The beginning of a long journey
Having planned the trip, my wife and I made the journey from Montreal by train down to Toronto to begin the voyage back to Japan. We are picked up by my best friend and fellow aviation photographer, Andrew H. Cline and the next day make our way to Toronto-Pearson International Airport to meet up with our friend and fellow photographer Thomas Kim who would be making the journey with us. We boarded Air Canada Flight 5, operated by a Boeing 777-200LR fin 702 C-FIUF and a little past 1400 departed on our 13 hour journey across North America, the Bering Sea, Russia and finally Japan on the other side of the Pacific Ocean, arriving the next day, at 1700 local. Service was above par, the food ok, and the flight was smooth.
Immigration and customs was incredible as usual, no issues what so ever. We are greeted by two other fellow Canadian photographers and friends (Jan Jasinski and Matthew Lee ) that had arrived the previous day and captured our arrival.
Me and Andrew parted ways with my wife and our other friends as they travelled to points south while we hurried to get our JR Rail passes from the exchange office, my portable wifi from the post office, and quickly catch the train to Misawa, our first destination.
Trains in Japan
North American's, especially us Canadian's, can not even begin to fathom and understand true world class passenger rail service. Japan's rail service is the most punctual and on time rail network in the world, whether you be going two streets over or halfway across the country; if your train is scheduled for 14 minutes past the hour, it will depart at 14 minutes past the hour. My first task after activating my pocket wifi and checking my work servers, was using the website Hyperdia.
Hyperdia is a Japanese website that tells you (in english) what train, departure track and the time at which the train departs. Here is an example of the trip we took from Haneda Airport to Misawa:
Why is this important, because as a first timer, no amount of preparation or research can prepare you for Tokyo's train network, and more importantly Tokyo station. Thousands of people moving in every direction, with purpose, knowing exactly where to go. Here you are, the outsider, and you get dropped off in the middle of all this organized chaos, with a ten minute connection. The words good luck come to mind without using Hyperdia.
Once we made our connection we boarded the Hayabusa, operated by JR East and the Green colored E5 Series Shinkansen. The Japan Rail Pass allows you access to all trains with only the fastest trains being off limits, with one exception to that rule. The Hayabusa came online shortly after the tragic events of 2011, so to increase tourism to the region, they did not limit its use with the JR Rail Pass. They are the fastest passenger trains in Japan, operating at speeds of 320 km/h or 200 mph. We may have been jet lagged, but looking outside at the now dark countryside racing by at those speeds while on the ground is always impressive. So within three and half hours we travelled from Tokyo to Misawa onboard this engineering marvel. Once we arrived in Misawa, we took a cab (with its automatic opening doors) to the hotel and tried to sleep for our official day one of spotting.