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Brian's Japan Trip - 1998

The HONDA SPORTS Registry's 1998 group trip to Japan was an idea that was formed a couple of years ago as a follow-up to my first trip to Japan in 1994. We had specifically chosen 1998 as the ideal year since this was to be Honda's 50th year in business, and many of my Honda friends had told me that there were to be celebrations commemorating this historic occasion.

The idea had been kicked around amongst myself and a few others for quite a while, and plans were formally initiated this past April. Originally conceived as a trip to combine our attendance at the HONDA TWIN CAM Club's All-Japan Honda Sports Meeting (AJHSM) at Suzuka Circuit with HONDA MOTOR Company's 50th Anniversary Festival at Twin Ring Motegi, we found that the events were separated by five weeks; far more time (and money!) than any of us had available. I conducted a vote among the 12 interested parties, and it was unanimously agreed upon that the AJHSM should be our top priority.

With a rather lengthy and expensive telephone call this past May, Steven Wright and I got our travel dates and daily trip plans fairly well sorted out. From here, we got in touch with my travel agent, Montgomery Travel, who were invaluable in their help with booking flights and arranging lodging.

Now came the task of getting these interested parties to commit. This was the hardest part of all! Going to Japan and doing everything Honda seemed like a great idea, but when expenses were tallied, people started dropping like flies! When the dust settled, our original count was halved, but by the time we were ready to depart, we did manage to bring the total back up to eight members.

Our group consisted of myself; Steven Wright from Halifax, Nova Scotia, and my single biggest supporter in making these plans become a reality; my good friend and work associate Jim Lane from Poughkeepsie, New York, who in classic fashion, held out until the last possible moment to commit; an unexpected but welcome addition in Ken Weidner, from Lime Kiln, Pennsylvania, and a friend of my best friend from high school, and a big N600 and Z600 fan; Alan Ingram from Shilton, Coventry, and Paul Bottomley from Brinklow, Rugby, both of whom had answered the call when I posted a notice of our plans in England's Honda S800 Sports Car Club's magazine REVS; on-again, off-again due to work commitments was my good friend, Lance Baumberger, from San Luis Obispo, California, who eventually did make the trip, but was lucky enough to travel at the military's expense rather than his own; and last, but not least, was my brother Jeff, who decided to sign on at the very last second, and even later than Jim Lane, which none of us thought was possible! We were a truly international contingent, representing three countries; the United States, Canada, and England.

The trip officially started for me at around 9:30 P.M. Monday, November 2, when I started packing. The later it got, the more I realized that I probably was not going to go to bed that night.

Well, I was right. I never did go to bed, as it was now Tuesday morning, November 3, 3:30 A.M., and the time that I had promised Steve (who had flown down a couple of days earlier to visit with Carolyn, Sarah, and me) that we would go out for our daily run, before packing the car and leaving for the airport for our 6:00 A.M. flight. For those of you who don't know me, when I travel I pack not only my clothes, accessories, and any necessary Honda memorabilia and gifts, but since I am a vegetarian, I also pack my own food. I find this much easier at times, especially in a country where vegetarianism is almost nonexistent.

So, in retrospect, I think that it was a good thing not to go bed as it already confused my body clock in order to get it ready for jumping 14 hours into the future, it left me plenty of time to pack without rushing so that I didn't forget anything, and it made it much easier for me to sleep on the plane.

We got to the Newburgh airport a few minutes later than planned, where Jeff and Jim were already waiting for us. This shouldn't have been a problem except for the fact that these particular ticket agents apparently had never checked in an international flight before. We were the only ones on line, and they wasted so much time that by the time we got on the plane, we had about 50 people giving us death-stares and looks that could kill! Our connecting flights to Cincinnati and Portland went off without a hitch, except that in Portland, Jim wasn't feeling too well. I kind of attributed this to the fact that this was only the third time he had ever flown, and that he had been ill for about two weeks prior to our trip. This had been a concern before our departure date, but we had discussed it at length, and he seemed to be OK when we left. After discussing it further in Portland, he decided to press on for the homestretch to Nagoya.

We departed from Portland, and landed in Nagoya at 5:00 P.M. local time, approximately 12 mind-numbing hours later, but 14 hours ahead of New York time-wise. So it is now Wednesday, November 4. It's a strange thing to cross the International Date Line! We got a taxi to our hotel, where we met Alan and Paul, who had arrived a few hours earlier. We did a little scouting around, picked up our Japan Rail train passes, and decided to call it an evening.

