We got to the train station in Oiso, made our way to Odakaya to get on the Shinkansen, or bullet train, to Kyoto. Our train was to leave at 12:08. At 12:00 a train pulled into the station. Eric had just gone to the bathroom and was jogging back so as not to miss the train. We got onto our reserved car and found our seats, only to find people sitting in two out of our four reserved seats. I didn’t quite understand, so I pulled out my ticket to show to the man sitting in one and he pulled his out, and they both showed 16c! He then noticed that while I was to be in seat 16c on the Hikari Shinkansen, he was correctly sitting in seat 16c on the Tokkaido express train. I looked back at Eric, waiting in the aisle and said hurriedly, “Wrong train! Wrong train! Get off!” With our backpacks on in the narrow train aisle, the kids started shuffling backwards and Eric hustled back to the door only to have it close in his face and the train start moving. Oh crap oh crap oh crap. (note: In real life, I did not say “crap” but I am editing because this is a family blog) We were on the wrong bullet train.
For those of you who don’t know, the shinkansen in Japan are the super fast, 200 miles an hour trains that get you from one city to another. It’s not like you can just get off at the next stop and switch like the NYC subway. We all just stared at each other, not sure what to do, and hoping that the next stop wasn’t Hokkaido, the untamed wilderness island of the North. Eric said the incredibly helpful comment, “I was wondering why we got on that train anyway since it seemed like it was a little early for it.” See? Wasn’t that some masterful insight? I was soooo appreciative of his hindsight and wisdom.
We waited for the conductor for a few stops, then the boy noticed that there was a sign indicating the crew was in car 8 so Eric went down to chat with them. While he was gone, I saw our train, the Hikari, zoom past on the adjacent track. Well, at least we were sort of going the right direction, but there was no chance of catching our original train.
Eric got transfer instructions from the conductor, and we were able to board a different train a few stops later and get seats in the unreserved compartment. The conductor came by to check our tickets which were for the original train, and I said “wrong train at Odakaya,” and he smiled at me like “ah, silly foreigner.” We pulled into Kyoto just a half hour later than we originally would have so it wasn’t that bad after all.
As we boarded the local train to get to our place, I remembered something and said to Eric “Hey, you nearly left the whiskey bottle behind! You’re lucky I packed it!” We’d bought a small bottle of Japanese whiskey in Tokyo and had used it for some nightcaps. It’s tasty stuff. He looked at me and just stared. “Where did you put that bottle?” He asked. “In my backpack!” I chirped, “I had thought we could have a bit on the train but with all the craziness I forgot.” “Sujata,” he said slowly, “I used that bottle to pee in at the last place because of the crazy stairs.” “You mean,” I replied, “I just carried a bottle of pee in my bag from Oiso to Kyoto.” “Yup,” Eric said, beginning to crack up. At least I didn’t pour us a glass on the train, I suppose. Sigh.