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--- xus (6/18/2012)
Day 8

After five days of running around Osaka, Himeji, Kyoto and Nara, we were finally taking a day off. Today our plan was getting to my brother's house in the outskirt of Tokyo. That's it.

We got to Kyoto train station just before 9:00 am. I knew there are many trains going to Tokyo every day, so I didn't worry about buying the tickets ahead of time. The fastest train is Shinkansen Nozomi. It takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to reach Tokyo from Kyoto. The tickets cost 7,980 Yen (one way per person) for non-reserved seat, or 13,320 Yen for a reserved seat. You can buy tickets and reserve seats all from ticket machines yourself, but I didn't want to mess with it, so we went to a ticket office. The girl asked if I wanted the 9:09 am train or 9:16 am train. Figuring we better gave ourselves a little time to buy something to eat, we chose the 9:16 am train. The girl touched her computer screen with a speed I had never seen in my life. I don't think even robot can do it any faster. In no time at all, we got the tickets. There were two tickets for each person, one with the train schedule, one with the seat number.

Next we went to a nearby store to buy breakfast. It's called 551 Horai. It is actually an Osaka company. But we didn't know that at the time. All we knew was everytime we passed their store, there were people waiting in line to buy their stuff, and they smell terrific. Since they didn't speak English, I pointed to their menu and bought the package A to eat later on the train.

After that, we hurried to our platform. Dave inserted one of his tickets to the entrance machine, but the machine wouldn't let him in. A station worker showed up instantly to help him. It turned out that we needed to insert both tickets to the machine, not just one. Probably a lot of foreigners made that mistake, so as soon as Dave approaching the entrance, the girl stood by, ready to help. Their service is really remarkable. By the time we found our platform, the train came, we had zero time to spare.

The train ride was really comfortable. The seats are set up like airline seats except that there are at least 1.5 feet of leg room. We ate our breakfast which consisted of 10 pork dumplings, 12 shrimp dumplings, 6 shumai, and 2 baozi. It's a little too much for two people to eat. But for a fantastic meal that cost 1,570 Yen, I can't complain.

After arriving at Tokyo station, we transferred to JR Chuo line. This is the most tourist friendly train we had ride so far. Each carriage has multiple screens that show ETA (estimated time of arrival) of next 5 stations in Japanese and in English so that you can prepare ahead. It took another 50 minutes to reach my brother's station, at where we got off and called.

My brother drove to the station to pick us up. He is so funny. He told us that the neighbors were aware of our coming, and they were waiting outside their house to meet Dave. It's true that Japanese are getting taller and bigger these days, but they are still small comparing to Dave, so the neighbors want to see the real "big" American. :) After comparing height and shoe sizes in centimeters with the neighbors, Dave (and I) finally got to go in to relax for the rest of the day.

1. My brother's house. It is considered pretty big in Japan. The lot is 150 sq m (~1,615 sq ft). The house is ~900 sq ft. They bought it in 2003 for about $475,000.

2. The street in front of his house.

3. Contrary to what I thought, not all Japanese drove little cars. One of my brother's neighbors drove this big American car.

4. To save space and water, there is no separate sink in the bathroom, instead you wash hands with the water that refills the tank.

(To be continued)
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