This has to be one of the most poorly fact-checked articles on Japan ever.
I am with a group of friends on a short trip to Tokyo. Keen to see some Japanese countryside, and to experience a part of everyday Japanese life, we’ve asked the concierge at the city’s Mandarin Oriental hotel, where we are staying in some style, how we might visit an onsen.
Easily, is the answer. Hakane is one of the country’s most famous onsen resorts (Japan has 2,000 such places, and 20,000 hot springs), and lies just two hours from Tokyo. Better still, it’s reached on a bullet train, meaning we will also get to enjoy another of Japan’s iconic experiences. The concierge will organise tickets and transfers.
But not our short trip to the train, sadly. If you were to have a nightmare involving public transport, forget buses, Tube delays or people barking into mobiles. Think, instead, of Shinjuku, Tokyo’s main railway station […] a vast and bewildering maze, made all the more bewildering by the fact that there isn’t a word of English anywhere, or at least none that we can find, as we scour signs and dash from one bemused, monolingual Japanese commuter to another asking for help. […]
All too soon we are disembarking at Odawa to pick up the local service to Hakone-Yumoto. We sit and ride through increasingly pretty countryside while gaggles of Japanese schoolchildren beam at the Western strangers in their midst. We revel – as we have done so often in Tokyo – in the otherness of the whole experience.
Where to begin?
1) The Mandarin Oriental is near Tokyo Station, on the other side of town from Shinjuku. If this guy was taking a “short trip” to the station, he was probably getting the Shinkansen from Tokyo Station.
2) But let’s assume, arguendo, that he really did go to Shinjuku. He wasn’t really riding a “bullet train,” then, since the real bullet trains don’t go to Shinjuku. It was probably an Odakyu Romance Car. Unlike the Shinkansen pictured in the article.
3) Where did he get those numbers? Two thousand is close to the official count of the 全国温泉旅館同盟, but here’s a site that counts fifty thousand onsen in total.
4) Anyone who can’t read the English signage in a Tokyo train station needs new glasses.
5) Anyone who can’t find a single English speaker in a Tokyo train station either isn’t trying hard enough or doesn’t speak comprehensible English. (Perhaps this chap has an unintelligible accent.)
7) The word “otherness.” What the hell does that mean?