Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Travelling-on-Trains Fairy Tale

Written and Illustrated by Louise

Once upon a time, there was a karate student, intelligent, modest and with great hair, who went on an epic journey, travelling intrepidly and fearlessly into the great unexplored reaches of western Honshu. Because she preferred to spend her money on other things (like food and nice places to stay), she bought the cheapest train tickets she could (aka the Seishun 18 Kippu), which each gave her five days free travel on Japan Rail (JR) local and rapid trains, anywhere in Japan. Those trains are actually the slowest you can find, but the magnificent karate student bravely endured this hardship.

At first she amused herself by watching the outside going past (though the insides of tunnels are pretty boring) and by looking at other people's shoes ('Can one judge a person by the shoes they wear?' she asked herself); then when it got dark she meditated (i.e. practiced being a vegetable); and when this became too tiring, she read the insides of her eyelids.

Snacks for the journey. Note the Tiger-Bun (or toraman) on the left.

Snacks, a bit later

Snacks see the sea

Who ate the snacks? Must've been the Tiger-Bun

In this way, the courageous karate student travelled without major mishap up hill and down dale, from Saitama to Nara, to Koya-san, to Hiroshima, Tsuwano, Matsue and back to Nara. Snacks were bought and eaten, photos taken and sights were seen. But little did she know what would happen on the last leg home.

The day started like any other, not a cloud in the sky and no premonition of what awaited. The first sign that something was amiss came when the first train to Kyoto kept stopping between stations. The karate student used her super-duper Japanese skills and picked out one word in the conductor's announcements: traffic lights. 'The train signals must keep changing', she deduced. 'Not to worry, I have 40 minutes to spare before my next train from Kyoto at noon.' That first train arrived at Kyoto 37 minutes late, so the athletic karate student ran into the station for her next train and on the way past read the station signboards.

Shock, horror! There had been a level crossing accident between Kyoto and Maibara, her next transfer point. 'Hmm.... I still have to get home, so I'll go as far as I can along the line, and maybe it'll have been sorted out by the time I get there,' she thought. This she did, but nope, it hadn't.

What to do, what to do. By sheer chance, the station that the fortunate karate student had reached was connected to a private railway line that also went to Maibara, though the long way round. With some help from a very friendly station attendant, she decided to take the private railway, throwing her luck to the winds and gambling that it would be faster than waiting for the JR trains to start again.

Thus, along with half the population of Kansai (the other half travelling in the opposite direction), she crammed into a rather slow, hygienically challenged train, and became more acquainted with her fellow passengers than she really wished. But because the karate student was the type of popular, kind and generous person everybody wants to know, she made some lifelong friends without even mussing her hair, and arrived at Maibara only three hours late.

To cut a long story short, she continued on her journey home, navigating at each transfer point by sense of smell (her carefully prepared itinerary no longer applicable), and arrived successfully at Omiya, Saitama, at midnight. But this wasn't the end of her troubles. Omiya is not home for the patient karate student, and to her disappointment, as her train pulled into the station, she saw the last train to her final destination pulling out.

Having fun at the end of a long day. Ha ha.

Now Omiya is a nice place in which to shop and go to karaoke in the daytime or early evening, but after wandering around for a bit, the tired but undefeated karate student concluded that Omiya in the early morning was not where she wanted to be. No internet cafes presented themselves, and spending the night in MacDonalds was decidedly unsavoury, so after a short conversation with a couple of friendly taxi drivers, she set off at last on the final, most expensive, part of her journey. In record time the taxi had dropped her home, and she lived happily ever after.

The End


gai.ninja said...

That is an awesome journey! I got the Seishun 18 Kippu and thought I was brave going from Nagoya to Tokyo to Kofu and back, but your trip was truly epic! Yokatta ne!

Anonymous said...

OMG Louise!!! It sounds like reading the insides of ones eyelids and having great hair can only lead to misfortune....

Michele and Katie :)