A Travellerspoint blog


Day 2

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Second day in and i knew that I would struggle to fill my day with exciting things to do in Osaka. I started by heading to Tennoji koen, with promise of homeless people setting up karaoke machines and charging people to sing. There was none of this! Maybe because it was raining, or maybe that jsut doesnt happen anymore.The park was nice enough, apart from the rain and my insistance on not taking an umbrella!

From here I walked around and found shitenno ji, which was really good because it had a pagoda, AND i got to go up and inside it, which i have never done before. AND to make this place even better it had the oldest Torii. So my two favourite things.

THen i found the bonus temple of Ishiji, but i didnt feel inclined to pay money to see any more of this temple. Kyoto maxed me out for temples really.

After wondering around aimlessly for a short period i ended up back at the park. The problem with Osaka is the limited map in my guide book, and lack of maps on the street to assist. So i had to go back to the park in order to find the next thing worth seeing. Which was an abandoned amusement park. Well according to my book it should be very much open, but by later doing some research on wikipedia i found that it closed last year. This doesnt really suprise me looking at the area it is in, the whole area looks pretty run down. I guess in opening the park they were hoping to reinvent the area but that didnt work.

SO i walked past this and into the shin sekai area, which is probably the reason for the parks close. ITs kind of a run down street, with restaurants you wouldnt wanna eat in and lots of pachinkos. The Tsuten-kaku tower in the middle is dowdy looking compared with the umeda sky building.

THen i walked through den den town which is the osaka equivalent of Akihabara, bought a new memory card becasue it was less than a tenner. Then i walked back up to Dotonbori because lonely planet recommended an all you can eat thai buffet,and with thailand being my next country, i thought i best get in the mood for their food. WHich at least will beat Japanese food.

So after a late lunch my day was done. And i feel that i had completed everything interesting worth doing in the city with 2 days to spare!

Posted by leiasj 03:26 Archived in Japan Comments (0)


Day 1

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So i rose at a reasonable time to catch the local train from Kyoto to Osaka, and what a nightmare. I got on the limited express which only stopped at 3 stops between the two for a half hour journey. But the train filled up at Kyoto and then even more at each stop after that. I didnt manage to get a seat so I was standing in the middle of the train trying to hold on for my life as the train whizzed around corners and hold on to my bag so that it wouldnt fall on anyone. Then the woman behind me who was against the wall and had plenty of room in front of her, kept on leaning on me as i was being leaned on in every direction and pushed towards her, as if that was my fault! Then at Osaka everyone piled off and shoved their way past me and my bags, not really being very cooperative. THen at osaka station i got onthe loop line in the wrong direction so had to change again. Luckily i found the hostel with no problems and met up with brad again there. He had left an hour before me but had gotten lost finding the hostel so was only just leaving to see Osaka when i got there so we ended up spending the day together.

Our first destination was Umeda Sky building. Since im such a fan of these sort of things. THis building was very attractive looking, two towers joined at the top with an open viewing platform. SO we went up and saw the view over Osaka. It would seem that the building is quite popular for weddings, so they offer the service of engraving locks. BRad bought one to give to his girlfriend as part of his plan to apologise for his deeds in Roppongi and Shinjuku.

From the tower we took the train to Osaka jo. Being a SUnday in cherry blossom season the gardens/castle was very busy. I was far more impressed with this casle, which was made into more of a museum inside and offered good views from the roof. Although some of the information was quite boring, such as the life histories of some people in a battle that I had never heard of but someone had painted a screen of it. There were some very cool holographic videos to tell the story of something or other, but with it being in japanese we had to skip past them rather quickly. It was difficult to appreciate the view from the top because it was so busy up there and i was starting to feel faint with claustophobia. SO we quickly went down to the park again. THere were lots of street entertainers, included one guy who had a performing monkey which i did not like to see at all. the monkey was clearly very scared of the huge crowd that had gathered around them. It was probably standing in a nappy of its own urine and faeces since that is what monkeys do when they get scared, believe me i know!

On leaving the park we came across a traditional japanese wedding finishing from a templeon the grounds. It was very strange to see what the bride wears, she has a very nice white kimono on, but a very strange hat on her head. Usually woman look attractive in their kimono but this bride just looked silly!

