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Miyajima and Osaka

The day of tranquility, trains and wow moments.

overcast 22 °C

Waking up in the ryokan today, it felt really like Japan because the light was coming in through the paper and wood screen. The traditional inn is a must-do experience.

Today's breakfast was similar to the other ryokans where it seems to be a lighter version of dinner...... ie fish, pickles, rice, tofu, miso. The good thing about Japanese cuisine is that you can stuff yourself silly then a few hours later you feel better. This was evidenced by our eating a green tea ice cream from the vending machine only a few hours later..... What am I like?! Don't answer that.

Upon presenting the omiyage gift to the inn manager, he whipped out a reciprocal thank you gift for us from under the desk. So Japanese! So nice and thoughtful. After checking out, we had a wander though the gardens which are too pretty to be true. We found a temple where the Dalai Lama visited in 2006. It is so lovely there because not only does it have the usual temple things, but is surrounded by the cutest most quirky Buddhas and gnomes like statuettes. They are lovingly adorned with knitted beanie hats and beads. People put coins on them too. I have some pics. Took a lot of pics....I'd love to fill the garden with these little dudes, so much easier to care for, just crochet a hat and decoratemwithnsome bracelets, at least they won't die in the Aussie heat.

So to the ferry and another local train to Hiroshima station. Found lunch in the form of bento, pineapple, tinned coffee and crumb cake. Hell, my diet is totally shot but we are walking a lot and sometimes carrying day packs. Another Shinkansen ride, this time to Osaka. The bullet train was very plush this time. Each is slightly different, much like aeroplanes. In fact they could be described as squarish aeroplanes and they certainly go fast enough for takeoff. The one thing they don't do, but the French TGV does so well, is these trains do not bank corners. Just LOVE banking corners!

Now Osaka, another big city. More salarymen, bright lights, tall buildings, neon lights and people. Our hotel is located near the shops. Let me tell you, Osaka is shopping central and full of kitsch too. I cannot wait to browse. Might buy a plate of plastic food! On the other hand there are more culturally serious things to do.... Lets see what happens tomorrow which is the last day.

This afternoon, we took a couple more trains to see the Osaka aquarium. This place is totally amazing! It is HUGE. Actually before taking you in there with my description, I should mention the enormous Ferris wheel nearby. It is Bigger than the London eye and took my breath away. Only ¥700 for a ride.... Alas no time. The focus today was on the watery interior of the aquarium.....

The aquarium is 8 storeys high. You go to the top and walk down in a spiral. On either side are various tanks representing the different important marine or freshwater environments of the world. For example, Australian Great Barrier Reef, Seto inland sea, Pacific rim, Monterey canyon, arctic, Antarctic, Tasman sea, coast of Chile etc... The tanks are deep and span several storeys so you see them at different depths as you descend. They are staggered, so you don't see all at once, except the centre tank which was full of sharks, rays, generic fish, hammerhead, whale shark etc..... It went for several storeys. It's mesmerising. You could easily stay there for hours watching, which is precisely why we went 2 hours before closing time, to prevent overstaying. Highlights for me: bioluminescent jellyfish, actually all jellyfish, freakishly huge crabs that might exted over 2m if stretched out, sardines and anchovies (yum) going round and round endlessly like the mad prisoners in Midnight Express. Special mention also to the playful otters, dolphins and seals, plus my sometime bad hair day mentor, the rockpool penguin aka Lovelace from Happy Feet.

And so it was we left at 8pm with our own happy feet. Took trains back but being briefly separated when Paul got on a train and the doors shut. I was stuck in the crowd and couldn't get on. He came back for me, I am glad to report. Very crowded and hard to follow your leader sometimes.....
We stopped off for a takoyaki snack in in a tightly jammed, hot, loud, stuffy, smoky bar. These octopus balls were hot and tasty however do not deserve to be called balls. They were either deflated or better described as an octopus splat. Couldn't get out fast enough. Clothes stink of smoke now.

Forgot to mention that before the aquarium we ate a pizza in a terrible diner. But the Pizza was delicious and we were starving. Paul ordered 2 small pizzas and they gave us one. It was only 18cm diameter. To share this was ridiculous but we did. It was enough so that we could enjoy the aquarium without looking at the exhibits as some type of food source.

Osaka, you are our last stop here in Japan, so lets see what you are made of tomorrow!

Posted by fay_bee 06:26 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Osaka

Haze in the air and in my head.

overcast 23 °C

All the western style breakfasts we have had in Japan are yucky because they lack good fruit and the bread is insultingly soft white and sweet. Tomorrow morning, Starbucks is looking attractive.....

Today we had a to see list. We eventually got through it. It took a while. Top of the list was to get to the top of the Umeda Sky BUilding. This is an architecturally interesting building and I have pinned it a few times on my Pinterest board in the past, so it was good to see it in person..... However.... It was somewhat pointless. There was a lot of haze and a lot of pushy rude people. Plenty of viewing space though which is great. Secondly, Osaka has no skyline really, but plenty of bridges and roads and rail roads. After having been to Manhattan and being on top of the Rock and the Empire State, this was a bit of a fizzle. BUT, getting to the top is fun via a very rapid external glass lift and then escalators which are in suspended tubes at 45 degree angles suspended about 150m in the air. Not for those with vertigo or afraid of earthquakes!