Thursday morning, November 5 we had arranged to take the Shinkansen (bullet train) to Osaka to visit my friend, Koji Tamura, and his shop, TMR Engineering. Koji met us at Shin-Osaka Station in a rented van since he doesn't own anything large enough to carry all of us. From there, he took us to a friend's Honda motorcycle dealership. After this, he took us to meet his friend, Mr. Nichi, proprietor of Garage 2-4, an S car restoration shop. I had met him in 1994, and it was good to see him, and his shop, again. In addition to restorations, he also reproduces many items such as door handles, trunk hinges, alloy wheels, engine and transmission mounts, carpet sets, soft tops, boot covers, tonneau covers, and chrome emblems.

In his shop, he had a red S600 convertible, a red S600 coupe, 4 yellow, 2 white, and 1 red S800 convertibles, and a 1 red, 1 yellow, and 1 green(!?) S800 coupes. He also was restoring a Griffon, a custom-bodied S600 coupe.

As we were invited upstairs, I don't think I had properly prepared the rest of our group for what they were about to see. I think Alan suffered a small heart attack upon seeing the stock of spares that was stored in Mr. Nichi's parts room. We were all drooling over the bounty of spare parts, much of it new, old stock, along with mountains of second hand parts, and his collection of reproduction items! We made a few purchases, took a few photographs, and some videotape. (During the course of the trip, I found that this was to be an oft-repeated scenario!) Steve actually purchased a set of the reproduction alloy wheels! (That was when I had my heart attack!) Upon departing, I discussed mail ordering parts, and exchanged gifts with Mr. Nichi, and told him that I would keep in touch.

After our visit there, Koji brought us to another friend's store; this time a hobby shop, where we found some die-cast models and key chains of S cars. Yes, he did have other neat stuff, but when I'm in "S Car Mode", I don't see or hear anything unless it has to do with S cars! We then went on a small, riding tour of Osaka, guided by Koji, where we ended up at his shop. Koji doesn't necessarily "restore" S cars so much as he does performance modifications and race preparation on them. He is also reproducing 5 speed transmissions, along with upgraded front disc brake packages, and engine and suspension modifications. Last year, his business slowed down somewhat, so he expanded his business to include the importation of Lotus Elises, where he also does performance modifications, air conditioning installations, and then sells them, in addition to performing repairs. YUCK! I digress. Let's get back to Hondas!

After a tour of his shop, Koji took us to a local eatery, where we had authentic Japanese cuisine for a very late lunch. When we finished lunch, we returned to Koji's shop. After doing the usual (buying a few parts, taking photographs and videotape), Koji took us back into the center of Osaka to two more hobby shops. At the first shop, I purchased three plastic model kits, and at the second one, I explored six floors of models! After a very long, successful, and tiring day, we headed back to the train station for our trip back to Nagoya. We owe many thanks to Koji for his hospitality, generosity, time, and his transportation and translation services!

The next morning, Friday November 6, we had the chance to sleep in a little later as we did not need to get such an early start that day. Our plans were to visit Garage Suzuki in the late morning, and then go to Honda's factory in Suzuka for a tour that I had arranged with Ms. Megumi Ando.

These plans were slightly modified when I received a fax from Ms.Ando that stated that a special tour had been arranged for us at 1:30 P.M. This meant that we would not have enough time for our visit with Mr. Suzuki before needing to leave for the factory. We consulted with Mr. Suzuki, and decided that we would do the tour first, and then meet Mr. Suzuki in the early evening.

After my morning run, Jim and I tracked down the local Kinko's; about a 15 minute walk from the hotel. I wanted to visit Kinko's because I was preparing some photographs and three pages of text for a speech I had been asked to give at the banquet during the AJHSM. My plan was to put them on overhead transparencies, as I was told that an overhead projector would be available, and pictures are worth a thousand words! I also figured that, although most Japanese don't understand spoken English, a good percentage of them can at least read it-kind of. Our train ride gave us a dry run for what we would be doing the next day in order to get to Suzuka Circuit for the All-Japan Honda Sports Meeting.

After the taxi ride from the train station to the factory, we were greeted by Ms. Ando and Mr. Shigeo Takashima. They took us into a small waiting room where they served us tea while they prepared for our tour, and gave us some rules such as "no photographs or videotape" of the inside of the factory.

