The train to Nagano

Today was a day off cycling. I took the train to avoid about 200 miles of riding along a flat, mostly crowded river valley to Nagano. 

I have a home-made bike cover for the trains (it’s required). It’s made from the lightest, though strongest material I could find. Cuben Fiber. It’s what America’s Cup sails use, only mine is an extremely lightweight version. Total bag: 2 oz. 

My connection in Takasaki was SIX MINUTES, and I had to go down into the main station and then go up to another track. Plus, I was in the last train car, so my trek was that much further. This while carrying my bike and bags. Once I stepped into the car bound for Nagano and put down my stuff, the bells rang and the doors quietly closed.

The Shinkansen has a max speed of 200mph, and the route from Niigata to Takasaki was mostly in tunnels. Sometimes for well over 10 minutes at a stretch. Even if they slow down to 100mph in tunnels, that makes for a succession of 15-20 mile long holes below the mountains, one after another.

The trains are always on time. In my 4 visits here, and dozens of train rides, I’ve never seen a late train. And they are spotlessly clean. While waiting for the Narita Express I watched the cleaning crew clean the train. Now this is a train that goes back and forth from the airport and Tokyo every hour. How dirty could it get? Well, not only did they empty the trash, but they mopped – yes wet mopped – the floors and vacuumed the carpet and wiped all the surfaces. It was like riding in a mobile operating room.

All the announcements are in Japanese, then English. The English is always the same British woman no matter which train I’m on, or which region I’m in. So, think about that for a second: hundreds of trains, countless permutations of the required announcement as each train makes its journey. How long did it take her to record all those thousands of announcements? And it’s definitely NOT a synthetic voice. I’d like to ask her how she did that.

Oh yes, the outsides of the trains are spotless, too.


Has to be the widest crosswalk I’ve ever seen. Must be 150′ wide. 

Speaking of crosswalks. Here’s a scene I’ve seen hundreds of times. A very narrow single lane road coming to an intersection, and the little man is red and people wait. And wait. Five or six steps and you would be across the road and there isn’t a car in sight.  You can see several hundred feet down the road and there’s nothing coming.   

Downtown Nagano shop

 This is the road leading to a large temple in downtown Nagano. Unlike the Street prior to this with tasteful shops, here you have the pre-temple walk of commerce. Mostly ice cream and candy shops. 

~ by Robert on September 30, 2014.

6 Responses to “The train to Nagano”

  1. Thanks for keeping us in the loop Robert. I am totally enjoying your updates. Happy trails! Carolyn


  2. Robert, on the narrow road crosswalks … do the tourists from America just cross like we would here, or do you wait it out?


  3. Inspiring photos, Robert! I hope you are well clear of the erupting volcano.


  4. Well, as for me, I’ll usually wait a bit, then if the road is narrow and there is obviously no threat, I go. The responses are normally: if old people ( and Japan being the oldest country in the world, there are a lot of them), they stay put. If young people, often someone will follow. Often, I’m going it alone. Very occasionally someone else steps out first, but not normally in small towns.


  5. Love the bike purse! Can’t wait to see the photos and read your observations on the next leg of your trip.


  6. David Art suggested I check in. Glad you were able to avoid the volcanic fallout in the south. Kudos for good choice of Nagano, Robert. I’m working in Tokyo and living just outside it.


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