Day 6 – To Niigata on a Very Special Train

Today, I said good bye to Nagano and made my way to Niigata.  To be honest, in hindsight, I think I should have stayed more days in Nagano.  There seems to be quite a few interesting side trips I can make around the area.  But I think I’ll keep that for another trip.  It does seem that I can easily spend 5 days in Nagano.

Finally, clear skies, but just when I’m leaving Nagano.  Sigh.

I stopped at Takasaki and switched trains to Echigoyuzawa.

I had a two hour wait at Echigoyuzawa before the highlight for today, a hour ride on the ‘joyful train’ – Genbi Shinkansen.  More about that in a while.  While waiting for the train, I window shopped around the station and saw this huge spinning display.  It was really amazing, the number of handsewn (I think) dolls that went into this carousell of wonder.

This was an ultimate advertisement.  Looking at it just made me want to buy some to bring home!  I did yield and bought a good luck cat :-).  I had also wanted to kill some time by taking the cable car up to Yuzawa onsen to see the snow and treeline.  Unfortunately, it was off-season and the cable cars weren’t running, not for another week at least.  So I found myself a cafe and sat around for about 45mins, updating my blog.

at 12.44, it was time for my ride on the Genbi Shinkansen.  I had planned my day’s itinerary around this as the train only ran 3 times during the weekend from Echigoyuzawa to Niigata.  This was basically a train with the cabins specially designed to look like a museum of art.

Walking towards my carriage, I caught a glimpse of the artwork in one of the carriages.

Here’s the sole reserved car carriage.  I was quite lucky to be able to get a reserved seat on it.

The people travelling on non-reserved tickets had these really comfy sofas!  The only downside is you couldn’t reserve them so it was up to your luck if you can get a seat.  This car had steel mirrors to reflect the outside landscape

This one featured artwork on the wall inspired by train lines.  There were protrusions, symbolizing what I think are mountains the trains were going around.

The cafe car was also beautifully decorated with a unique dessert menu.

The next car had the most interesting art work to me.  It was suspended on fishing lines and I think the intention was for it to have slight movement as the train moved.

The final car was the least interesting.  I believe it feature photos of K2 peak.

I had to of course try a dessert – as simple lemon icing cheese cake with a cup of coffee.  And no visit to such a unique museum would be complete without a nice souvenir – a pair of Genbi Shinkansen fork and spoon.

The journey was over in about an hour.  It’s wonderful how the japanese has made the train experience such an enjoyable one, and at no extra cost!  The train ticket on this train cost the same as any other train I could have taken to Niigata from Echigoyuzawa.  I’ll definitely aim to try some of the other ‘joyful trains’ when I get the chance!

Pulling into Niigata, I had my first experience of snowfall in Japan.  However, the snow melted when it touched the ground, making the place kinda slippery and wet.

My first snowball of this trip.

I made my way to a garden called Ikutopia as it supposedly had a night illumination.  Had to take a bus as there wasn’t any nearby train station.  The entrance was only 500 yen and though there was a slight drizzle, it was an enjoyable walk around the garden (other than the occasional cold puddles I stepped into).

There was an indoor pavilion where the trees in the middle were lighted up in time to music that was being played.  Around the trees were different displays for people tot ake photos.  As it was in a nice cosy enclosed place, it was a nice place to take a break and shoot some pics.

Lots of hearts for all!

After the visit, I realized that there wasn’t a bus anywhere nearby for me to get back to my hotel!  Niigata station (from which I could probably find my way back) was a 5km walk away and I wasn’t going to make that walk in the drizzle and cold.  I contemplated on taking a taxi for around 1600 yen but ended up deciding to do a 3km walk to the nearest bus stop where there was a bus going to my hotel (thanks again to google…).

It was really cold and wet walk.  Thankfully, my jacket kept me reasonably dry.  But my shoes enjoyed quite a few dips into cold puddles of water along the way… I finally reached my bus stop after about 30mins and the bus came on the dot!

Dinner near my hotel was a nice hot bowl of ramen!  I don’t think ramen ever tasted so good, especially after the chilly walk in the drizzle!

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