I have to say that they really gave us the red carpet treatment because, when we went outside to start the tour, we found that this was not only a private tour just for us, but they also provided us with our very own tour bus! And when I say "bus", I don't mean some small jitney or van...I mean a "BUS!" A full size tour bus (Unfortunately manufactured by Isuzu, but it did have H-O-N-D-A painted on the sides of it.) just for the six of us! Very cool!

Anyway, after seeing many phases of the actual manufacturing process on the assembly line [where they were building Civic hatchbacks, Civic sedans, and Integra hatchbacks (including a few Type Rs!) all on the same line], it gave me a new appreciation for the vehicles that I work on every single day, and just how they are actually assembled. It sure is a lot different than how they are disassembled in the field!

After finishing the tour, we were brought back to the same, small waiting room where we asked some questions, answered some others, and were served orange juice. Just before departing, Alan mentioned to Mr. Takashima that we were all S car owners. Well, judging from his reaction and the look on his face, you would have thought that he had just told Mr. Takashima that we knew the meaning of life, or the exact location of the Holy Grail! (Which, by the way, we actually DO. It is the Honda Collection Hall at Twin Ring Motegi, but more on that later.) At that point, a massive explosion of photographs came from all sides of the room! We couldn't get all of our photos out of our bags fast enough to oblige them! After some conversation on the topic most near and dear to our hearts, Mr. Takashima and Ms. Ando summoned some other people, had a small discussion in Japanese, and proceeded to tell us that in another building on the premises there was a special display of Honda products that was in commemoration of their 50th Anniversary. As fate would have it, it was on display for this particular week only, so luck was on our side.

After posing for photographs in front of the main entrance to the factory lobby, (Which, by the way, I didn't realize something until after we had returned. Jeff had pointed out to me, in the photographs, that they had hung the U.S., British, and Canadian flags over the main entrance, in our honor! Very cool!) we were escorted across the grounds to this other building by Ms. Ando and Ms. Adachi Kirimi, who ushered us inside. The room appeared to be normally used as a gymnasium, but for this week only, it was filled with all sorts of Honda products from the past.

Front and center were my two favorites, a red, chain-drive S800 coupe, and a lovely, powder blue T360 pick up truck. I spent most of my time drooling over this pair, but also in the room were the following; a 1300 Coupe 9, an N360, a Z360, a Beat, a first year Civic, a first year Accord, a Reynard-Honda, a McLaren-Honda, some old street motorcycles, some old race bikes, an NR motorcycle, some old general purpose engines, and some old power equipment. A little bit of something for everyone! When I was finished videotaping, Ms. Ando and Ms. Kirimi led me around by the arm for a few complimentary, group photos in front of the T and S. After those, I explored a small gift shop in the corner of the lobby, where I decided I would need to return when I had more time. After spending the time to take all of this in, we realized that we were late for the cabs that they had called for us, and also late for beginning our expedition to Garage Suzuki. We said our good-byes, and rode in an Accord Torneo taxi back to the Shiroko Station. From there, we followed Mr. Suzuki's directions to guide us to the station nearest his shop.

Upon arriving, Mr. Suzuki's son picked us up in a Honda Step Wgn, and drove us to Garage Suzuki's mechanical repair shop. Here, we met Mr. Nobuyasu Suzuki (Nobu), whom my brother and I had also visited with back in 1994. He showed us some of his latest projects which included a very nice, yellow S800 coupe, a yellow S500 (with an S800 bonnet on it, which I never did find out why), and his favorite, a Coniglio roadster, a custom bodied-racer from the 60s made from an S800 shell.

From here, Nobu took me in his Mercedes (boo, hiss!) to his old showroom, with his son, and the rest of our group, in tow in the Step Wgn. Here, he had his own blue T360, along with 2 white S600s , 3 red S600s (1 with a hardtop), 2 red S800s, 3 white S800s (1 was a racer with fiberglass body panels, sport kit engine parts, factory CR carbs, and an RSC hardtop!), a silver SM600, and my favorite, a European market S800 in the rare, factory "wet sand metallic" color. These were all convertibles, by the way. Not a coupe in sight, except for the yellow one we had seen at his repair shop. After the usual fare there, he brought us to his new showroom, where he had many other "brand X" exotics. The real reason that we came here, however, was to view a red, left hand drive S600 convertible, still with vintage California tags on it, that had previously been owned by none other than Mr. Honda's younger sister when she lived in California. He also had a yellow, custom-bodied coupe built on an S800 shell called the "Garage Suzuki Special S" that had just been featured in both Nostalgic Hero and Auto Jumble magazines.

