One thing you need to understand about Japan. Foreigners are officially not welcome. You are allowed to come, preferably as a tourist with plenty of money, but only if you promise to go away again after you’ve spent it.

You also have to fill in a form saying you have no criminal record whatsoever, and you aren’t bringing any explosives, ‘obscene material’ or other nasty foreign influences, like a cold, flu or a temperature. Everyone who manages to be squeaky clean enough to actually reach the immigration desk will be filmed on arrival, then have to wait in a very long queue while the three officials go through their papers with laborious slowness, have to give their address in Japan, and their home address and occupation, have their fingerprints taken, will be photographed, again, so they can be traced on CCTV cameras wherever they go, and then grudgingly allowed into the country.

Having been satisfied that I’m not going to sully the purity of Japan, or at least that if I do they can catch me, the Immigration Department finally lets us through to Japan proper.

We catch a bus from Fukuoka airport to the main railway station. Tip for travellers: on Japanese buses you get on at the back, and take your ticket. Then at the end of your journey you show the driver your ticket, which has the number of your stop, then you pay the fare. This is fine if you know (and haven’t forgotten) that you have to take a ticket as you get on.

At the station we catch a Shinkansen, aka ‘bullet train.’ The ambience of the new Shinkansen is far better than the earlier types, which seemed to have been made out of plastic and had all the ambience of a school cafeteria. The ‘Sakura’ (‘Cherry blossom’) class train we catch has a wood panelled interior and masses of space, with an aisle you could waltz down, and immense seats with legroom fit for a giraffe. After ten hours in a flying sardine we are overcome by the comfort and promptly fall asleep.

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