SO from the castle we went back to the hostel to refresh ourselves. After which we decided to check out the Dotonbori area which offers the nightlife of Osaka. We found a nice mexican restaurant to have dinner at. After this we took a walk down the road and saw how crazy the nightlife is in Osaka. It was a mixture between Roppongi and Shinjuku, with people everywhere and lots of crazy things going on with the buildings such as ginat ships and dragons going through them. But most impressive for me was when i spotted Donki Quiote!!! It had a ferris wheel going around it!!! Now i guess this is similar to what they tried to do at the one in Roppongi with the rollercoaster on the roof, but it never even operated because the locals were against it.

From here it was just back to the hostel for a good nights sleep.

Posted by leiasj 02:50 Archived in Japan Comments (0)


Day 5

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My final day in Kyoto, and there wasnt much left that I hadnt done!

I got the bus ticket again and headed with Brad to the Golden Pavilion (well i had done the silver one, so I had high expectations for the Golden one!) and i was not disappointed! This pavillion wasnt under restoration for a starters! And it was gold... very gold!!! Gold leafing has been applied to the outside and in the early morning sun it looked quite spectacular. Unfortunately it was not possible to go inside, or even very close to it, but from a distance it looked good.

Then there was a short walk around the gardens which was quite nice. There were a couple of places where you could throw coins into a bowl by a statue. I tried first with a 1 yen piece, but since they weigh absolutely nothing the wind just took it away. SO then i gave it a go with a 5yen piece and got it in straight away. Now there was no sign telling me why i was doing this, but i took it to mean that I could make a wish. Though it could just have been that one person started it and it jsut kinda stuck! I then bought a candle for the first time at a shrine, i chose the candle that was for "a family in safety" which I thought was a nice message. I then lit it and placed it with the others at the shrine.

After this Brad and I went our seperate ways, but only after he had told me a very typical Roppongi story. He had been in Tokyo for a couple of nights and had decided to check out Roppongi. After a couple of drinks he took up the offer from one of the street hustlers to go into a strip club. After a few more drinks he decided to get a lap dance, by this stage he probably would have spent about 50quid at least. When he came out of the strip club he headed to Shinjuku and decided to take up the offer of a "massage", paying 15000 yen (about 65quid) he went up to a hotel room, which charges by the hour, and waited for his massager. SHe arrived and instructed him to shower, after this he lay there as she quickly massaged his back and then instructed him to turn oer. He did this and she quickly massaged his front. And then declared herself finished. Through the language barrier Brad protested that he thought he had paid for a little bit extra. She told him that mouth was another 15000yen. After a brief discussion and some more money parting hands he got what he paid for, well he said it wasnt great but... ANyway, once he was all finished he decided that he had parted with enough money and decided to walk from Shinjuku to Asakusa... which are at opposite sides of Tokyo! He then told his girlfriend about all this and no suprises she wasnt impressed!

SO back to my adventures, which im afraid arent as exciting. I went to Ryoanji temple, which has one of the most famous rock gardens. Which has 15 large rocks but only 14 can ever be seen. And thats true! I wandered around the rest of the gardens, saw plenty more cherry blossoms. It was just a shame that the lake was having work done on it, so that didnt look so attractive.

After this i went to Nijo Castle, which was the first castle that I have visited in Japan so i was interested to see how different it would be to European castles. It was much smaller in scale and seemingly a lot more decorativly finished. Other than that, there wasnt much on display inside, and it wasnt furnished or looked like it had been lived in for many years.

From here I walked to the Imperial Palace gardens. Having seen the gardens in Tokyo, I was quite disappointed by these gardens. Just a load of trees really and a wide gravel path. The best thing i saw were some turtles in the lake, which i wasnt expecting. And of course the usual carp! There were also some very nice blossoms in full bloom. I wanted to take a photo of myself on a bench in front of them, so i set up the camera, and went to walk over in the 10seconds before the picture was taken and just then a Japanese Mr Bean type character came and sat on the bench with no real purpose except to ruin my photo unintentionally. Luckily it wasnt long before he left and i was able to take another photo. ALready i noticed that some of the flowers are starting to fall from the trees.

Last stop of the day, and in fact for Kyoto was the Nanzenji temple, which I had missed the previous day when i had walked the path of philosphy, but with some time to kill i thought i would check it out. I mostly wanted to see the SAnnon and the view from it as i had not yet been up one, and the view was supposedly quite good from the top. And it was a very nice view of Kyoto.

After this i went back to the hostel and was told that they were having a bit of a party tongiht because one of their staff ws leaving. So the manager prepared for us some homemade sushi which we could roll ourselves. All of the usual ingredients were there, rice, eel, salmon, prawns, octopus, wasabi, tuna, crab. I just opted for the safer options of tuna, salmon and crab. I wasnt in the mood for being adventurous.

