Sunday 23 February, 2020
Day 7 | Takaoka to Imabari (Shinkansen)
[Missed the previous post? Check it out here]
Today we are making our way to Imabari via shinkansen and giving our legs and butt a well deserved rest. I’m always a little anxious sorting out transportation in any foreign country but today goes by like a breeze thanks to the super reliable Japanese rail system.
Our original plan was to cycle 25km to Toyama and catch the train from there but after a few hiccups (1. Rain and 2. needing time to exchange our JR passes) we decide to cycle to Takaoka station just down the road and catch the train to Toyama instead, which takes a quick 18 minutes.
We pack our bikes up and make the quick trip before trying to navigate our way around the huge station. The ticket set up is quick including seat reservation and jump on our first train. We decide that we’ll book the remaining reserved seats our next transit station, Kanazawa.
After arriving in Toyama, we have four more trains to catch heading to:
• Kanazawa (where we had started cycling six days earlier, only taking 19 minutes)
• Shin-Osaka (2 hrs 30 min, the station before Osaka which is HUGE and we start to see many tourists)
• Okayama (a quick 45 minutes with loads of westerners, probably making their way to Hiroshima)
• Imabari (2 hrs 10 min, our final destination and where we will kick off the Shimanami Kaido bike route)
We purchased our JR vouchers online before we left Australia and exchanged them for our passes at the JR ticket office in Toyama. If you time it well, Klook often have special offers where you can buy discounted JR passes from them. We opted for the 7 day pass but you can also get 14 or 21 day passes which give you access to most JR line trains throughout Japan.
As we line up to book our reserved seats, a women asks us in English if we need assistance, as we obviously look like tourists. She takes us to a ticket machine and books all the remaining legs for us which we are grateful for.
The Japanese train system has got to be the best in the world.
Trains depart and arrive on time (to the second!) and it’s super fast, comfortable and clean.
There are loads of creature comforts like wifi, power outlets, coat racks, foot rests, tray tables, restrooms, reclining and reversible seats, window shades and cup holders. There are snacks and drinks available to purchase from food cart.
The best thing is it has ample space for our bikes, which we could slide behind the back seats of each carriage. The only rule is the bike needs to be enclosed completely in a bag, so if it doesn’t fold up you’ll need to dismantle it.
We decide to put the our time (and the wifi) to good use and book a trip back to Japan for later in the year, which to this day we still haven’t taken due to the Covid-19 travel restrictions. We were originally planning to fly to Fukuoka in October 2020 but keep pushing the flights back. It’s now April 2021 as I write this and there’s still no sign of international travel anytime soon.
We make our way from one train to another, from one transit town to the next.
The scenery as we pass different towns change from one area to the next.
Some areas are more built up while others have more farmland with mountainous backdrops.
We cross a few bridges along the way and get some spectacular views of the water.
Some of the trains go so fast as they reach speeds of nearly 300km per hour.
The entire journey takes just short of 7 hours but it goes by so quickly and becomes quite enjoyable.
We have about 40 minutes between each leg, just enough time to stretch our legs, make a few stops in the station before heading to our next train.
We stop by some of the convenience stores to pick up some food along the way, including this shop that only sells onigiri!!
At our final transit station, we start chatting to one of the friendly station guards who is interested to hear about our cycling adventures and helps direct us to our next platform. Unfortunately he has his eyes closed when I take a photo.
Our train arrives in Imabari at 5:45pm and we spend the next 15 minutes putting our bikes back together and cycling to our AirBnB for the night.
Our host is waiting outside the house for us as we approach and he shows us around. He’s an older Japanese man but can speak English quite well. I ask where he learnt to speak English and he said he was part of the English speaking society at University.
He gives us a few maps and restaurant recommendations before letting us settle in.
The place is really nice, and huge! There’s a front room to park our bikes, a separate kitchen and a massive room a lounge, TV and FOUR beds. Then I discover a bit later that there is a separate room with an extra two beds. SIX BEDS!
We decide to head straight out to dinner and wander down to the local CoCo Curry Ichibanya as they have a vegan menu.
I don’t think anything can beat the soup curry from last night but it doesn’t stop me from ordering it again as it’s quite chilly outside. It’s almost as good as last night’s dish. Almost.
Cheye gets the vegetable and eggplant curry which is also really good.
We wander back to the house and prepare for our first day of cycling on the Shimanami Kaido. The weather looks promising over the next few days, fingers crossed!