Before I get into the disaster that was getting the heck home from Hokkaido, Julie brought to my attention that I should probably be more specific as to what my Japan map actually means. Japan is comparable to California in size except it is a bit longer and thinner (according to Julie's map overlaying thing). So think West Coast. By normal trains, it took me 5 hours to get to my friends house in Gunma the night before we left, then it was 23 hours of solid (non bullet) train riding to get to Sapporo by Saturday morning at 6 am. If that makes more sense.
So when we traveled up to Sapporo there was no problems (minus having to run for train #1 just because we were walking slowly), so in reality we should've known better that all hell would break loose on the way home.
So the original original plan for going home was I would ride normal trains all the way to Tokyo where I could pick up a bullet train (shinkansen) that would enable me to get all the way to Shizuoka in one night. However, before we left for our trip my friend realized that they changed the train times and I would miss the final bullet train by 2 minutes. So then the new original plan was to take a shinkansen from Utsunomiya (an earlier stop) to Tokyo and then take shinkansens home that way. The night that we got on the sleeper train, we decided to change the bullet train part of our plan. If we took an earlier, cheaper, shorter shinkansen ride early in the morning, we would gain significant hours and my friend would be able to get home 2 hours earlier. I would not, but I would save 20 bucks, so I said let's go for it. And everything was fine until after that shinkansen ride that morning.
We got on the next local train in the plan, and all throughout the north of Japan there was high wind warnings. Therefore, our train to Ichinose was required to travel at the speed of steam engine for a great portion of the route. And we missed our connection train by three minutes. And the trains come once an hour, and I would no longer get home on time that way. So in order to catch up, we took a bet. We took another bullet train to Sendai in the hopes that when we got there, we would catch our planned regular train to Fukushima and return to our schedule. It would cost the same as the original plan for me with these two shinkansen, so we were still okay. We would have to get to Fukushima by 3:05 for me to still get home on time that way. It was around 12:20 when we arrived in Sendai. There was no reason it should take that long to get to Fukushima, despite being a long train ride.
WELL, the train to Fukushima was late in arriving, and once it did arrive it decided it needed to wait for some other late trains to get it before it left (although of course when WE needed to catch one of our trains, none of them waited. Gah). But it left, finally, and we were off....at the speed of a steam train in the 1800s. Because of the wind. And we did not make it to Fukushima by 3:05. So now I had but one choice to get home that night: get to Tokyo and take original shinkansen that I was going to take in the first place. I was pretty pissed, because at this point I paid the same amount as if we just flew to Sapporo, which is what I wanted to avoid by riding the trains in the first place (we bought a special spring break train pass to take local train lines=cheaper than flying). Sooo it all ended up being out the window.
I got to Tokyo (Ueno actually), where I hellfire booked it to another platform to get to Tokyo station, where I made the crowded shinkansen by minutes. And I got home by 11. Yep. Alllll according to plan.
But despite the stupid wind, it was still a wonderful vacation. ^.^