Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Doin' a Couple of Rails with My Cousin

I just had my first Shinkansen (bullet train) ride from Kyoto on the ultra-fast Nozomi train. I have to admit, after waiting most of my life to do this again (the last time I did it, I was about two years old), it was a bit anticlimactic. Since my childhood, high-speed rail has been implemented everywhere (except the good ol' U.S. of A, forfuckssake) there isn't that much novelty in whizzing through cities and countryside at speeds nearing 200 miles an hour.

In fact, I had just started settling in, grooving to my iPod and kicking off my shoes when Makoto tapped me on my shoulder to tell me that we were arriving in Okayama. Dammit.

We just switched to another line - this one a regular train - which is headed to Kochi, our destination for today. It's noticeably slower, but just as comfortable. The only peculiarity is that I'm sitting in a cloud of cigarette smoke. I'm suspecting this is a result of my family being up to its dirty tricks again...

You see, before my mom left Osaka, she gave me ¥20,000 so I can buy my tickets for this leg of the trip. But this morning, Makoto handed me my tickets as we were on the local train to Kyoto. I have a feeling he's behind all this, having booked us on a smoking train.

Oh well - at least it's full of novelty, and I'm not all that averse to smoke. All my rock star, writer and artist heroes smoke like chimneys (or did so until their demise), so I may as well get used to it if I want to live, travel, and write like a rock star, right? Besides, who cares when you've just eaten a decent meal on a train?

At each train station - and on board the bullet trains - they sell eki-ben, or to-go boxed lunch sets. Keeping my sudden aversion to fish in mind, I opted for the one non-fish, non-vegetarian item: Teriyaki. Oddly enough, this is the first time I've seen anything served up teriyaki style in Japan. It's just not that big a deal here like it is back at home. At any rate, it was pretty decent, and far better than the crap I have to put up with on my daily train commute.

In fact, it just occurred to me that I could make a killing if I started a business selling boxed lunch sets at train stations and airports. No more overpriced pizza or signing away your first born for a McDonald's Extra Value Meal. Just step right up to Omi-san's House of Bento and you'll get a full meal made fresh this morning - side dishes and all - in a portable box to take on your train or plane. Sounds good, right? I mean, how is it that no one else has done this?

Oh yeah - Americans are probably averse to eating rice and meat at just below room temperature. Oh well, it's your loss, my star-spangled friends.

Anyway, back to enjoying the fantastic views...

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