Turning Japanese Again, Shinkansen to Toyohashi and Irako

I slept a little oddly, considering we’d been up for over 24 hours straight. Woke up once around 3:00 (mostly to go to the bathroom), again at about 5:00, and finally at about 7:50. At that point, it was enough to say I’d probably adjusted to the time zone.

Jen and I proceeded to get on with our morning. For me, showering and shaving (showering when it’s eight degrees in the shower room is a bit of an odd experience), gathering our things from the previous night, laying out Chris and Kaz’s wedding gifts (that they don’t yet know about), and getting breakfast.

This meant a trip to the 7-11. I knew what I wanted, but Jen really didn’t know. She was about to find out that her typical breakfast foods either don’t exist here, or are different enough to cause problems. This was most notable when she bought what she thought was normal milk (which bore the slogan: “Milk as milked”). Apparently, the Japanese like their milk sweetened, which Jen found thoroughly repulsive.

About 9:45, we headed out to the train station to meet up with Tony, one of Chris’ friends. Tony used to be a teacher with the same company Chris now works for. He’s since moved to Saipan (an American protectorate) where he works as a “beach boy” at a resort. Tony is trouble incarnate, at least as far as Chris has described him.

After grabbing a bite to eat at the bakery (Tony hadn’t had breakfast yet), the three of us boarded the train for Tokyo. It was already standing room only when we boarded, and was crammed full until about two stops before Tokyo station. We stood the whole way.

Once in Tokyo, we found our way up to the main level, where Tony bought something to eat for lunch, and then headed out to the Shinkansen area. Took a bit to find the right train (none of the signs were in English), and waited for our 12:23 departure. We took one row of two seats, flipped it 180 degrees so they faced the two seats behind them, and the three of us sat down to enjoy our 2.5 hour trip to Toyohashi.

Tony and I talked almost the whole way. Jen slipped in and out of consciousness while listening to her music. The scenery zipped by at a leisurely 250 km/h. We even got a good look at Mount Fuji (it had decided not to hide itself from us). Shinichiro (another of Chris’ friends) found us, and gabbed a bit with Tony. We would meet up with him and his girlfriend Riko again when we got to Toyohashi.

Chris and Kaz were waiting for us when we arrived at the station. It was good to see them again, though it was a short-lived reunion with Kaz. Chris led us to the shuttle bus, where we found Chris’ parents Tony and Carole, and Chris’ uncle, Garth (Carole’s brother).

I had thought that the hotel we were staying at was close to the train station. I was so wrong. The Iraku View Hotel isn’t even in Toyohashi — that’s just the nearest train station. We had another hour on a shuttle bus to the hotel. A long, albeit nice ride through and around the Aichi Prefecture’s countryside, which appears to be primarily agricultural.

The hotel sits on top of a small mountain, overlooking a large bay. The view here is … well, let’s just say there’s a reason why “View” is in the hotel’s name. It’s amazing. Chris picked a heck of a location.

The hotel room arrangements had changed from the last time I’d talked with Chris. Originally, Chris, Tony (friend, not father), and I were going to share a room, and Jen and Kaz would share another. Now it was Chris, Tony, and Garth, with Jen and I sharing a room. (We don’t see Kaz again until tomorrow.)

Admittedly, I was a little disappointed. But I’m certainly not in a position to complain in any way. These are the way things have to be. It’s called “life” — you get used to it after a while. (Actually, I almost prefer it this way. At least Jen won’t be with a stranger. Admittedly, though, I don’t know what’s going to happen if there is a desire to go out drinking.)

The room is pretty nice. More western in style, there are twin beds, a desk, TV, small table, two chairs, Japanese-style bathrobes, a Japanese-style western toilet (complete with electronic bidet controls and seat warmer), and a complementary water heater and green tea bags.

But I need an iron. My suit is a little wrinkled.


Jen and I went exploring, to see what this hotel has to offer. It’s quite interesting. There’s a great view of the area from the hotel’s roof (you’re actually allowed up there), an arcade, a couple of restaurants, a kareoke bar, a bowling alley, and birds in the lobby. It’s a bit of an odd hotel.

Following our exploration, Jen and I watched a bit of the local Japanese TV. Very odd things to watch, such as a commercial for what we think was a car, but featured two kids in cat costumes who steal fish from the back of a fish truck.

We all met up and went for dinner just after 19:00, at the Sunset Restaurant, which features a buffet. It’s quite good (for a buffet), including such favourites as sashimi, seafood-flavoured miso, gyoza, and a few things I’d never even heard of before.

Chris and his family sat at one table, while Shinichiro, Riko, Tony, Jen, and I sat at another. We talked, joked, learned a little more about each other, and drank. (Well, we did … Jen didn’t, for obvious reasons.)

Following our dinner (we finished just after 21:00), the six of us (the rest of Chris’ family headed to bed) went in search of the bowling alley. Chris’ last night as a single man would be demonstrated on the lanes.

Unfortunately, Chris didn’t do all that well — mind you, neither did I — as he was distracted by conversations with Kaz. I’m going to have to make sure that his cell phone is either left behind, or confiscated by either Tony or myself so he can actually enjoy tomorrow, and not spend it talking to others.

The game finished (Shinichiro came first, Jen a close second), we adjourned to Shinichiro and Riko’s room for a bottle of melon wine. An odd flavour, to say the least, but still pleasant. Shinichiro and Chris took it upon themselves to try and teach Jen some new Japanese words. Tony tried to figure out how to use some of the features on his new phone.

But it’s late, and we all need sleep. Tomorrow’s going to be a long day.