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Buffalo E7 Kagayaki PC Mouse

On the way back from Shimoda to Tokyo, I happened upon a delight in the shopping magazines found in the a seat-pocket on the Odoriko. I'd actually already scoured Osaka and Tokyo for this delight, but all shop assistants (Yodobashi, Bic Camera, etc...) had never even seen the product.

Little did I expect to find it in, what we declare in Australia, as home-shopping dodgy magazines. But, there it was... and a friend in Japan managed to order it for me then and there on the train! It then arrived only a few days after I returned to Oz.

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Under those delicious 'older gentleman' dark chocolate KitKats is a Buffalo USB Mouse. It's a standard form-factor with fantastic markings. Buffalo have taken the time and painted them in line with the E7 shinkansen.

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Further than this, they've even put a serious amount of effort into the packaging.

The artwork on the outside of the box is a lightly water-coloured scene of the Shinkansen bolting somewhere north.

I love it that they've made the box out of plastic. The mouse is centrally on display, with all appendages neatly concealed in the base of the packaging.

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Opening it felt like unfolding origami. The intricate design perfectly fit the coiled cable and documentation.

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Once out, I found it to be smoother than I had expected. It has a very glossy finish and is slippery to the touch. Fortunately, the sides are covered in a rubber panel, which provides a nice level of grip.

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The best part about this mouse is that the scroll wheel is legit. The wheel is clicky and can be pressed without rotating. I've used newer mouses in the past that had very light-touch wheels that even had momentum if you spun them too quickly. This wheel has the exact friction point I've been looking for.


Akihabara Washington Hotel

This is the first post of my most recent trip to Japan. It was the first time I'd been there in Summer and I was not expecting the weather to be so damn nice. Yes, humid, slightly, but not quite tropical-humid... somewhere half-way towards out-back humid.

Anyway, the trip started in Tokyo. I usually stay on the west-side of the Yamanote Line, but this time I stayed east. Akihabara to be exact. The good thing about the east side? The Shinkansen lines run on this side, terminating at Tokyo Station.

Akihabara is north of Tokyo, so only the 'northward' Shinkansen run through. Well, the north-west-ward also run through too now. Fortunately, the shinkansen tracks are all above ground until just after Akihabara station, so there are several vantage points if you search for them.

One vantage point is the Akihabara Washington Hotel. It is actually so well known for it that they have an actual room dedicated to trains; including a model railway! (Note the single bed.)

Checking in

When booking the hotel, I left a comment requesting a room that could see the Shinkansen. I received an email response saying that this was not a problem. Upon check-in, I neglected to remind them and was first given a room staring into another office building to the south.

I returned to the counter and politely asked if my comment still existed and if there was any chance of a room looking over the tracks. The receptionists kindly oblidged... although I did hear a snicker between the two girls that the "gaikokujin ha densha wo mitai, heya kara." I couldn't tell if it was my bad Japanese or if I was a train nerd.

Room with a view

Second time lucky! The room had a great view of the Kanda River and a shrine on the opposite bank. To the right were the Shinkansen tracks heading to Tokyo. There is also an elevated flyover of the Ueno-Tokyo Line.

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From here ... it's going to just be pictures. There's a vending machine on every floor... so a few beers and a bit of train watching was had.

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Stay here, it's awesome. Just remember to check that your room has a view!


Chuo Shinkansen hits 603km/h

Amazing news today from JR Central: The Chuo Shinkansen with a 7-car consist has achieved 603km/h. Only a week ago they hit 590km/h, breaking their previous record of 581km/h. The news is already spreading.

Update: From an unknown source, there's an amazing diagram of the track here on Google Maps. I'd really like to thank the Author, but there is no mention of them!

For anyone searching for the track, it's hard to find the exact route of the Chuo Shinkansen on the usual internet mapping services. I've therefore chosen to outline the path below. Meanwhile, here's an overview. The tunnels are in dark-green and the rest of the track is dark-pink. Note that it's not 100% accurate. Especially the west-end where I 'think' the tunnel entrance is being built.



This is the west-most end of the test track. It's based in southern Fuefuki and the mapping services struggle to keep their satelite data updated. The images that follow are from Google, Yahoo and then Bing. You can use the large factory building in the top-left of each image as a point of reference.




As you can see, Yahoo (being the Japanese local) hasn't updated their maps in quite a while; the pillars are still under construction. Meanwhile, all services in 'street map' mode have zero information on the test track.

From here we'll be tunnel-chasing. The track goes through mountains... a lot of mountains... For those playing at home, start from here.


This bridge casts a great shadow. The track is 100% covered here. In fact, it's covered almost the entire way, there's only one spot where we'll be able to see the trains, so far.



You'll note two smaller enclosed bridges here. One major goal of the Chuo Shinkansen is to keep the track as level as possible throughout the length of the track. Japan's mountainous terrain makes this routing rather difficult, but mountains provide a very stable platform to build very flat track. Of course, you'll find the odd valley in the terrain and so enclosed bridges have been used to not hinder operation of the service.



Yessss... exposed track. This bridge also casts a good shadow. I want to go and check this area out when the trains are running more frequently. Will have to ensure shutter speeds are at something ridiculous.


End of the line: Asahisoshi?

Google maps would have you think that this area is the end of the line... but it's not. There's a terminus here, but the line has been extended further east to Uenohara. We'll use Bing to finish the other segment.



On Bing, you can see the following tunnels in a further state of completion.


Another tunnel entrance?

All providers show this satellite imagery. It seems to be inline with the tracks, but I can't tell if it's the continued east-bound construction.


The Chuo Shinkansen is to be running between Nagoya and Tokyo by 2027 and then Osaka to Tokyo in 2045. That sounds like a long time away... but I have a hunch they'll have it running sooner.


My Favourite Shinkansen: 300 Series

This photo was taken with a second-hand (and then damaged by me) Fujitsu Finepix back in 2006. It was my first meeting with the 300 Series and it was love at first sight.

300 Series Shinkansen

I can't believe they've already chopped this model up.