnels for the tracks in the south. From the train in southern Kyushu, I can spot fields growing grains other than rice. There are more snow-capped peaks in the north.

With a quick glance, I can see easily that this is Hakata Station

So that’s it for today. Just photos. I’ve been spending the weekend catching up on very late blog posts, and publishing them with the correct dates, so if you’re interested, you can scroll back the last few months and find some new gems tucked in there.

I love this photo. Little sweetheart tired girl, waiting with the bags while her mom is taking care of something. It’s rare to see a child alone, but this is an example of how SAFE Japan is, even if a child must be alone for a few minutes.

An example of a clickety-clack train from up in Aomori Prefecture. When I ride this one, it’s typically two cars long, has no announcements, and no signs in English.

Express train for Huis Ten Bosh theme park on Kyushu. These trains are smooth and pretty fast, like a step between clickety-clack and shinkansen.

Nose of the shinkansen glides in slick like the head of a snake. These trains are thrilling to watch as well as ride. Cameras always come out when one shows up. The ride is smooth as silk, quiet, luxurious, and perfectly precisely on time. Like…to the second…

…except on September 17, 2012. These are the signs at Hakata station during Typhoon Sanba. The only time I have ever seen the shinkansen late. It apparently takes a typhoon to put a glitch in the schedule.

Tokyo station at night. Yes, most Japanese men do typically wear white shirts and black pants.

 

Seats inside the express train to Sasebo. Roomy, but not as nice as the shin.

Spring fields and a tractor preparing the soil for the year’s crops. In most of Japan, the season only allows one harvest of rice.

You can barely see the rice plants, set by hand, and now flooded to begin the growing season. Notice the houses set a few feet up on retaining walls, to keep the foundations dry.

A little later in the season, this is in northern Honshu, as you can see snow on the mountains. Rice is coming up in rows.

One field harvested; the others still maturing.

Wheat fields on Kyushu

Industrial center at Tokuyama seaport.

People waiting for the train at Yokogawa Station, south of Hiroshima

Beautiful Gothic style cathedral

yellow door

Ships and islands visible in the Seto Inland Sea

Going through Sendai made me just a little nervous so soon after the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Gazing out across the tracks.

Very typical view of densely populated valleys swelling into the foothills when the space becomes needed.

Maybe it looks boring to you, but I love this view from Hiroshima station! There is a cacophony here, even when I stand still and silent. Look at the men waiting at this small local station – it’s a peaceful scene in reality. But to me: this sight is ferociously loud.