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  1. I decided to have a Kentucky Fried Christmas in Japan this year. While I have been in Japan in the two previous years during the summer, I have never been in Japan in early winter (the last 2 weeks of December). I do not wish to do skiing or any kind of mountaineering sport. My current itinerary is: Tokyo - Nagano (snow monkeys) - <unsure yet> - Okayama - Tokyo (during the 28 december - end of year quiet time). For this trip, we are not going to Hokkaido or Kyushu. Are there specific must sees that I should not miss while I am there? Is there a lot of snow usually in Japan in early December? (I guess, only Tohoku gets lots of snow), and do Joyful trains also run in this time? (I am pretty sure the Oykot train runs, but unsure, about any other Joyful trains, and schedules are not available for this December yet) While I am there, I will also try to go on the 500 EVA and E4 while it is still running. Tips are welcome! Update Is it also possible to book the Sunrise Seto/Izumo in Japan before the start and without having a JR pass? (i.e.: only book a reservation and ticket, without booking the ticket part which is covered with the JR pass?)
  2. The Chuo Line in Yamanashi Prefecture was re-opened today after being shut down for 3 days due to record levels of snowfall, the greatest amount since weather records began being taken in 1894. Scenes of snow-clearing at Yamanashi-Shi Station today; track-gang snow clearing is not normally seen in this part of the country, though it can be seen on the Japan Sea side, such as on the Joetsu Line past Gara-Yuzuwa, especially for clearing snow off station roofs and the like. EH200 on a snow clearing detail somewhere in the Kofu/Yamanashi-shi valley, yesterday:
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