Upon completion of this visit, we were all driven back to the train station for the return trip to our hotel. On the train, we settled into our seats to reflect on all that we had seen today, and to contemplate our return trip to Suzuka the next day for the All-Japan Honda Sports Meeting.

When we got back to the hotel, Ken had checked in, and gotten his room. He hadn't had enough vacation time left to do the whole trip, so he didn't leave home until Thursday. This put him into Tokyo/Narita Airport Friday afternoon, where it was cheaper for him to get a round trip ticket. He then took the Shinkansen to Nagoya to meet us Friday evening at the hotel.

For most of the day Friday, Jim really wasn't feeling well. He was making me nervous during our walk to Kinko's, and just never seemed to be himself throughout the entire day. Here we were, in the Honda "Mecca", and he just didn't seem excited about anything. Whenever we asked him how he was doing, we were never convinced of his reply until he finally admitted that he was going downhill. Friday night, after returning to the hotel room, he pondered the thought of flying home early, and called the airline. After torturing him on the telephone for what seemed like hours, they told him, "Sure, we'll fly you home early from Nagoya, instead of Tokyo, for an extra $1,200. If you want to get to Tokyo/Narita, we'll do it for $100."

To fully understand the ramifications of this, our plans and schedule had called for us to fly into, and stay in, Nagoya for the portions of our itinerary that required us to be in Osaka, Suzuka, and the surrounding areas. Then, mid-trip, we were to take the Shinkansen to Tokyo for everything in the greater Tokyo area, and our side-trip to Motegi, and then depart from Tokyo/Narita Airport. We had already spent $1,229 on our plane tickets, and now, because he was ill and thinking about leaving early, they wanted him to spend another $1,200 to fly home, unscheduled, from a different airport. The one that we just happened to be near on this portion of our trip, and the one that we had landed at just a few days earlier.

What's a sick guy, thousands of miles from home, to do? Steve, Jim, and I decided that he should sleep on it, and make a decision based upon how he felt in the morning. The next morning (Saturday, November 7), after Steve and I had returned from our morning run, poor Jim, absolutely beside himself, made the painful decision that it would probably be best for him to go back home.

Steve, our REAL hero, says he'll take the Shinkansen to Tokyo, and see Jim off. What an incredible guy! He's going to sacrifice his whole Saturday, and the first day of the Twin Cam Club meeting, to take the train all the way to Tokyo, to see that Jim gets safely off, and then take the Shinkansen all the way back to Nagoya, to catch the local train to Shiroko station, to take the final taxi ride to Suzuka Circuit, to catch up to us with the meeting already in progress!!!!! There aren't many selfless people like Steve around!

We said our good-byes to Jim and Steve, and the rest of us set off for the train and Suzuka. Underground, on our way to the train tracks, we are shocked to see Lance, waiting near the ticket machines! He had figured that this was as good of a place as any to hook up with us since he had flown over separately with the military. Unfortunately, he had different seating than ours for the train, so he went to find his car as we got onto ours.

Now this was supposed to be the easy part, as we had already done this before. Well, it was until we got to Shiroko Station, where we stood up to get our luggage, and before we had even gotten to the luggage compartment, the train took off again! There is a very good reason why the Japanese and their trains are always on time! They don't wait for us! We had to ride to the next station; get off; wait for the next train in the opposite direction; and this time make sure that we were standing at the door, waiting to jump off, when we got to Shiroko! We successfully do this, but of course, in the process, we lose Lance. The remaining five of us stuff all of our belongings into two taxis. (Me and Jeff in one, and since, at this point in time, they are traveling slightly lighter than us, Alan, Paul, and Ken into another.) After about a 15 minute taxi ride, we arrive at Suzuka Circuit Hotel. My heart starts beating faster! Memories from four and one half years ago start filling my head. It's fantastic to be at such an historic place!

We check our bags since our rooms aren't ready yet. We are directed to proceed to a meeting room in another building where we can register for the AJHSM. Here, I receive my name badge, and other goodies in the registration packet. While in this room, I fill out some forms for parts that I have for sale or trade, and start viewing everyone else's forms. I start to salivate uncontrollably!

