There is much discussion about high speed rail between Vancouver and Portland… This conversation isn’t new, been going on for years and years and there’s always more pushback, grumbling about costs and right of way, another expensive study and blah blah blah… In my mind, the existing service *could* be great if they had priority right of way on the tracks, without hindrance of landslides which are prone to some areas, and better connections from the often remote/poorly located stations to the related urban centers (looking at you Olympia).
I mean, the trains themselves are great, the route is lovely, and importantly there is Snoqualmie Falls oatmeal served in the morning, or Ivar’s clam chowder and Black Butte Porter in the afternoon…￼￼ Last time I rode anyway.
By the way, it’s no longer my challenge, request, cause or whatever as I live in Japan where train lines are abundant with all manner of service from super fast to slow locals as well as scenic treasures on olden stock.
However, I have yet to find a train in Japan which serves oatmeal so I have to get by a delicious Ekiben.
Japan can be intimidating, even for seasoned travellers. You arrive to massive sticker shock, tiny octopi in soup, and 30 kinds of hot canned coffee (which all taste moreorless the same) in ubiquitous vending machines.
Japan is a long country with 80% mountains – covering several climates, from frosty Hokkaido in the north, to tropical Kyushu giving adventurous folks much opportunity to head to the outer provinces for exploration of the heady scenery of this varied archipelago. With some planning, politeness and persistence, combined with a little zen, you can find big adventures.
Indeed, it is easy to get lost in the big cities of Tokyo and Osaka – crowded with skyscrapers and twisted alleys, piled high with screaming neon clubs pumping techno, reggae or karaoke and shops piled with futuristic technological gadgets that won’t make it to North America for another decade – but, far away from the expensive hotels and talking toilets of the huge Pacific metropolis, you may find yourself soaking in alpine hot springs on a starry night, drinking sake with strangers crammed into a mountain hut after a backcountry dinner of rice, seaweed, miso and green tea.
Best to fly to Kansai (KIX) Osaka airport. This schmancy modern airport is located on a human-made island in the middle of the bay and includes 2 hotels, like 100+ restaurants, post office, an airplane viewing platform and importantly, a train station. The hotels (the full-service Nikko Hotel & business-single-pod-style First Cabin) are super useful if you arrive exhausted from the long flight (usually about 14 hours from N.A. west coast). A short trip from the airport’s island by shuttle bus brings you to loads of other hotels. This airport village also has loads of shopping for buying treats on your way home. Of course, the are other airports, specifically Tokyo (massive international hub Narita NRT or sometimes Haneda HND which is usually used for domestic flights) and the new Centrail/Chubu/Nagoya (NGO) airport. While you might save a few dollars on the flight, you’ll have a longer (more expensive) train journey to reach Okayama which is the destination for the shindig.
Fly direct to Okayama (OKJ) via the charmingly convenient and cute Momotaro Airport. If you fly to Haneda or Narita (Tokyo) mentioned above, you can transfer and fly right here. Sometimes this requires an airport shuttle between Narita (mostly international) and Haneda (more domestic). There is a bus service from Momotaro to downtown Okayama too. Note: there is a huge service difference for the long-haul flights from North America. My personal experience is to fly an Asian-based airline, i.e.: Japan (ANA *fave, JAL), Korean (Korean or Asiana), Taiwan (EVA), HK (Cathay Pacific) or Singapore if coming from YVR, SFO, LAX, etc. If coming from other Asian destinations, well you are usually all good. I have experienced much less enjoyment from US-based airlines and China mainland airlines often have low prices but check the reviews and adjust against your comfort levels.
Rolling Elsewhere: Kurobe Gorge Railway, Toyama / Unazuki to Keyakidaira stations (ambient excerpts) Ambient meditative scenes of riding the narrow gauge railway up Kurobe Gorge, one of the steepest canyons in Japan with spectacular scenery, choogling open air carriages, and hydro-electric dam with medieval style castle (really). Not documentary per se – just as-it-is snippets, stitched loosely to capture the feeling of the trip from Onazuki Onsen station to Keyakidaira (end of the line) station way up in the Japan Alps. Backgrounder:Kurotetu Railways (official)JNTO Magazine TravelJapan VisitorKurobe Gorge Railway (wikipedia)
A lil video in which i mispronounce various words, stumble through “advice”, share poorly made photos, and in general, provide semi-useful instructions for riding trains – specifically the various Shinkansen “bullet” trains to get from KIX to Okayama for various wedding festivities.
Just riding the Hikari Shinkansen train from Shin-Osaka to Okayama, Japan, looking out the window. No action, narration, or fanciness… just spacing out a window as various scenes flash past. Brief stops along the way, not necessarily arranged sequentially.