Home for the holidays (Part 1)

After a series of fairly serious blog posts related to an ongoing complaint against Amazon (which was somewhat, but not entirely, resolved), I thought it was about time to post about a slightly more innocuous topic: Making pottery at the local nursery school.

But then reality set in, and between work and family obligations I had practically no time to write anything longer than a tweet. No updates even to the Facebook page (aside from the fact that I’ve been waffling between self-publishing and going with a UK-based publisher of mostly TESOL-related text books).

And now, the holidays. It’s time to relax. You’d like to think…

As I’ve written before (a long time ago, when life actually seemed simpler ha ha), my family usually visits Kagoshima, at the southernmost tip of the southern island of Kyushu, famous for one of the world’s most active volcanos, Atsu-hime, Saigo Takamori, and imo-jochu.

Our yearly New Year trips were made much easier thanks to the completion of the bullet train (shinkansen) tracks from Fukuoka to Kagoshima. The first few years of our marriage, my wife and I would always debate whether we should take the train or fly: I hate flying, but the “Tsubame-relay” train we were forced to use between Hakata Station and Shin-Yatsushiro Station would often make my wife feel nauseous, and having to change express trains three times after already changing local trains three times just to get to the express station was too much.

With the kids, flying was just easier. Except of course it took a train and a bus to get to Itami Airport (Osaka), and then another two buses to get from the airport in Kagoshima to my inlaws.

From March 2011, right at the end of my child care leave, the shinkansen line to Shin-Yatsushiro was completed. So now we can take a single bullet train from Shin-Osaka straight to Kagoshima without changing trains, using either the “Sakura” or the “Mizuho.” The seats are much wider and there is more space between the seats than on a typical bullet train, which helps enormously with two young children who can’t sit still for more than about five minutes. Especially when you’re trying to save money by getting two seats for four people and wind up with 15 kilograms on your knees for over four hours.


Still, imagine the alternatives, particularly in the US. I’ve been trying to imagine what it would be like to use a bullet train in my home country…where every time we visit, I have to rent a car just so we can go, ah, outside the airport. Public transportation is so advanced in Japan that it makes that of the US look positively anemic by comparison.

I may have a few more actual details of the home visit to post here in the next week, so I’ll just leave this post hanging…while once more expressing how much I dislike airplanes and appreciate the bullet train service here. Did I mention that the shinkansen train stations are fantastic, too?

About MThomas

Long ago, I gave up my high school dreams of becoming the next Carl Sagan and instead wound up working (in order) at McDonald's, a '60s-themed restaurant, a video rental store, a used bookstore, a computer seller, Kinko's, a Jewish newspaper company, and an HR firm. I eventually became a teacher of intercultural communication in Kyoto, where I vainly attempt to apply quantum mechanics to language teaching, practice martial arts and Zen Buddhism, and always keep one eye on the sky. And yes, I know my profile photo's backward. I just think it looks better this way.
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2 Responses to Home for the holidays (Part 1)

  1. Glen Hill says:

    Lucky you and Etsuko to have a bullet train accessibility now. Up here in Hokkaido, it’s still years away. Of course, we still have to contend with the enormous distance, but since my wife won’t fly at all nor take boats/ferries, that’s about all we have open to us. So far, I’m glad our son isn’t that interested in visiting places like Tokyo Disneyland…yet.


  2. Pingback: Home for the holidays (Part 2) | Taking Leave

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