The Trains on Plains Cause Musings When It Rains

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Once again I find myself on a train, rolling down the tracks. And because there is currently no access to WiFi on this thing, I’ve been staring out the window and musing to myself. (Have you noticed how hard it is to NOT distract yourself these days? I might have checked my phone twice as I started this post. And then I forced myself to put it down and NOT play more Evil Apples. Because I’m musing here people!)

There is something wonderful about riding on a train. For me, one reason is because you get to see elements of the countryside that you don’t usually get to see. Instead, you see the dirty parts, the industrial parts, the backsides of places that don’t care what graffiti has sprung up on its flanks. Where everything is a bit more run down, and a bit rawer that you would usually see in your other types of travel. You can see the piles of rusted cars and their tires. You can see the gravel pits and lumber yards. And you can see all of the small town charm that these places help to fuel and employ. From a train you can see the panoramic view of the nice townhouses and the rundown abandoned shack, divided only by an overgrown line of shrubs and trees and a lack of awareness.

Look at the countryside speeding by!

Look at the blurry countryside speeding by!

From the train you get a constantly changing sliver of American life; outside the window, and right next to you.

On the train, there is usually a varied selection. For example, today we have a young man in his 20’s who presents as MR. He is holding a conversation with a grandmotherly type in the seat behind him. Across the way is another young man who I imagine could be headed back to a late college class after a particularly “fun” weekend. On the next row sits a young girl around 12 or 13 years old, who does not look daunted by her solo trip at all. Somewhere behind me I can hear the snoring of someone who has been lulled to sleep by the swaying rhythm of the train.

Back outside, I watch as we pass a homeless camp tucked away in a wooded valley; blue tarps strung up with various piles of random objects collected around the site. A few miles down, there are two box cars situated in a wooded clearing with obvious signs of habitation. Across the street rise the walls of suburbia.

As I sit here, being rocked back and forth, it helps me reflect on how, to me, trains have always been a symbol of movement. Throughout my life, the sound of a train whistle has been the sound of a promise; no matter what going on around me, there is at least one thing out there that is moving forward with a purpose. At points in my life, trains would even be a symbol of escape. When I was in undergrad, I would watch the trains going past campus and see them as something that would take me away from places, people, and whatever it was that was adding to my anxieties. (Perhaps I thumbed through too much Kerouac.) Watching them now, I am able to see trains more as something that can take me to places, instead of just away from them. But whether I am coming or going, taking the trip is something I hope I will continue to enjoy.

All Aboard!

All Aboard (Guess who can’t take a steady picture on a moving train!)

Step Eight: Say Sayonara to Japan , and Look Towards Future Randomness

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My final day in Japan was a long one. From the onset, I knew that I would have to catch a flight late that evening. But first there must be food and a considerable amount of walking to still be done!

Today’s “Let’s what the locals eat” experience took us to MOS Burger, where I tackled a Spicy Cheeseburger. Because I am occasionally dumb and forget that Spicy Foods and I do not always agree. But never mind that now.

I look nothing like my advertisement picture. But I am still tasty, in a "I GET EVERYWHERE!" sort of way.

I look nothing like my advertisement picture. But I am still tasty, in a “I GET EVERYWHERE!” sort of way.

Following a fortifying lunch where, once again, customer service was top-notch and beyond what I’ve experienced in many state-side establishments, we hopped the rail back to the Harajuku station. It was time to experience …. Takeshita Street!

This ever-changing entrance decoration greets you as you embark on the mind-warping journey down Takeshita Street.

This ever-changing entrance decoration greets you as you embark on the mind-warping journey down Takeshita Street.

We ventured through the crowds, a sea of people, punctuated by a few glamorous mermaids of original fashion. And while I didn’t manage to capture any good pictures of these individuals, I did manage to find some interesting shots nonetheless.

This is the entrance to Lady Gaga's personal closet. (I failed to notice the "No Pictures" sign until after the fact... Ooops!)

This is the entrance to Lady Gaga’s personal closet. (I failed to notice the “No Pictures” sign until after the fact… Ooops!)

I hate spiders, but for this, I would make an exception.

I hate spiders, but for this, I would make an exception.