We wanted to see the basement area afterwards to find possibly the single most kitschy artificial old Japanese alley recreation, composed of alleyways of eateries. Such a plastic place is not complete without an artificial plastic shrine... How bad. How sad.

Getting to the Sky Building was a bit of a navigational challenge. One would think that after seeing a tall building you can just walk towards it. This plan was foiled many times by interruptions from train tracks, major roads, shopping complexes the size of several football fields and the lack of a grid road layout. Paul is navigator extraordinaire, me, I just follow him like a puppy.

Next stop:Osaka Castle. By more trains. Honestly, is it never rush hour here? The trains are always packed and with all types including the ubiquitous salarymen. Pease note that in Osaka there are also salaryWOMEN! They too wear black two piece suits (skirt or trouser) and possess a slightly less intense look. Obviously this subspecies does not roam in packs, but is found amongst the male subspecies, alone or at most, in couples.

Osaka Castle is a marvel even though it is reconstructed. The most impressive part was the height and the fact it's perched on massive boulders with no mortar. It's gilded and has a very imposing presence. We did not have time nor inclination to go inside with the coach loads.....

By now my head was making a haze of its own, but we pushed on to see the next stop: Namba Park shopping complex. Also a place on my Pinterest board so a must see.... A little disappointing but probably because it is best viewed from above. It is a layered hanging garden style mall. The shops were upper end but their names are hilarious: Jesus diamanté, hysteric glamour, car life, balcony, etc.....

I was unable to process the seriousness of shopping in such a place and also having a touch of exhaustion, we decided to head back to the hotel for a little rest and recharge.

After that we tackled stage two of the list in the twilight which is the best time. We walked through Amerika Mura, a godawful teenage infested location for the tragically hip and cool and weird..... But a visit to Dotonburi is a must and how you imagine modern Japan. This is Blade Runner territory being loud, full of neon glare and crowds. It is set alongside a canal so the madness is reflected back at you. We stopped for more takoyaki. They too were deflated so maybe that's how it's done on this side of Japan..... A visit to Den Den Town is supposedly important for those who enjoy an electronic diversion but this was probably the most disappointing place of all. It was dimly lit, scungy, dirty and half the shops were shut. The other half sold DVDs and CDs or anime and comics..... OR kinky stuff. Time to make a swift u turn.

We had dinner in the tiniest Italian restaurant. And the food was delicious.... So incredibly nice to eat tomato pasta sauce! This would count as our 19th wedding anniversary dinner so it's just as well it was a good choice. It wasn't a big expensive dinner, it was all about being cosy and comfortable and happy. It worked. So did the after dinner discovery of the perfect shopping area. Once you find your perfect shopping area (much like water seeks its own level, you find one suiting your own budget and taste), it is very hard to escape.... However closing time rescued me from my perpetual state of indecision. I managed to spend some yen on a few things.

We have tonight left and all of tomorrow. The plane leaves just before midnight. I hope I sleep tonight because it will be another midnight horror flight. I didn't sleep at all last night and today we walked 19 km!!

With that, I am signing off. Not sure if I will be able to access wifi tomorrow. Otherwise it will be finale at Singapore or at home if all else fails.

I hope you have enjoyed sharing my travels to Japan and learnt a little something along the way with me.

xxx

Posted by fay_bee 07:18 Archived in Japan Comments (1)

Osaka

Last day.

sunny 24 °C

It's great, we had a late checkout at noon! This meant a more leisurely start and breakfast at Starbucks nearby. Though Paul made use of the hotel breakfast vouchers by getting take away beverages to have in the room while we got ready.

We got ready, packed the bags and left them at reception. From 11am until 6pm, we looked around the surrounds of the hotel. It consists of shops, alley of shops, arcades, boutiques, malls, shopping centres and .... Shops. No open green space to relax, no museum or gallery. There's a Catholic Church next door and offices. So we browsed and shopped and had lunch. You can only do that for a little while. It all started to look the same.... The ladies fashion is ultra girlie. All frills, pastels, lace, pearls and that kind of thing. So very me. NOT... Therefore that was easily avoided. However, dangerous territory is the shop that sells stationery, household goods, furnishings and food. Not coincidentally these are the shops that we are both interested in and spent most time (and some money). The endless variety, the extensive range, the good value.... It is amazing here. Osaka is the place to shop for sure! But knowing the modest size of our home, and my dislike of waste and the existence products that are really actually unnecessary, I consider that I was not led into temptation and was delivered from the evil of consumerism. I have not needed to use the expansion zip on my suitcase!

As a result, today there is nothing exciting to report. We have seen some funny signs, t-shirts, shop names and people. The weather was optimal and we have just enough money for a taxi and some supper at the airport. We have an hour's train ride after the taxi to get to Kansai airport, but that is on the JR train pass.

Good bye Japan! We had a fabulous time and we learnt a lot. It is time to go home, eat fruit which will be more plentiful but less sweet and gorgeous, time to go to work and gradually have holiday memories fade away. Time to get back into a routine of exercise and healthy eating. Time to plan the next trip!

Over and out.

Posted by fay_bee 02:21 Archived in Japan Comments (3)

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