I’ll have other posts from the Nerdtour, but chronologically these were the last few pictures I took on the trip. More to come as I work through the other 12,000 pictures!
The last day in Japan was spent wasting time riding the rails, since there was about 7 hours between checkout time at the hotel and check-in time at the airport. I suggested to John we take a quick trip down to Chiba city, which is about half-way between Tokyo and Narita, so we could use up a day on the 4 day JR East Pass we each had, and maybe see some last sights.
Naturally, it was rainy and cold, but the train ride was uneventful, and we pulled into Chiba proper, at the JR station downtown. Chiba, like Tokyo has a monorail system, but unlike Tokyo this one is suspended from the rail, and goes much further. It took a bit to find the actual station, but when I did, I was impressed by its beauty and functionality, as well as its little quirks!
The monorail itself only runs two cars at a time, suspended from tracks about 50 feet in the air. The stations are also up in the air, naturally, and are located at many important and popular places in town, such as City Hall and the Sports Center. On the way to Chiba, I noted that one of the stops on the JR line also had a monorail stop, in the town called Tsuga. So, I figured if we took the monorail to one end, in Chiba-minato, we could take it back out to Tsuga and catch the JR train back to Narita, while seeing a lot of Chiba in the process.
I figured Chiba-minato, down by the docks and near the port, would be somewhat picturesque, despite the weather. What I didn’t know until we got there was that the annual Chiba Ekiden was going on, which ran on the street directly below the Chiba-minato station! In Japan an Ekiden is basically a relay race combined with a marathon, where teams of runners take turns following a 46 kilometer marathon, broken up into segments. The course has certain segments for women as well as men, so that you enter as a co-ed team to race. We were at about the half-way mark of the second mens’ segment, where it looked like there were only a handful of teams, since I only saw about a dozen men running under the station. I managed to exercise my Japanese to find out what was going on, by asking one of the staff who had blocked off the side streets. Communication!
Once the race had passed by, they quickly and efficiently re-opened the street to traffic, and I figured I’d wander around the station area for a bit, looking for quirky and interesting things. Didn’t really have much chance, since time was passing, but I did manage to catch some local “wildlife” as well as a neat shuttle bus!
Once we finished taking the few photos, it was time to catch the monorail out to Tsuga. We managed to ride the cars that had won the “Good Design Award” for 2012. They were definitely stylish, and apparently could be run automated, but we had a driver on this one. The trip back to Tsuga was fairly quick, even given all the stops, and we caught the train in Tsuga back to Narita.
Getting back to the hotel in Narita to pick up our luggage, I started getting a bit concerned about how long it would take to get back to the airport. Finding out that we had just missed the airport shuttle from the hotel, John and I used our 21st Century technology to find out the next train from Narita to the airport. It turned out we had about 8 minutes to get to the station, fortunately the hotel was only a 4 minute walk away! We made it to the platform with minutes to spare, got to the airport about 3 hours before the plane was scheduled to leave, and spent that last time wandering the airport.
The flight back from Japan was… eventful. But I’ll have more on that in another post.