As a cultural introduction, there are several sacred things in Japan. One, of the most paramount importance, is the railway operators. These are the descendants of the Gods that created Japan, and are infallible. Rigorous training, punctuality to the second and clean white gloves are their attributes.
With these gloves, there is a verbose and ritualistic pointing routine. I believe it is them summoning the spirit of their conductor ancestors to guide the train using divine wind, and always arrive at the next station on time. I'd love to get a video of this ritual, but I am unable to find any so I'm forced to believe that you can't capture it on film. Perhaps if you do, the Gods destroy your camera. I have a new camera, so I don't want to test fate.
Now that you understand the secret society of train conductors, I can begin my story.
I was scheduled to arrive in Tokyo on Monday morning at some point, so on Sunday my mother-in-law accompanied me to the local station to buy tickets. This would ensure I take the most efficient route and wait for the least amount of time.
The station attendant arranges schedule, and deftly delivers the tickets with instructions on when and where to board. I am to take the 8:38 local express train to Kyoto Station, and arrive at 9:00am to transfer to the 9:16 Nozomi 4 N700 Shinkansen.
Monday morning, over coffee, my mother in law informs me that it seems there is a local train that arrives at our station at 8:37 and I should be careful to not get on that one. That would put me in Kyoto around 9:20, too late to get on the Shinkansen.
When arriving at our local station, I see on the arrivals board the local train at 8:37 and another local train at 8:57. There is no express.
I wait to see if anybody on the platform is going to wait for the next non-existent express, which they don't. I walk back up to the counter and fortunately see the same guy. In my poor attempts at learning the Japanese language, I never once thought I'd have to explain that I wasn't able to board a non-existent train and I needed to realign my entire trip.
However, through gesticulation and kid-words (でんしゃ ないね） I got the message across. I explained to him that the 8:38 train is only for the weekend, and when he planned my trip he was looking at the weekend local train schedule and weekday Shinkansen schedule.
The reeling back and flushed face was enough to tell me that he understood the message, and his error.
While he apologized profusely, he didn't commit seppuku.
I feel I was misled, but I got my tickets and made it to Tokyo very quickly and efficiently.