As I am doing this, a small flea market of S car parts is being set up all around me. I start to peruse ALL of the items being offered for sale. I find way more than I can possibly describe here. However, among all of the vendors is a gentleman by the name of Tsuyoshi Nakano, who just happens to have some very nice, new, old stock stickers, plates, and tags for T360s and T500s. HELLO! He just found a buyer! Unfortunately, Tsuyoshi spoke as much English as I do Japanese. Enter Koji.

Fortunately for all of us, Koji was attending the AJHSM as well. Once again, he proved to be invaluable to us for the remainder of the weekend. And, once again, we owed him a tremendous debt of gratitude for all of his help and translation services. Next, I meet Mr. Kenzo Tanimura, head of the Osaka branch of the Honda Twin Cam Club, and the gentleman who arranged the time for my speech during this evening's banquet. He has a wonderful S and T sales brochure collection, so we start comparing notes, as I consider my collection to be sizable as well. We exchange gifts, and discuss plans for later.

Just as we're finishing up, Steve walks into the room! I'm still not quite sure how it all happened, but it was something about the threat of an international incident that Jim was able to convince Delta Airlines to fly him out of Nagoya Airport for a reasonable ticket adjustment price after all! Not until after he was examined by their doctor, however!

So Steve only needed to go to the Nagoya Airport with Jim, and he made it back to Suzuka without missing a thing! After explaining all of this, and getting him registered, we walked out into the downstairs lobby of this building, where there was this huge pile of used S parts strewn all over the floor! It was a second flea market, and there was a large amount of both new and used parts on the tables surrounding this room. My salivary condition started up again! We rummaged through everything, and found quite a few goodies, including the last two emblems that I needed in order to make my collection complete.

Steve and I then decided that this would be a good time to go back to the small gift shop in the other building we were at yesterday. We headed out of the building to go to the hotel and get a taxi. The cars were starting to swarm all over the parking lot at this point. As we rode in the taxi over to the other building, we were being passed by all sorts of S cars! It was a very neat thing to see. S cars just passing you on the road with the other, daily traffic! Something you would just never get to see anywhere else! After spending some time surveying all of the goodies at this gift shop, we dropped quite a few thousand yen on some gifts and memorabilia. We then headed back to the parking lot at the hotel to scrutinize, photograph, and videotape all of the cars that had arrived. I think my favorite was a sweet, little, red S600 roadster with a white hardtop.

Well, that was until I came upon the T360, and the T500. Finally, I was in view of the only other T500 I have ever seen! Although it was the T500F (fold-down sides version) like mine, it had a different bed on it which was longer than mine, and it had no rear bumper. Unlike mine, the taillights were mounted on the back of the bed overhang. (Mine are in the rear bumper.) Well, I won't bore you with all the details of all of the time I spent videotaping it. Suffice it to say, it was quite the hit with me!

We then went back inside, to spend some more time with Koji. He introduced us to some other people, and did a whole lot of translating for us!

Now it was time to head back to the lobby, and check into our room. After cleaning up, and changing our clothes, we made our way over to where the banquet was to be held. Next door to us, there was a party going on for some of the more famous race pilots who were going to be driving a few of Honda's old Formula 1 race cars, along with some vintage race bikes, in a "50th Anniversary Thanks Festival" tomorrow (Sunday), immediately following the AJHSM. They had two, very attractive "Honda Ladies" greeting them at the door of their banquet room. Unfortunately, we had none at our door.

As the meeting started, and the food and drink started flowing, we weren't understanding much of what was being said. Usually, if it was something really important, Nobu or Koji would inform us. Finally, my big moment had arrived! Unfortunately, I was not aware of this. Fortunately, Nobu informed me that it was now time for me to speak to a roomful of approximately 225 Japanese S car enthusiasts, most of whom didn't understand English.

"Thank God I made those transparencies," I thought to myself as I rummaged through my bag for them. I was being ushered to get up on stage as I grabbed them in my hand. As I reached the stage, I became painfully aware that there was no overhead projector in this room. I tried explaining that this whole thing would go off a lot better if I could have an overhead projector. My pleas were ignored. I was finally ushered up onto the stage, with Koji beside me, acting as translator.

For the next 15 minutes, I unraveled my personal history with S cars, and the history of the S Car Gathering. I shared the goals of the HONDA SPORTS Registry, and described the state of S cars in North America today...All, one sentence at a time, with Koji translating, God bless him!

