7 am wake up and off to Kitasenri station; jump on the train, get off at Minamikata where the dear Yusuke is waiting for me to go to Shin Osaka station and catch the Shinkansen train to Tokyo. The Shinkansen is renown for its being super fast and the many record-beating stats:
The Shinkansen (“New Main Line”?) also known as “the bullet train” is a network of high-speed railway lines in Japan operated by four Japan Railways Group companies. Starting with the 210 km/h (130 mph) Tōkaidō Shinkansen in 1964, the now 2,459 km (1,528 mi) long network has expanded to link most major cities on the islands of Honshū and Kyūshū at speeds up to 300 km/h (186 mph). Test runs have reached 443 km/h (275 mph) for conventional rail in 1996, and up to a world record 581 km/h (361 mph) for maglev trainsets in 2003.
The Tōkaidō Shinkansen is the world’s busiest high-speed rail line. Carrying 151 million passengers a year (March 2008), it has transported more passengers (over 6 billion) than any other high speed line in the world. Between Tokyo and Osaka, the two largest metropolises in Japan, up to ten trains per hour with 16 cars each (1,300 seats capacity) run in each direction with a minimum of 3 minutes between trains.
The Shinkansen is very reliable, and in 2003, JR Central reported that the Shinkansen’s average arrival time was within six seconds of the scheduled time. This includes all natural and human accidents and errors and is calculated over roughly 160,000 Shinkansen trips completed. The previous record, from 1997, was 18 seconds.
Luckily we got on the Nozomi train, which is the fastest Shinkansen according to my guide Yusuke. Not too cheap though: it costed me 35000 yen for a return trip, which is roughly 250 pounds! Anyways.. it took us only 2:30 hours to get to Tokyo from Osaka (515 km).
And apart from a guy sitting next to us that kept on burping without rest (is that allowed on the shinkansen? I couldn’t dare asking) the trip was a breeze, even more when the hostess brought us some delicious bento (= japanese packaged meal)….
First impression of Tokyo: not that different from Osaka, just much busier and with more tourists (or westeners in general). So we walked to the conference venue, which was located at Keio University, Mita campus (by the way I just run into the list of Tokyo’s universities which is stunning!).
No one’s there yet so I take the time to immortalize the moment (without Yusuke knowing):
The view from the window is pretty interesting too. So conference starts.. talks talks ontology bla bla bla … and after the conference we got invited to a reception in a chinese restaurant closeby. Food pretty ok, chitchatting with various people and also had a chance to listen some traditional music.. how nice.
Finally, I say goobye to my ‘local’ colleagues …
… and off to my room, where I find a nice surprise:
A nice and soft pijama! .. as usual I’ve forgotten mine..