Today marked our first day of defiance against the always present itinerary. It had demanded that we travel 2 hours north to famous autumn leaves hotspot Nikko, but did not take into account the possibility that frosty weather had turned famous autumn leaves hotspot Nikko into a barren wasteland. After a bit of hurried research and we were on our way to less famous but much more leafy Mount Takao.
The train ride to Mount Takao should have been an easy 50 minutes out of central Tokyo, but due to a train mixup we were thrown into the outskirts of outer Tokyo and had an exciting half hour of micromanaging train transfers to get to Takao station.
From Takao we took the most playful type of train known to man, a funicular, halfway up the mountain into a sea of yellow, orange and red (and green, obviously). While in Tokyo proper the trees were stubbornly resisting the call of Autumn, here the temperature was just cold enough to push them over the edge, resulting in stunning displays of Autumn colours. We spent the next few hours hiking up to the summit, before plunging back down to the cablecar station.
After scoffing down an overside “Tengu Doooooooog”, we opted to take the chair lift down to the station. Now I don’t want to sound like a chairlift snob, but I have been on a good few dozen chairlifts in my time, and I have never seen a chairlift that lacked a pull-down safety barrier like the variety on Mount Takao. These were literally just park benches attached to a cable.
After a slow but vaguely dangerous ride down to civilization, we made another exciting train based mistake. We were to take the bullet train from Tokyo to Kanazawa 500kms away, but as we trundled towards central Tokyo I realised:
- We were going to have about 20 minutes to get off the train, run a kilometre to the hostel to pick up our bags, run a kilometre back to the station and take a subway ride down two stations before finding our train platform in one of the biggest train stations in the world.
- When I reserved our seats for the train, the ticketing agent could only secure reserved seats for the second leg of the trip, telling me that the first leg was sold out. What he didn’t mention and I failed to check was that on this particular train (and this is a rarity in Japan), there were no non-reserved seats, so you either had a reserved ticket or you weren’t getting on the train.
Long story short, I found out how hard it was to try to run a kilometre saddled with 3 heavy bags, and we arrived in Kanazawa about 1.5 hours later than planned. Luckily the hostel we were staying with was on point and sent me instructions on getting into the place past check-in.