Take a free ride on the Sanyo Railroad

It was freezing in my apartment and my aircon unit wasn't spewing out
hot air. So I decided to get out of the house. But where could I go?
All public buildings were closed due to the holiday. So like any
valley girl that I know, I head to the mall:) They had some
activities: mochi making, spinning tops, and puppet show. I don't know
if they were related to coming of age because it was only little kids
indulging. But I didn't care, anywhere there's free food, you know I'm
there. Then I had McDonalds, value meal cheeseburger, shake and fries.
that didn't sit well with me afterwards. My first Mickey D's since
after ELV '04. Then I went to the train station. I thought it would be
a good place to find girls dressed up in their coming of age day
kimonos. I was right. I looked up the phrase for "can I take your
picture" (shashin ee desu ka?) and approached some girls. This is hard
for me because I'm so shy of imposing myself on strangers. But they
all obliged (who wouldn't want some attention on their special day).
The kimonos were beautiful! I'll put up a slide show on my blog.

I didn't want to go back home to my cold apartment, so I decided to
get on a local train and just ride. The commuter train system is
billed like Washington, DC or London: you pay based on where you get
on and off as marked by your ticket. So I hypothesized: what if I ride
as far as the system goes, come back, and exit the system at a stop
that costs 150 yen? Otherwise it would cost 2000 yen if I got off at
the end and then reentered to come back.

So I went west to the huge castle town of Hemeji. I read my book,
looked out the window, and people watched as they came and exited the
train. We approached the shore line, went under a gondola line to
connect with a mountainside community, saw a huge suspension bridge to
connect with another island, Awaji. After 2 hours on the local train
we arrived in Hemeji. By this time the sun had set and the afterglow
of twilight was creating a beautiful palette on the sky. No sign of
the fabled castle, but I had ridden to the extent of my curiosity. Now
it was time to go back.

I got on the limited express going back. Its terminal station was the
Hanshin line and I entered the Hankyu line. If I got out at the wrong
company's line, I feared that it would report the rider anomaly to the
authorities. I decided to get off at a stop where I could transfer.
Asked a perfect stranger where to transfer and he told me to wait for
the next train which would take me right there. It is easy to see how
Americans can get used to this country with the efficient
transportation and comforting safety and kind feeling of approaching
strangers for help. I reached Nishinomiya within 45 minutes. Now the
test. I put my card in the machine. A slight delay. My heart takes an
extra beat. Puhchew! Out it comes with 150 yen taken off. SCORE! I got
a tour of the south coast of Hyogo prefecture for 150 yen! Ah the
simple pleasures of a man who can't speak the language to make friends
to hang out with or read the labels on his heating unit control panel
to stay warm in his home!

So that was my day. Now I'm freezing back at home. I've decided that
the best activity to do this winter is to go to bed early and cozy up
under the covers. I get 9 solid hours of sleep and I don't have to
freeze or do any mind numbing activities like Internet or Japanese TV
which I don't understand. Of course when the term starts I may need
that 9-10 hour, but oh well.

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