Today was another train riding day. Started in Matsumoto, took the local train to Nagano (could have saved a tiny bit of time on the limited express if I'd waited twenty minutes, but wasn't in a hurry, and did want to sit down), and took the shinkansen to Niigata via Takasaki.
There was a pretty significant earthquake this morning (I was actually talking to John Scalzi on AIM right about when it happened, and guestimated it was 5-ish -- turns out it was actually 6.7, and a number people were injured, one killed. I probably underestimated it, because unlike during the last one, I was only on the second floor). Besides being, um, interesting, it caused havoc with the shinkansen schedules today. Most of the stations had completely incorrect times displayed, as all the trains were running late, and apparently the signs were automatic or something (they had the right trains, at least, but completely incorrect times). Which made figuring out when to wait for the trains somewhat... Challenging.
As it was, I ended up getting on the wrong train (sort of) -- there's this thing called the Max Toki shinkansen that has two trains, and about half-way to Niigata, the train splits, and only one half goes to Niigata (also, the train is a double-decker, which is kinda cool). Of course, I was on the wrong one, so when we got to the stop where it split, everyone rushed off my train to board the other one. Of course, it was so crowded in the second train at this point that it was standing room only, and I was like, f*ck this shit, I'm gonna sit here and wait for the next one. Which showed up about five minutes later, and had plenty of room. Score!
It occurs to me that by the end of this leg, I'll have ridden almost all of the shinkansen lines north of Tokyo, all the way to Nagano and Niigata, all the way back from Akita, which only leaves the short stretch towards Aomori and and the slightly longer stretch past Yamagata. I must also say there are too many tunnels in the mountains -- I suspect many are just to keep the track clear from snow (which I saw near Echigo-Yuzawa, where I switched trains) as opposed to through mountains.
I stole the "in-flight" magazine that had a really nice map of the JR train system up here -- I assume it was free to take, but I didn't bother to ask.
It almost seems like there are less signs in English the farther you get from Tokyo (meaning the building signs and such). Although maybe that's more an big city-small city thing, since Niigata could well be a section of Tokyo from how it looks from the train. A tiny, tiny section, mind you.
This hotel was the most interesting yet. The location was totally convenient (right next to the station), and I didn't have any trouble finding the building -- I just couldn't find the hotel once I was in the building. The office was on the fourth floor(!), and navigating the first several floors was totally confusing.
So, tonight food, maybe drinks, and tomorrow, Akita.