Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Nagata-kun in Nagatacho

This year there were many consecutive holidays in the month of September in Japan. The holidays from September 19 to September 23 has been dubbed as silver week holidays, and refers to the incorporation of a weekend followed by three Japanese public holidays which are Respect of the Aged Day (September 21), Autumnal Equinox Day (September 23), and the day in between the two other holidays known as kokumin no kyujitsu (citizen’s holiday, September 22). Such unusual silver week holidays will next occur in September 2015. Silver week refers to the second rank after the more famous ‘golden week’.

Hubby went to play golf with his friends on 19th September. Hubby and I did some shopping in Akita city on 20th September. We had not planned anything in advance for these holidays as hubby was very busy with his work and was not sure whether he could actually avail these holidays or not. So we had many days of holidays with nothing much to do. All of a sudden we decided to make a trip to Tokyo for the next two days (21st and 22nd September).

Travel by Akita shinkansen train
Japan has some of the finest train networks in the world, especially the bullet train or shinkansen, which is a slick and high-speed rail system linking major cities in Honshu and Kyushu islands.

I worked as a researcher in research institutes in Tsukuba in Ibaraki prefecture for almost a decade. So even after moving to Yurihonjo city in Akita prefecture (hubby’s job is here) in April 2007, I could not completely quit the research activities in Tsukuba due to some prior obligations. Therefore every week, for almost 1.5 years, I used Akita shinkansen train to travel up to Tokyo and then go to Tsukuba using another local train for my work. During those days I was tired of travelling by shinkansen train almost every week and thought that I would never like to travel by shinkansen again! Finally, I could resign from my job in September 2008. This year in September it was exactly a year that I quit my job, and to my surprise I realized that I was very much missing travel by Akita shinkansen train and often tell several funny travel anecdotes to hubby! Nowadays, hubby and I usually travel by flight to go to Kanto area or his hometown in Ichinomiya city in Aichi prefecture, which is convenient and definitely less time consuming. However, this time during the silver week holidays, we decided to travel by Akita shinkansen for our trip to Tokyo.

On 21st September, hubby and I left home at about 4.45 am and it took us about 50 minutes to reach Akita railway station by our car. Hubby parked his car at a car-parking area and then we directly went to the shinkansen train platform as we had already purchased shinkansen tickets the previous day. We bought breakfast bento-boxes containing onigiri rice balls and sandwiches from a kiosk shop at the railway station platform. The shinkansen train started from Akita at 6.02 am. It was a very comfortable journey. I enjoyed the outside view of rice fields ready to be harvested. The passing landscapes really appealed to me. We had our breakfast in the train while enjoying the outside view. After about 45 minutes of travel, we passed through densely forested mountainous region. The train travelled rather slowly in this section and we got a fantastic view of the natural beauty of Akita prefecture. The scenery was simply outstanding. The train reached Morioka railway station in Eastern Japan at about 7.30 am. A railway staff with a snack trolley moved through the train selling food items and souvenirs. We bought coffee which was super delicious. We had our coffee while enjoying the view of Morioka city and its surroundings. Soon hubby dozed off while I enjoyed the passing views of the fields, villages, towns, cities, and many small railway stations. We reached Tokyo railway station at about 10 am. Four hours of Shinkansen travel seemed to have passed very fast for me, which I enjoyed thoroughly.
Akita shinkansen train at Akita railway station

Akita shinkansen is also known as Komachi

Hubby standing next to the shinkansen train

After reaching Tokyo, we travelled by two local trains for short distances and reached Aomono-Yokocho station in Minami (south) Shinagawa. We went to hotel Toyoko-inn which is located adjacent to the railway station. We were going to spend the night at this hotel. So we checked-in at the hotel in the morning itself and left our baggage at the front desk of the hotel. Then we travelled by another local train and reached Shinagawa station. We did an advanced booking for lunch at ‘Hapuna Luxe Dining’ inside Shinagawa Prince Hotel, which is located very near to the railway station. It was about 11.30 am and next we decided to visit Nagatacho district.

