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Tokyo – Featured

The Tokaido Shinkansen

The Tokaido Shinkansen is currently the busiest and fastest single high speed rail line in the world, serving the cities of Tokyo and Osaka. To me it’s nothing short of a public transport miracle. The “normal speed” is 320 kph, but speeds of up to 443 kph have been recorded. The trains are pressure sealed and run on 25000 volts DC. As they have their own tracks, last year the average delay per train across the year was.. 36 seconds! You probably know that these days the word “Shinkansen” is used to generically describe a number of different types of […]

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The Manga Train

It’s just a 40 minute journey on my first train of the day to Yonanga, the nearest grown up railway station. The Manga train, or “Kitano Family Train” as it is officially known, departs about once every hour. It takes me there in some style, that is as long as you like manga art. Inside the train the station announcements are pre recorded by Japanese children and sound very cute. The conductor walks up and down saying good morning to every passenger personally.   The train is covered in manga art throughout. Each carriage is different, and mine seems to […]

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Kings of the Wild Frontier

The Eastern Dream is a Japanese built ship run by a South Korean company. It’s a small ship carrying mixed freight and passengers, I would guess 200 or so of us. That is probably 150 Koreans, 49 Russians and one Englishman. It’s not an uncomfortable boat to be a passenger on, but the accommodation is rather spartan and hugely expensive. My bunk is in a room shared with seven other Russians (they seem to segregate nationalities) at a cost of $350 USD. Most people are in dormitory rooms of 30 or so, some in bunks, some sleeping on mats on […]

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I finished up last night visiting Taeguan in the plaskart wagon after dinner. It’s another world – a hot, hot place where people speak in hushed tones, drink vodka and live together with very little personal space. It looked clean and tidy though. Eating in the restaurant remains a little unpredictable. There can be random shortages of key foods, so you need to work out how best to play it. No great drama with my chicken dinner, other than a small fire that set off the alarm when Chef tries to make me some fried potatoes (which turn out like […]

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There is a kind of long distance trainspotting club that now forms on the platform outside of carriage no 7. We don’t have much in common – other than a shared experience of coping with life on the train. The English speaking members of the club are currently just Taegeun, Alex and myself. We are actively recruiting though. Other potential members of the club are a young Russian girl (always dressed in a tracksuit) who sometimes has dinner in the restaurant, and a middle aged, middle class, Russian couple with who I’m now on “Dobroye Utro” terms – that’s “Good […]

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The Fish Wives of Barabinsk

Morning! 06.53 Moscow time. Happy Christmas from Barabinsk, where it’s lightly snowing but pretty warm at -3 C. I didn’t plan to be in Barabinsk on Christmas morning, but that’s only way to make my connection with the ship in Vladivostok.. I’m doing my best to be Christmassy here today, but it’s a fairly solitary experience. “Official Train Christmas” is actually not until next week, as the Russian Orthodox Church has varying dates. I have a bottle of Russian champagnski on ice and also some mince pies (Marks & Spencer’s finest!). Chef has cooked me some chicken but I’m getting all excited […]

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It would have been pretty hard not to have woken up at Balezino this morning. 05.27 Moscow time, still dark outside and the first chance of the day to smash the accumulated ice off the underside of the train. In case you are not familiar with this, in Siberia at every stop every carriage has to be whacked repeatedly with a huge metal bar. There are some manly men resident in the train who do things like this, but it seems anyone with a big object is welcome to join in. I tried to stay in bed, but the combination […]

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Fifty-Fifty to Minsk

I’m on the D10 now. It leaves Warsaw at 16.08, arriving into Moscow Belorussky station at 12.15 the following day. I’m having some immediate communication problems with my new guard. It hasn’t been an been an ideal introduction to base our relationship on. First of all he seemed not to know where my compartment was – there are only 12 in the carriage, but I had to wonder if I was going to be sleeping in the toilet for a moment. It’s probably as my ticket is a Russian one, and it makes no sense to me either. Once I […]

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