Train Troubles in Japan
This is just one reason why you book your trips with a Travel Agent like me. I use vetted and trusted suppliers who know the destinations you are going to and have support teams in the destination as well. Of course, being my own travel agent, I didn't need to call my travel agency but I could have if I was really in a bind. Our office has a 24/7 emergency/urgent phone line for all clients who travel with us. I just wanted to share a story to show what hiccups can happen while traveling and why my trusted vendors are awesome!
On June 30th, 2018, there were some landslides that cancelled our train from Nagoya to Takayama. We didn't find out until we boarded our first train for the day. So, I emailed our destination support team and thankfully it was a Saturday so the office was open. I asked what our options were for the cancelled train and they gave me an alternate train option (which involved 4 train transfers and arriving well after 7pm when our original arrival time was just after 2pm) and some bus options. Upon arrival in Nagoya, all the busses were full until after 7:30pm and we were hungry for lunch so we decided to eat and ask our support team for more options. During lunch, they suggested a few more options for us but it was best to talk to the JR (Japan Rail) train staff for more details. We would have to wait another 2 hours for a train and we would still be in Takayama after 7:30pm.
Here we are with half our luggage (we forwarded the other half to Takayama), it is 90 degrees out and 60% humidity. There isn't really a great place to wait with air conditioning here at the local train platform. We have our 10 and 13 year old and we are just done for the day and it isn't even 2pm yet. We are also concerned that we will have problems getting from Takayama to Kyoto two days later. Maybe the repairs won't be fixed and we will have to take the same 4 trains and waste an entire day for traveling.
So, I call the support team and ask if we can just stay in Nagoya instead of Takayama. My husband pipes up that maybe we can just start our time in Kyoto early if our Machiya (apartment) is available early for us. Since we have limited clothing options, the washing machine would be a welcome option. The lady on the phone was very accommodating and tells me she will look into it.
30 mins later I get an email (my phone service was poor at the train station) and she says the Machiya is available but we can only check in after 6pm. It is now 2:30pm and the train to Kyoto is only about 50 minutes long. She gives us more train options again but they require us to wait in Nagoya for another 2 hours. My husband says there are lots of trains to Kyoto so let's hop on the next one. We would rather bide our time in Kyoto than the train station in Nagoya. Off he goes in search of the ticket reservation booth to secure seats and see which train option will be best. All of this is included for free with our rail passes. The kids and I wait in the air conditioned waiting area where the Shinkansen (bullet train) departs from. See the photo on the left.
Oh, I forgot to mention that the email from the support team had also mentioned that they will work on cancelling our hotel in Takayama and forwarding our luggage to the Machiya. There is an extra fee for luggage delivery at the Machiya but we are totally fine with it. My supplier will contact me on Monday with any extra costs for the extra days at our Machiya and luggage delivery. Not a problem.
The train ride from Nagoya to Kyoto is about an hour. We arrive in Kyoto around 4:30pm so we try our best to waste as much time to get to the check in place for our Machiya. We stop and get cash, look around the Kyoto station a bit, grab ice cream and candy at a convenience store and try walking as slowly as possible. We made a 10 minute walk last an hour but we still make it early to check-in at 5:30pm.
Good news! They are ready for us and there is no problem going to our residence right away. I have never been so happy to stay somewhere and I am super happy with the apartment as it is HUGE and much nicer than I had expected. This will be our longest stay anywhere in Japan as our 4 night stay turned into a 6 night stay! I have a video and photos of our Machiya but for now, the this photo will have to do. Our two-story apartment is the building directly to the left of the red Tori gate.
Our remaining luggage arrives the next day (a Sunday!) and we pay about $29 for the luggage forwarding service and the Machiya rental company delivers it to our apartment for free! Normally, we would need to collect our luggage at the check in lobby which is a $12 taxi ride away or have them deliver two bags for about $15.
The best part of the whole thing is that on the following day (Monday), I get an email from my destination support team to tell me there are no extra costs for the extra nights in our Machiya and the hotel in Takayama is cancelled at no cost. This whole detour cost us about $29 which is the normal cost to forward two bags from Takayama to Kyoto. Of course, it is disappointing to have missed seeing a city in our itinerary but we have extra time in Kyoto now so it all worked out great. If there were any extra costs, I could file a claim with my travel insurance but I am glad to not have to do that. My destination support team were quick to respond and very accommodating to our requests. This is why my vendors are awesome and why you should book your travel with a travel agent like me.
I am very glad we decided to detour and skip Takayama as this was what I found about the landslides the next day. There was a news article that said, "On the 29th in Gifu Prefecture, heavy rain mainly occurred in the Hida region in the northern part, soil and sand flowed into the railway track, and evacuation instructions were issued in some areas."
Read the full story by clicking on the image below.
Also, it seems that even several days later, the Takayama Main Line is still not fully operational and they are bussing around the landslide area. It sounds like they don't expect full operations until this weekend which is a full week after the slides! Here is a translated quote from the train officials,
"I will inform you of the operation plan of July 5 (Thursday) accompanying sediment inflow between Takayama main line Hidaigahara station and Teru station by heavy rain on June 29 (Friday) as follows. As it takes a considerable amount of time to remove sediment and so forth, we are expecting this weekend for the timing of restoration, but we will inform you of the date of restart of driving as soon as it is decided."
Anyway, stay tuned for more about the rest of my travels in Japan! They may not all be as exciting as this one but I had to write about it while I have it fresh in my mind.