Jumped on the Shinkansen in Osaka just before the doors closed. I wasn't paying attention to the type of train, just that it was a Shinkansen going to Tokyo. I started thinking that maybe I got on the more expensive train that isn't covered by my Rail Pass. So I'm listening and watching the sign in Nagoya to figure out if indeed I got on the premium train so I could bail out instead of paying. The doors close and then they finally say it's the Nozomi after it closes, which is the train that doesn't honor the pass, oops. It occurred to me that while the Nozomi is definitely faster maybe some of the extra cost means riders don't have to put up with poor foreign tourists like me. So I was hoping every minute from then on that no one would come by and check my ticket because I just had a regular Rail Pass.

About an hour later I decide to bail out in Shin Yokohama. There's only 11 more minutes to Tokyo where I was headed but I figure why push my luck. Getting off I realize Shin Yokohama is not near the main Yokohama station and is only connected directly to Tokyo by taking another Shinkansen or a seemingly long and complicated series of train transfers. That's okay because my Rail Pass is good for any slower Shinkansen. So I'm ready to hop on the next one when I remebered I wanted to visit the Ramen Museum located somewhere near Shin Yokohama station. It's the only place I've heard of that seemed interesting and I knew to be in the Shin Yokohama Station neighborhood. All the maps I can find around the station were in Japanese so, while I could just ask someone in English "where is the Ramen Museum?" I figured to be resourceful I really need to find a poster or something promoting the museum, maybe there would be a useful map but I could definitely see how it's spelled in Japanese so then I can go back and locate it on the big Japanese map by the station. That strategy actually worked though in hindsight I should have just asked at the information desk.

I notice signs pointing that the opposite direction *away* from the Ramen Museum showing the path to the Shinohara Side. Kind of discouraging at the time because the Ramen Museum was the opposite direction, away from the "side" of that extremely talented singer/actress/designer Tomoe Shinohara, whom I wishfully imagined the path to the Shinohara Side led to... (she's not from Yokohama and has nothing to do with the train sign but hey I have an active imagination). Fortuntately a few days later I wound up saying hello to the real tomoé after seeing her play the lead role in a live stage production of the Pippi Longstockings musical. My heart went doki doki.

The Ramen Museum is a simulated old and grungy part of town...it's ready and waiting to be stomped by giant Toho Monsters.

Just add hot water and out comes Arnold.

Simulated Tokyo in was rather crowded and perpetually in twilight back 1958 (actually a Wednesday around 3 pm). I heard they made an effort to bulldoze most places like this away before the 1964 Olympics. There's a definite nostalgia going around for Tokyo before the 1964 Olympics just as there is for Osaka before the 1970 Expo. The Museum had English and Korean brochures available for tourists explaining to the clueless you have to put your money in a machine and select the type of ramen you want to order and get a ticket you hand the person in the shop. Good to know if it was your first night in town but pretty standard in many small city ramen shops. I'm sure it's so the people who run the shop don't need to touch money or write orders so they can concentrate on ramen and clean hands. What they didn't bother to explain is 90% of the ramen choices on the vending machines there were simply written in Japanese text and had no pictures or any translations in the booklet. So it would have been like playing a slot machine to get a random ramen. The booklet doesn't get to the little detail about the buttons being only written in Japanese text. I probably would have gone for one of the one or two ramen sometimes shown as tiny photos on some machines but all the restaurants there had 10 to 45 minute lines to be seated. That was just long enough to make me think do I really want to go through buying a pot luck ramen and then wait on line to eat what I randomly bought in a crowded little place. Nick left the museum hungry, not wanting to devote the time to eat the exhibits.

Took the evening bus from Shinjuku and climbed Mt. Fuji *all* night.


Around a kilometer or two above the clouds much of Fuji san resembled the surface of mars. Notice the flat crater rim at the top and the scale of the group of people on their way down seen near the horizon in the center of the picture.

After a couple hours of walking back down, the slope began to seem level and no longer slanted. Except my shoes with their treads all worn off told me otherwise while I slid all over the place. My feet had grown used to the slanty slope being normal. I kept remembering a website sternly warning - "make the wrong turn and you'll wind up in another prefecture" or alternately I guess I'd personally add "or find yourself hurtling down into the giant mouth of a dormant volcano" ... and I came within 2 or 3 meters of that happenning when the soles of my shoes couldn't stop me from sliding. I was trying to see how deep the inside was. Well I guess I never saw how deep the inside was... but I almost did.


nicholas d. kent
ndkent (at) optonline.net

more travelogue ->