Day 14–Kamata, the Field of Cattails

(First, a little note from the future. I mean, the present: I survived Bualoi. A little damp, but no particular issues otherwise. But on with the show – as anyone I’ve sent an e-mail to in the past knows, I always like to do things in chronological order; it’s less confusing that way.)

One thing I’ve noticed about Toyoko Inn is that they invariably seem to make the beds such that the bottom edge of the sheet is in line with the edge of the mattress, rather than being tucked underneath. It always means that my feet stick out from the sheet (though are still under the cover) if I stretch out. It’s… a little annoying.

Opened with breakfast.

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After which, it was sadly time to check out. While I was in no particular rush to get going, I realised that if I could get to the station by 9:48, I could catch the fewer-stops Hayabusa train – all the trains afterwards, for the next seven hours, would be the slower Yamabiko (because the Hayabusa trains skip Ichinoseki outside of peak hours). Curiously, Ichinoseki’s sole ticket office (that I came across anyway – maybe there’s another one somewhere else?) is inside the station concourse, so I used the final day on my JR East Pass (and it’s also the final day in the fourteen-day validity period) and then went to book my final Shinkansen for this trip (aww). Sadly, an aisle seat again.

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This trip, I’d be heading all the way back to Tokyo for the first time since I left early the morning after I arrived – the trip takes about two hours on the Hayabusa, but two and a half on the Yamabiko. I was seated next to a little old lady, but she got off at Sendai… and was immediately replaced by a salaryman. So instead, I went to take photos from the vestibule. I’d planned to take a photo of my hotel and surrounds in Toda-Koen, and a photo of the Railway Museum as we pulled into Omiya, but at the critical moments, I wasn’t paying attention. I also saw a cute little rice polishing hut sitting in the middle of fields and nothing else, but was too slow to get a photo of it…

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Soon, we were back in the Big Smoke. The biggest smoke. At Tokyo Station, I pondered heading out to sightsee a bit, but decided that there wasn’t much adjacent to Tokyo Station that I hadn’t seen before, and I didn’t want to be dragging my luggage around, so I hopped onto the Keihin-Tohoku Line instead. (Despite the name, the line doesn’t go to Tohoku – it just connects Tokyo and Yokohama with the Tohoku Main Line. The “kyo” in “Tokyo” can also be read as “kei”, while the “hama” in “Yokohama” can also be read as “hin”, so Keihin-Tohoku.) I was quite pleased that I’d managed to grab a rapid express… except that it only skipped the next two stations, and then promptly turned into a local train. Bah.

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Anyway, my next hotel is in Kamata. Just as Toda-Koen Station was as far south as I could get along the train line without being in Tokyo, Kamata Station is as far south along the train line as I could get while remaining in Tokyo – the next station along the line is Kawasaki, which is in Kanagawa Prefecture.

I stood outside the station trying to figure out why I couldn’t remember having practiced the walk on Google Street View like I had for my other hotels, when I leaned slightly to the left and spotted it right there, about a block away. Easy peasy. This is a slightly smaller city hotel, squeezed between two adjacent buildings – it’s actually got a hair dresser’s underneath, and back door leading out to the street behind. Possibly the tiniest lobby/dining room I’ve seen at a Toyoko Inn, though. Perhaps – I might have to check my photos.

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Anyway, it was still a few hours before I could enter my room, so I checked in, deposited my luggage, and then went out to sightsee. There was one fairly minor location I’d been wanting to visit near here… but first, lunch. Took a brief detour into a bookshop to buy some books for Japanese reading practice. Well… brief-ish – it was ten past one when I arrived at my hotel, but ten to three before I found somewhere for lunch. I had tsukemen (= ramen noodles with separate dipping sauce) at a place specialising in Hokkaido-style ramen. Tasty. Not sure the soup was hot enough, though, because it was almost cold by the time I was done.

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Then it was time to go stroll. First, passing Keikyu-Kamata Station. This is where I’ll be catching my train to Haneda Airport when it’s tragically time to leave – it’s the primary reason that I’m staying here in Kamata for this part of the trip; Haneda Airport is about three stops away. It’s an interestingly-shaped station, though – trains going one way stop on the second level above the ground, while trains going the other way stop at the third.

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Wandered through tiny tiny back streets, two-way roads barely wide enough for a single car, people on bikes everywhere, and soon reached my target: Nanatsuji Kousaten, the seven-way intersection. Supposedly one of only two seven-way intersections in Japan, this one is heavily trafficked… but completely unregulated. Just stop signs, no traffic lights, no “you can turn left into that street but not this street” signs, and yet… it works.

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There’s a sign up saying “Japan’s best give-and-take model intersection”, and a whole bunch of writing on the back which I’m going to need to sit down and decipher, but which I think is a bit about the history of the area. I first learnt about this place from a documentary about it on NHK World, and it’s quite a nice place to sit and people-watch. There’s a greengrocer on one corner. Fun fact about Japanese greengrocers: apples cost 200 to 400 yen each, but you can get a four kilo bag of bean sprouts for 100 yen. Meanwhile, at Coles, apples cost about ninety cents each, while bean sprouts are eight dollars a kilo…

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I decided to satisfy a sudden craving for chocolate with a bag of Kit Kat bites from the 7-Eleven a few metres down one of the streets, and started wandering back to my hotel, munching on them. After they disappeared all too soon, I stopped at a vending machine for a bottle of Strawberry/Raspberry/Cassis/Cranberry/Blueberry drink (containing 0% fruit juice). One thing I noticed was kids out playing everywhere – riding their bikes, using the playground equipment, playing keep-away in their… well, I don’t know if I’d go as far as “dozens”, but there were at least a few severals. Not sure the last time I saw kids in Australia out playing together in such numbers. Arriving at the train station, I decided to buy an apple-filled taiyaki (fish-shaped cakes usually filled with red bean paste).

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Back at my hotel, I was handed my room key – level six, back corner. The door opens outwards, because just inside it is the bathroom door. And coming properly into my room, I was quite surprised to discover it’s actually got a view over the street behind – I was expecting to only be able to see the side wall of the adjacent builing, but here at the back of the hotel, the adjacent building is only a few storeys tall. I do, however, have a nice view in to the building that’s adjacent to the front half of the hotel, and I can see in the windows of some kind of small bar or club – they’ve got a neon Budweiser sign and a pool table and everything.

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And then I was even more surprised to discover the window actually opens. Most Toyoko Inns I’ve been in, the window just hinges at the bottom by a few centimetres. At Ichinoseki, it actually pivots horizontally around the middle of the window, enough to get my camera outside – and there’s actually a latch on both sides, which took me a while to notice. Here, it actually slides all the way open – I can lean right out, if I so desired. So, I took some photos.

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Watched VS Arashi on TV – finally remembered it was on – and after that a show featuring a panel of celebrities reacting to cute animal videos. I decided with the fairly late (and fairly large) lunch, and the near-incessant snacking, I didn’t really need dinner.

Tomorrow’s weather is forecast to be rainy and windy all day, only to clear up after sunset. That’s just lovely. Thanks, Hagibis. I mean, Bualoi.

Today’s photo count: Three hundred and ninety three

Today’s pedometer count: 10,659 steps – 8 kilometres exactly – 7 flights of stairs

Today’s stamp count: One – Kamata Station.

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