Well, I wasn't really sure just how much they took in of what I was trying to say, but in the end, they gave me a rousing, standing ovation. (They HAD to stand; there weren't enough chairs for everyone.) After presenting me with a few gifts, they asked our entire entourage to go up on stage, and have me introduce them, one by one. Each of us got a healthy round of applause for making the journey, and being a part of this incredible event.

At the conclusion of the banquet, there was a meeting for all of those people who were going to be driving their cars around Suzuka Circuit the following morning. I attended this with Koji, and met a few more, new friends. Late that evening, totally exhausted, I returned to the hotel room.

The next morning, (Sunday, November 8) I got up at a way-too-early 4:30 A.M. to get my morning run in before checking out of the room at the required 6:30 A.M., and heading over to the track to be in attendance in the pit lane at 7 o'clock. I must have been looking a little dazed and confused as I went to the front desk to ask for directions on how to walk to the circuit from the hotel. Thankfully, just at that time, Nobu showed up at the front desk as well, and offered me a ride over to the circuit.

It's quite a feeling to be walking around pit lane at Suzuka, with dozens of S cars screaming all around you! Although I didn't get an exact count, there were between 80 and 85 cars in total. I had my faithful videotape recorder in hand as I made the rounds, trying to get every single one on tape. This went on for quite a while as I watched dozens of enthusiasts getting their cars ready for a few laps around the hallowed track. Out of nowhere, Koji found me and told me to follow him to try and find a helmet. We successfully accomplished this, as he explained to me that he was trying to arrange rides for all of us in some of those magnificent cars.

I ended up in a very nice, yellow S800 roadster, owned and driven by none other than my T500 parts friend, Tsuyoshi. The car was basically stock, with the exception of one of Koji's reproduction 5 speed transmissions being in it.

The first lap was horribly slow, a lot of it stop and go, with people getting themselves and their cars sorted out. The second lap was much better, as we got up to road speeds in a few places, and got to toss it through a couple of turns. It was a very satisfying feeling to see the whole circuit, through the windshield of a car. Doing the figure 8, going over the bridge, running through the esses, before hitting the chicane, and coming down the front straight in between the grandstands and the pits.

At the conclusion of our parade laps, we pulled into pit lane to let those who were serious about speed do their thing. It was incredibly satisfying to be standing directly behind the pit wall, watching dozens of Honda Sports at speed! Even the T360 and the T500 were out there doing their thing! Unfortunately, there was one incident involving a red S600 roadster that turned turtle, but fortunately, nobody was seriously hurt. (Not hurt physically at least; emotionally I'm not so sure. The car was pretty ugly after the roll.)

While we were waiting for the Honda Festival, Ken informed me of a flea market that was going on behind the pits. Wow! All sorts of vintage Honda parts, both two and four wheeled varieties. With Ken's help, I scoped out the largest sales brochure vendor, and made some significant additions to my brochure collection, particularly in the T360/500, L700/800, and P700/800 variations.

While we were hanging around through all of this, Lance finally caught up to us again in the pit lane. He explained that the train that we had taken wasn't the one that he had a ticket for, so he had to catch a later one, and unfortunately, missed many of the festivities! From here (pit lane), we watched all of the motorcycle races.

In order to best view the vintage F1 festivities, we took our places atop the pit buildings in the hospitality areas. We watched as an RA300, an RA301, and a Lotus T100 all went out onto the track, and sang their high-pitched songs. They went out individually at first, and finally, all three at once. Satoru Nakajima, driving the Lotus, found himself closing in on the other two cars rather quickly, and decided to thrill the crowd with a couple of doughnuts right in front of the grandstands.

At the conclusion of the festivities, we walked back to the hotel, checked out, collected our luggage, and started the trek, via train, to Tokyo.

Until you have ridden on the Shinkansen, it is hard to imagine just how fast, smooth, quiet, and relaxing it is. We fell asleep in our very comfortable seats for parts of many of the trips that we took. One time, while waiting on the platform for our particular train, their newest, high speed train rolled into the station. Called the Nozomi, the front looks like a miniature Concorde jet. It travels like one, too, reaching a top speed of 300 kmh (186 mph for those of you who are metrically challenged)! Unfortunately, we never got a chance to ride one of these.

Upon reaching Tokyo Station, we collected our luggage, and took a taxi to the hotel. We discussed our plans for the following day, made some train reservations, and called it a day. What a weekend it was!

Here ends Part I of the story... for you brave souls who haven't read enough and want to read more... Click Here for Part II

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