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Trip report -- part three (Thursday 16 August) - The Kilt Nihonside
September 28th, 2007
08:05 pm


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Trip report -- part three (Thursday 16 August)
 The next day I woke up really early -- this became a theme during the trip. It might have been my Scottish penny-pinching gene poking me in the ribs about wasting expensive paid-for touristing time, or the excitement of *BEING* *IN* *JAPAN* but I was usually up and about by six most days. Of course, this morning the earthquake (a Richter 5, it later turned out) might have been enough of an incentive, but I still got a couple of hours more sleep after being woken up by the hotel shaking from side to side for about ten seconds or so around 4-ish.

 I wandered off into Ueno and picked up a snack breakfast at one of the local convenience stores -- there are three or four interchangeable chains like Lawson Junction, AM-PM and classic 7-11 which were either 24-hour or opened really early, and I often frequented them for staples like milk and soba pan (a standard feature of lunch at many school-based anime series). I didn't eat much in restaurants while I was in Japan; I'm not that adventurous about food and grazing from convenience stores and the occasional grocery section of big stores kept me going for most of the time.

 I reverted to wearing trousers today, retiring the kilt until the Worldcon. "The nail that sticks up gets haammered down" and all that. It didn't make any difference in the perceived temperature -- it was still hot (30-plus), and still only about 9-ish.

 This was the day I finally started travelling on my horribly expensive JR Pass. Since I had decided to stay in Tokyo/Ueno until after the first day of Comiket on Friday, that meant today`s trip was only a day out, so Yokosuka it was. I was able to get my JR Pass voucher exchanged for the pass itself at Ueno station -- it was a simple folded-sheet booklet with the dates of validity printed on the inside. I simply flashed it at the attendant in the enquiry window beside the automatic ticket barriers as I went through. The regulations attached to the pass meant I had to keep my passport to hand for further identification but in the two weeks I used the pass I was never asked for it.

 I made my way on the Yamanote line up to Tokyo main station and after solving the Minoan Maze therein found the Keihin Kyuko line platform and a train that would take me to Yokosuka. It took a bit over an hour for the journey, passing not far from Minato Mirai 21 in Yokohama where the Worldcon was going to be held. I caught a glimpse of the Landmark Tower and the orange-segment hotel (Shin Imperial? I can never remember its name) on the way.

 Despite Yokosuka being Japan`s largest Naval base plus the US Pacific fleet using it as an auxiliary port, the railway station was pretty tiny. Adjacent to the station was a small waterside park dedicated to the memory of a Frenchman, Leonce Verny who had been instrumental in developing Yokosuka as a major Naval arsenal and dockyard in the 1860s.

 I spotted a group of JMSDF submarines moored up with a USN Aegis destroyer (identified later as the DDG-82 USS Lassen) close by getting some tender loving care from a floating crane. My target today though was something a bit older and cruder, the "Mikasa". This was the Japanese flagship for the IJN during the battles of the Russo-Japanese War of 1905. It is now a permanent museum piece, like HMS Victory in Portsmouth. Oddly enough, it had been built in Barrow-in-Furness by Vickers to a British design although the canny Japanese ordered more expensive Krupp armour to be fitted. It was a transitional model of first-rate battleship with reciprocating engines and coal-fired boilers, obsoleted in 1906 by the launch of the all-big-gun turbine-powered Dreadnought. Unlike its successor designs, the Mikasa only had two big-gun turrets fore and aft, retaining a broadside capability with many smaller six-inch guns in individual compartments along each side. These were supplemented by bow and stern chasers -- the latter guns providing odd decoration to the senior officer`s quarters and the admiral`s luxurious private suite (complete with kitchen and bathroom).

 I got lost wandering around Yokosuka -- despite the Mikasa's supposed historical importance its location was not signposted very well and I ended up spending a couple of hours in a blessedly-airconditioned shopping mall just around the corner from Verny Park. After a while (and some icecream) I finally found my way to the Mikasa.

 The entry fee was 500yen, and to a Naval history buff like myself well worth it. The ship is nowhere near being in the same condition it was when it was finally decommissioned in 1921 -- after the war the US Occupation government disarmed the museum-piece, confiscating its guns in what seems now a somewhat paranoid overreaction. Today its interior is configured for visitors and the magazine spaces are now a small cinema and general exhibition space. Sadly the engine rooms were not open to inspection at all. I took lots of pictures, both inside and outside.

 After the Mikasa I wandered around Yokosuka, just avoiding getting caught up in the 5 o'clock commuting rush from the USN dockyard gates. It's a town very much geared to the American military presence -- I saw my first Volvo "station wagon" of the trip here. There are lots of accomodation bureaux around the base entries offering apartment-finding services and such for the transient population of US servicemen and their families.

 I headed back up to Tokyo and Ueno in the evening and after picking up dinner I got an early night. The spectre of Comiket on the morrow loomed before me. Would I survive the gruelling experience? Tune in next time for the next bloodcurdling episode of "The Kiltnihonside Trip Report"!

(4 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2007 02:36 am (UTC)
If you want the JR Pass to not seem so expensive, try totaling up what the individual fares would have been for every trip you made.

They never asked us for our passports, either, which is good because I didn't always have mine with me. (When we were based in a hotel with a room safe, I tended to lock the passport and other things of value in said safe.) Usually Lisa kept both our passes and flashed them both, with me obviously in tow. I think there were only a couple of times that a gate agent gave them more than a cursory glance.
[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2007 09:03 am (UTC)

Odd locomotive...

There was some kind of locomotive on display in a corner of the same park as the Mikasa. The information plaques were in pure Japanese though so I didn't figure out what its importance was.


Got any ideas?
[User Picture]
Date:September 29th, 2007 06:25 pm (UTC)

Re: Odd locomotive...

Hm, interesting. I know nothing about it either.
[User Picture]
Date:October 2nd, 2007 02:05 pm (UTC)
JR Rail Pass, everyone I know that exchanged their vouchers for a JR Rail Pass had a surprisingly long wait to get the pass, so for other visitors make sure you leave at least 30-45mins between arriving at the Travel Centre (I used the one in Ueno!) and expecting to be heading on for your first train.

And for sheer convenience I found having the Rail Pass made things easier (that and a Suica card for those trips on non-JR Rail lines)

Other convenience store chains included Family Mart and SunKus and I may have seen a Circle K but I'm not sure. All pretty interchangeable :-) ... there was a rumour that 7-11 ATMs took international cards (as most other ATMs didn't, so it was usually a matter of finding a post office and using the ATM there).

The "orange segment hotel" I stayed in for the convention and it was the Intercontinental Grand Yokohama (http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/ic/1/en/hotel/yokha?_requestid=511951) which is the same hotel group as this year's Eastercon hotel (Chester Crowne Plaza)!)
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