JR East run double-decker Shinkansen in and out of Tokyo. They seem to move at various speeds: e.g. the 17:44 Max 218 from Utsonomiya to Tokyo would go at a maximum of 218km/h—significantly faster than the train I got on the way up. It pays to note these little details, because the whole of the central area seems to be one big commuter belt.
The train’s layout means that when you sit downstairs, you’re so close to the tracks that it feels like sitting in a racing car hugging the pavement. Or it would do, if the damn track wasn’t walled in by noise-barriers.
I moved upstairs, leaving the backpack in a corner. Although the train was much bigger than the ones I’ve travelled on so far, it was more crowded and I wanted to avoid bumping into people with my pack. Of course the crowds meant that all the window seats were taken.
I excused myself at the next stop and moved back downstairs, worried about my backpack: not that it might disappear, but that it might trigger a terrorism alert. But nobody had taken any notice—and the walls were gone!
Face pressed against the glass, hands cupped to block out the cabin light, I saw Japan streak past one last time, the city lights glittering like jewels against the darkening sky.
I had a lump in my throat. Today was the final day on my JR pass. For a moment I thought about taking the train back out of Tokyo, catching one last exhilarating ride, but all good things must come to an end.
And then it was over, like a dream. We pulled into Ueno Station and a quick glance at the map confirmed that I’d better get off here.
I found myself in the termite hill that is Greater Tokyo.