When I travel, I always find it interesting to see what graffiti and the like that gets put up by the locals. Because after a while, it all starts to look the same, no matter where you are.

The real melting pot of the world.

The real melting pot of the world.

Venturing off Takashita street, we wandered up to (what I realized after the fact) Tōgō Shrine, located off of Mejii Dori. And while we did not have time to go explore, I have put it on my “Return To” list for the next time. Because I am going back. Yep. Gonna happen!

You eluded me this time... but next time.  (Although, for all I know, that red sign is saying, " closed- no entrance." So, yeah... )

You eluded me this time… but next time.
(Although, for all I know, that red sign is saying, ” closed- no entrance.” So, yeah… )

We continued down the other way on Mejii Dori, towards Shibuya Station.  From everything that I have read since the trip, it is said that what Takashita is for the more crazy fashion, Mejii Dori is for the more trendy fashion. I would have to agree – everyone was quite the fashion plate.

However, being me, I was more interested in the odd architecture and random art displays. Because that is how I roll.

I was designed this way. This crack? All me.

I was designed this way. This crack? All me.

I am attempting to be an optical illusion. You going to take the inside stairs... or the outside ones?

I am attempting to be an optical illusion. You going to take the inside stairs… or the outside ones?

After all that walking, we needed a moment to sit down and have an always convenient hot beverage.

Hi! There's a hot beverage machine right over there.

Hi! There’s a hot beverage machine right over there.

While enjoying said beverage, I heard a child yelling. I have no idea who or what she was yelling at, but I’m pretty sure that all the windows in this building were 1) really high up, and 2) closed.

Sometimes you just have to shout out and hope someone is listening.

Sometimes you just have to shout out and hope someone is listening.

No hair was let down. No keys were thrown. No acknowledgement given. But she still looked pretty proud of herself, so at least she had that going for her. Which is nice.

Finally, after much walking, Nathan announced that we had made it to our final, and pivotal, Tokyo Experience. Which I shall share with you now. It is the crosswalk outside of Shibuya Station.

What is so important or interesting about a crosswalk? Well…

Mesmerizing ... isn't it?

Mesmerizing … isn’t it?

And with that image, dear readers and spambots, we have (finally) reached the end of this epic saga. I hope you have enjoyed trailing along with me on this adventure. And now that it is done, I feel I can start posting more random amusements on this blog. Hope you will stick around!

Step Seven: Pay-Up on Step Six’s Promise

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The beautiful thing about other cultures and other languages is that everyone sounds the same when they are on a roller coaster. The squeals of anticipation, the screams of enjoyment (or terror) the nervous laughter as you find yourself hanging upside-down, and waiting for the breaks to release and send you 90 degrees straight down.

Yes, we are all the same when we ride roller coasters.

I learned this lesson on Day 5 of my excursion into Japan. (Look – I am determined to finish this darn travel essay, so you are just going to have to bear with me, and deal with it. There will be shiny, more up to date things, once I am done here, I promise. So just shoo if you need to and come back later. )

Bright and early, Nathan and I struck out to the famed Fuji-Q Highland amusement park, because the only logical thing to do while you are in Japan is to go view Mt. Fuji from the top of one of the highest roller coasters in existence. So we ventured out from Ōme, Tokyo to Fujiyoshida, Yamanashi, a little over 80km away, with a traveling breakfast, as one is supposed to in these situations.

A steamed pork bun

How do they fit so much tasty in such a small package?

How do they fit so much tasty in such a small package?

and pancake sandwiches

I am made by sandwiching syrup and butter between two pancakes. I am delicious. See how happy I make the car?

I am made by sandwiching syrup and butter between two pancakes. I am delicious. See how happy I make the car?

…perfect for making your way to a fun-filled day of “Do I really want to go on this ride?” and “ Oh god, why did I want to go on this ride?” And lastly, “ LETS GO BACK ON THAT RIDE!” Because this is how I approach all roller coasters, and important life choices in general. I became more and more excited as we got closer to our destination and I could see the great feat of nature that the park took its name from.

I am going to dominate your viewing area for the remainder of your day.

OH HAI THAR! I am going to dominate your viewing area for the remainder of your day.