Nagatacho is a district of Tokyo and is located in Chiyoda ward. The place name signifies national politics of Japan. Nagatacho is only a few hundred meters away from the imperial palace, and is home to the National Diet Building, the office of Prime Minister, and the cabinet office.

There was a historic change of Japanese government in late August this year and hubby wished to visit Nagatacho, which represents the hub of Japanese politics. I had a very different reason to visit this place. I wished to see ‘Nagata-kun in Nagatacho’. My hubby’s family name is ‘Nagata’, ‘kun’ is an honorific suffix used for addressing close people, and the name of the place is ‘Nagatacho’. I love comic Japanese word play relying on the similarities in the pronunciation of the words to create simple jokes or pun. This type of jokes are known as ‘oyaji (old man) gags’. ‘Oyaji gags (also called dajare)’ are most likely to be attempted by older men, and younger generation considers this kind of jokes to be slightly annoying. However, from the very beginning of my stay in Japan, I developed a liking for ‘oyaji gags’ and find them to be very amusing. It is one of my favorite ways to pass the time while travelling, relaxing, or during parties.

Although we travelled only a short distance from Shinagawa, we had to change trains several times to reach Nagatacho. We used JR Yokosuka Line, Tokyo-Metro Ginza Line (subway), and Tokyo-Metro Namboku Line (subway), and reached Nagatacho at about 12 noon. I took a few photos of hubby standing at the platform in Nagatacho railway station next to a board indicating the station name.
Nagata-kun in Nagatacho

Me standing at Nagatacho station platform next to a board indicating the station name

After coming out of Nagatacho subway station, we walked for about three minutes to reach the National Diet Building (Kokkai-gijido). The Diet building is the place where both houses of the Diet of Japan meet. The National Diet Building is a pyramid-roofed structure built between 1920 and 1936. The German architecture influenced three-storey building is the parliament of Japan and a well-known Tokyo landmark. The building is a 65.5 meters tall reinforced concrete and granite structure. All the building materials including the interior marble are locally-sourced, with the exception of the stained glass, door locks, and pneumatic tube system. There is a left wing building that houses the House of Representatives and a right wing building that houses the House of Councillors. The House of Councillors is open to the public on weekdays and free guided tours are offered from 9 am to 4 pm. Since we visited the National Diet Building on a holiday, we were unable to enter inside the building premises. However, several guided group-tour people were allowed into the Diet building premises, though not inside the building.
The National Diet Building of Japan

Guided group tourists inside the Diet building premises

Hubby standing outside the Diet building premises

Me standing next to a sign indicating the House of Representatives (shugiin)

Another view of the National Diet Building

It was about 12.40 pm when we finished seeing the National Diet Building. After returning back to Nagatacho subway station, I again took a few photos of hubby in front of the station entrance/exit as well as inside the railway station. We had to change trains several times for returning back to Shinagawa. While waiting for the train at Ichigaya railway station platform, we saw many people fishing at a small fishing pond known as Tsuribori, which was located just adjacent to the railway station. It was fun to watch people fish.
Hubby standing in front of Nagatacho subway station entrance/exit

Hubby standing at Nagatacho railway station platform

People fishing in a small pond (view from Ichigaya station platform)

People fishing in a small pond (view from the platform)

Later we had lunch at ‘Hapuna Luxe Dining’ inside Shinagawa Prince Hotel. After that we went to watch a baseball match in Tokyo Dome. I will write about our lunch and baseball game in the next post.


Gobinda Kundu said...

wow...shinkansen train, what a train..581KM/H!!! what a speed!! u r lucky yaar.

Thanks for pic of Diet...I read but never seen.

Pic of fishing in the pond is also interesting..

Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks Gobinda for your comment. Well, Akita shinkansen is a 'mini-shinkansen' and its maximum speed is only 130 km per hour between Akita and Morioka. From Morioka to Tokyo, the maximum speed of shinkansen is 275 km per hour.You can find more details here

I was also surprised by the fishing pond, which was right in the middle of the city!

google said...


Manisha Kundu-Nagata said...

Thanks for your comment google :)
It was more than a year that I had not travelled by train. And I was missing my trips to Tokyo by Shinkansen train. So it was fun travelling by train this time, though hubby dozed off after about 1.5 hours of travel.