Friday, 22 December 2017
I woke up early and had breakfast at the hotel. After packing my things, I checked out from the hotel and stored my bags at the concierge. Today’s plan is to accompany Minister Nancy for a shinkansen train ride and to visit the Operation Control Centre (OCC). We met the Japanese Ministry of Transport (MLIT) officers at 1:20PM at Tokyo Station Hotel before boarding the train.
We took the Shinkansen at 1:40PM heading towards Omiya Station (where the OCC is located). During this short 25 minute ride, Minister Nancy and our CEO was seated in the cockpit and given a briefing on the tasks of a shinkansen pilot.
Interestingly enough, for a very complex machine, the pilot dashboard is relatively simple. Operating the train is designed in such a way that the pilot needs to be constantly alert and in communication with the OCC at all times.
We arrived at Omiya Station at 2:05PM. From there, the official MLIT transport took us to the OCC. The OCC is a secret location, unmarked from the outside, with very strict entry requirements. They typically do not allow external visitors, however, given that we have Minister Nancy with us, an exception is made. Too bad we were not allowed to take photos in the premises.
We left the OCC at 4PM. For the trip back, we rode in the Gran Class of the Shinkansen (paid by SPAD). It was my first time being in the Gran Class. It was extremely comfortable. The luxurious cabin was comparable, or even better, than most airline business class.
After arriving at Tokyo Station, we bade farewell to our host. I went to collect my luggage from the hotel and prepared for the second part of this trip: my own tour to Osaka! I have decided to extend my stay in Japan by 1 night (at my own cost) to visit the famous city.
Using my JR Pass, I took the Hikari train on the Tokaido line (connecting Tokyo to Shin-Osaka) at 7PM. The Hikari train is the semi-fast service as opposed to Nozomi (express, not valid for JR Pass) or Kodama (stops all stations, slowest).
I had a very pleasant ride to Shin-Osaka station. Upon arrival, I was really amazed to see how big the station was. I walked around to get my bearing, and then got a copy of a local map. I used my JR Pass to get a ride from Shin-Osaka to Osaka Station.
My lodgings for the night were at Hotel New Hankyu Osaka, located right next to the station. It’s right next to the malls and eateries, and to my surprise, there is a convenient bus service to the airport right next to the hotel.
I spent the evening exploring the nearby buildings before retiring for the night. I needed a good rest as the following day was to be a full day of sightseeing!