At the time of year that we were currently in, there was still a think blanket of snow covering its top, and being the non-skier that I am, I imagined how fun it would be to ski down Mt. Fuji in a completely safe and not-at-all-dangerous way. Because snow.

Eventually, the ultimate FUN ZONE appeared upon the horizon.

ARE WE THERE YET!!1!!!!

ARE WE THERE YET!!1!!!!

We walked up to its gates.

An unimposing gate, for the adventure that lies within.

An unimposing gate, for the adventure that lies within.

And we faced our First Opponent.

Fear not. Just make sure you have secured all of your belongings.

Fear not. Just make sure you have secured all of your belongings.

It was wind-y  ……   It was tall.

Tall coaster is tall!

Tall coaster is tall!

First ride of the day!

First ride of the day!

This is how I gear myself up to be rapidly dropped from a great height.

This is how I gear myself up to be rapidly dropped from a great height.

It was AWESOME!

Now that we were warmed up, we decided to go for SPEED over height.

They all survived... Barely

They all survived… Barely

Unfortunately, I was far too focused on OMGFUNTIME! that I did not take as many detailed pictures. So you are stuck with words.  Words of power and awe. Words that defy description!

OK, perhaps not that last part.

So, as previously alluded to, the next big coaster we rode was Dodonpa.

It is the hot-rod of roller coasters, with its, ” Hey, Watch this!” attitude as it counts down, and then launches you through a chute at over 170km/h. Or not. Sometimes it tricks you, and makes you think that there is a problem with the launch, only to shoot you out in a surprise move of mechanical prankishness. Because it can.

Next was Takabisha.

That hump? Yeah - you pause there. At 90 degrees. Looking straight down. BEFORE THEY RELEASE YOU.

That hump? Yeah – you pause there. At 90 degrees. Looking straight down. BEFORE THEY RELEASE YOU.

I think this was my favorite of all the coasters we rode, for two reasons. 1) Because even if you know that it is going to pause you on that hump, you still find yourself yelling, ” Why?! Why must you do this?!” to the gods and roller coaster engineers alike.

Steep would be an understatement here.

Steep would be an understatement here.

And 2) because this coaster is EVEN SNEAKIER than Dodonpa. “How?” you might ask…. Simple:

Just because that rise you see coming up from the ride is the first thing you can see,does NOT mean it is the first part of the ride…. Oh No. It is not

No, the first part of the ride is in the dark. After a neck-breaking turn. Away from what you think is going to be the beginning of the ride. With many twists. THEN you get to the outside part. Thinking back on it, my first reason is probably directly caused by the second reason. I now have a third reason.

So before venturing off to the final coaster of the day, I shall share with you some other views of the rest of the park.

There were ants.

I felt like Godzilla.

I felt like Godzilla.

There were Zombies.

Nathan kept trying to convince me that I really, really wanted to go in here. I did not.

Nathan kept trying to convince me that I really, really wanted to go in here. I did not.

 There were Nekos.

It was cold, and water rides did not appeal to me at the moment.

It was cold, and water rides did not appeal to me at the moment.

And there were Angels.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OK, now that we’ve seen the place a bit more, let’s move on the the big kahuna. The white whale. The ghost pepper hot wing challenge.

Eejanaika

This is the mother of all coasters here at Fuji-Q. This is the coaster that you seriously question your life choices before, during, and for some, after riding this marvel of mad engineering.

4-D Coaster... Closest I will probably ever get to a time machine.

4-D Coaster… Closest I will probably ever get to a time machine.

I tried to get a good picture, but the entire platform insisted on rattling the whole time.

This might have been why.

There was so much screaming.

There was so much screaming.

But we went on the ride. We survived. We did not throw-up.

I did not regret this life choice at all.

And that ended day 5. It was a wonderful way to enjoy that part of Japan, that many outside travelers do not take the time to do. If you get the opportunity, seize it.

I leave you with motivational posters. Or advertisements. Or both.

There is much delight nestled inside of this doughnut.

There is much delight nestled inside of this doughnut.

This watermelon got off easy.

This watermelon got off easy.

I never considered this application of awesome spiked watermelon power.

I never considered this application of awesome spiked watermelon power.