Train Troubles in Japan - Part 2
I knew there would be more to write about and so my saga with the rain and train troubles continues. If you didn't read part 1, then do that now.
We were supposed to leave Kyoto on Friday July 6th to visit our family in Oita, Japan. It was going to be about 5 hours of travel and three different train rides to get there. We were going to meet up with my dad and grandma (who is 96!) who had made a special trip to Japan to meet with us so they could introduce us to family. Well, this all was not meant to be as super heavy rains, like Japan has never seen before, prevented us from making that journey. Here is the journey that we missed out on.
We were never in any danger as most of the flooding and landslides were in rural areas. We did hear the flood warnings and evacuation sirens in Japanese while we were in Kyoto but everyone we spoke with assured us we were safe. Of course, I am just now reading news stories about the flooding and record breaking rainfall and realize just how bad it really was. For us, it was more an inconvenience but also a blessing in disguise because if we had been traveling through the flood areas it could have been much worse. Or, if we made it through, we might have been stuck without a way to get back to our flight back to Seattle.
One news report said that over 100 people died and over 2 million people were evacuated:
"Since Thursday, parts of western Japan have received three times the usual rainfall for the whole of July. 'We've never experienced this kind of rain before,' a weather official said." (Read more) Another news source reported, "Japanese public broadcaster NHK reported about 364 millimeters (14.3 inches) of rain fell between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. Sunday in the city of Uwajima -- approximately 1.5 times the average monthly rainfall for July." (Read more)
Here are some of the areas affected by the flooding (Gifu being one that re-routed us early to Kyoto as we weren't able to make our planned stop in Takayama) with Hiroshima and Ehime Prefectures got hit the hardest.
We went to the Kyoto train station on Friday. It wasn't far from our machiya (apartment) but the rain forced us to take a taxi as we didn't have umbrellas and we didn't want the luggage to get soaked. Unfortunately, there was a long line to ask the JR (Japan Rail) staff if our trains were on time or still operating. Our support team couldn't tell us much since the JR staff had the latest and most accurate information. Here we are waiting in line and we were only about halfway through the wait.
It took us a few hours to finally get the news that all the trains were cancelled for our journey. We waited through this line the first time and there was a possibility that the trains might start again after 10am. However, we waited through the line a second time after 10am and found out that everything was cancelled for the day. While we waited for an update, I spent my time posting on social media about the funny toilets and bathrooms we have encountered in Japan. I will have to save that for another blog post!
Anyway, the JR staff told us that the furthest we could go was to Osaka which was only about 20 minutes away by Shinkansen train. We decided to stay one more night in Kyoto instead. Our machiya wasn't available for another night so we had to check into a new one. It wasn't as nice as the previous one as the location was further away from shops and restaurants. We actually liked being close to Kyoto Station even though we could hear the trains. Kyoto Station actually had a lot of options for food and shopping. Here is a short video from our first machiya after the rain calmed down enough for me to stick my head out the window to film.
Again, we made the best of the situation and kept in touch with my dad to make sure they were safe. He advised us to just go to Osaka and skip the rest of our journey even though it was very disappointing for us all. We were hoping to be able to continue the following day but it wasn't meant to be. Instead our support team agreed that since Osaka was as far as the JR staff said we could go (even the next day) that it was best to re-route us again.
They originally asked us pay $420 for the extra night in the new machiya (which I was just going to submit to my travel insurance when I got home) but the following day, they emailed me to say that they were waiving the charge due to the weather delays. My support team here in Japan is awesome! So here we are, on our way to Osaka at last.
It was still raining but not as hard as it was the previous two days and even when we got to Osaka, the rain was not bad either. It was much more enjoyable once we got to our hotel and we were able to borrow some umbrellas. We decided to walk around for a bit and check out the area while we searched for a place to eat lunch. We all agreed that burgers were a welcome change from all the Japanese food we have been eating lately. It was a very nice meal and not that expensive either.
I thought it was funny to see the people who clean up the streets and sidewalks, wiping down and drying off the benches, because it looked like it was going to rain again at any moment. In fact, it did start raining again soon after we finished lunch so the people continued to clean up the fallen leaves from the ground instead. They didn't seem to mind that the rain started again and ruined their hard work of drying off the benches.
We enjoyed our first day in Osaka and didn't do much but walk around for a bit and explored the area. There is a fairly big shopping area around here and we looked at some shops in the mall (which is located above the subway stations) and even had dinner at the food court. Everyone got something they liked -- Davin got sushi, Linnea got spaghetti, Fredrik got a pizza and I had Tonkatsu (breaded pork). We returned to our hotel and returned the umbrellas. It was a good day.