Going to Noto?

At first sight a bewilderingly detailed Japanese railway timetable.
New Connection
These days, so much information is available at our finger tips—literally via the World Wide Web.  If we want to go somewhere, all we need to know is accessible through a computer.  Just type in the desired location and almost instantly we are able to navigate information about planes, cars for hire, trains, and buses not to mention a giddying amount of data regarding places to stay and see.  Even guidebooks now give us so much to ponder, we are spoilt for choice.

Two early types of Shinkansen pictured in 
the late 1970s.
Back in 1964 when the first Shinkansen line opened for business between Tokyo and Osaka the situation was quite different.  Using a timetable we could at least pick the train on which we wanted to ride but then we needed to go to a travel agent or a train station booking office to actually buy a ticket.  Mind you, the ticketing system was very sophisticated even back then.  An operator would use the controls of a very complex booking machine with such assurance, resulting in a small collection of tickets, which would be explained in a typically Japanese attentive and conscientious manner.  That at least is no different today.

More recent, speedy and advanced versions of 
the Shinkansen.
The Shinkansen high-speed train network has now spread out over most of Japan and serves many major centres.  Sometimes known as the Bullet Train, there have of course been some developments in the service and speed.  Back in 1964 a trip form Tokyo to Osaka, a matter of roughly 520 km took four hours at a top speed of around 200 km/h.  51 years later, this trip now takes just 2 hours 22 minutes on the fastest train at top speeds of almost 300 km/h.  Nevertheless, today a flight between the two cities is cheaper and quicker but from city centre to city centre the Shinkansen still has the edge, if nothing else because of the comfort and facilities that are offered.  This high-speed network now amounts to almost  3,000 km.  A great percentage of the Shinkansen lines are elevated—level crossings were not an option with trains travelling so fast.  Sometimes the elevated tracks are so high you could be forgiven for believing you were seated in a plane!

A relaxing time on the Shinkansen.
And now we can take a Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kanazawa, the city just a little way south-west of the Noto Peninsula.  The new line came into operation on 14th March 2015 and the trip only takes about 2 hrs 30 min.  Google says that the journey by car could take six hours!

So the new Hokuriku Shinkansen is definitely a good option.  The Kagayaki service is the fastest but all seats are reserved (http://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2018_nagano.html).

Getting from Kanazawa to Wajima, the main city of the peninsula, is best done by train or coach.  The highway coach takes about two hours.

If you fly into Kansai International Airport near Osaka and then spend some time in Kyoto, you can then catch a Super Express to Kanazawa and finally access the peninsula from there.  All being well this is the way I will get to Wajima in June.

Not all rail transport in Japan is high-speed. 
This image from the late 1970s at least shows 
how much people’s dress has changed in Tokyo.
If you are interested in immersing yourself in Japan, why not go to Kyoto and Kanazawa first to see and soak up traditional aspects of the life and culture of these ancient isles.  Then, go on up the Japan Sea coast to the Noto Peninsula which offers much that is unique and rural.  And after that, if you head off to Tokyo you can experience the multitude of stimuli that this megacity has to offer.  A friend of mine once said he wanted to see Tokyo because of the city depicted in Blade Runner, the movie directed by Ridley Scott and staring Harrison Ford.  It’s true.  Tokyo is such a mixture and full of surprises—science fiction becomes reality, heritage become contemporary.

Then you could take the Shinkansen from Tokyo back to Osaka over the original route of the Shinkansen to round off your experience of Japan—a journey through time, an engaging culture and countryside and a trip that will bring you into contact with a people always ready to please.

All images by Bill Tingey Photo © Copyright
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