And so was my last night in Kyoto.

Posted by leiasj 02:07 Archived in Japan Comments (0)


Day 4

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Again I decided to opt for the bus ticket as I was planning to start my days sightseeing some distance from the hostel. I took the bus to the Zenrinji Temple in the north of Kyoto. this was quite a quiet temple not unlike many of the others i have seen. I then walked north a way to the start of the Path of Philosophy, which begins with the Nyakuoji shrine. The path looked rather spectacular with all its cherry blossoms starting to bloom and the crowds were out for the occassion. Mostly Japanese and American, it seems love the blossoms.

As i was walking along the path i came across a japanese man doing some drawings sitting on a bridge. His drawings were so good that I bought one of a close up of a dragonfly hovering with a mountain background, and it only cost 1000yen.

There were several other things that stood out to me along the way, there were many smal craft shops, one in particular was selling Levi jeans that had paintings on them. another thing i saw was where someone had set up a couple of teddys to look like they are fishing.

At the end of the path,and feeling fully enlightened, I went to Ginkakuji temple, otherwise known as the silver pavilion. The temple itself was under restoration, but the gardens were very nice themselves. And i got to see some VIP moss, which is something quite spectacular! And a key ingredient if i am to have my own japanese style garden.

After visiting the pavillion i had some time still to kill before my 3pm appointment, so i decided to take a wonder around and came to Yoshida hill, not something that many tourists would visit and in fact i only saw 3 people the whole time i was walking around it, which was quite nice compared with the hoards of people that were on the path and at the pavilion. And the shrine had a torii so i was very happy with that!

From here I caught the bus down to gion to meet Rachel. We met a little early and so i took her to the street where i had been the night before and seen the geisha, since she had ended up at the wrong street that same night. From there we walked to find the photo studio where we were to be made into geish ourselves.

The process of transformation was somewhat of a production line. First to dress youself in the undergarments. Then your face is cleaned, and the white paint put over your face and neck. Then the eyes are made up, and finally the lips.

Then it is down to choose a kimono. They were all so beautiful that it was really difficult to decide, but i chose a black one with a red flower design. Then to be fitted takes quite some effort with all the many layers. Over the under garments goes a skirt, then there is a thing over your shoulders which it to keep the kimono down from your neck so that you can show it off, aparently the neck is a very sexy part of the body. Then the kimono goes on. Its tied so that the length is good, then the obi goes on and around and around, then the bow is placed over at the back. Then to finish off a silk cord. This is all comfortable enough, providing you didnt breath in while they were fitting it, it wasnt too tight. BUt the wig is a different matter. to keep its shape it is a wire frame, and it is heavy. but far less effort, i guess, then have your hair styled, especially as apparently many geisha go bald in their old age because of the hair styles, not an attractive look!

Through to the studio, and everyone poses in the same 6 ways, then for a final 7th photo, if you buy the cd, you can chose what to pose with, i went for a fan. the actual shoot took about 5 minutes i reckon. then we had the chance to go outside and take our own photos for 10minutes. it was lucky that me and rachel met because otherwise neither of us would have had someone to take photos at this stage. Eventually we needed to get the wigs off so we went back inside. Transforming back to our original state took far less time, the wig just pops off and the kimono is easily undone. The only hard part was to remove all the make up, but baby oil worked very well for that, and again it was lucky to have rachel there so she could take it off my back and visa versa.

From the studio we went and caught the bus downtown so that Rachel could have her meal at the Ryokon she had checked herself into for a change. I opted to wander around the mall and found an alice in wonderland themed place which served rice omlettes, something i was yet to try. i went for the set which included soup, bread roll loaded with some much butter that if i hadnt taken some off i would have had a heart attack right there, and then drink and dessert.

After our seperate meals, i met with rachel again and we returned to Gion. her ryokon had reserved us 2 tickets for the show at gion corner. IT was quite expensive but worth the price to experience all that we did. First we saw a tea ceremony being performed, followed by shamisen being played and some flower arranging. Then we had a man dancing in costume with a small orchestra. Then we had a comic play where the story was that the man didnt want his two servants to steal his sake while he was gone so he tricked them and tied them up. but this didnt stop them and they worked together to pour each other the sake. the man returns home and the servents are drunk. then we saw some traditional geish dancing which was very relaxing, not quite as dramatic as in memoirs of a geisha but just as cool. After this the final performance was puppet theatre which was really impressive, 3 men dressed head to tow in black operated the woman puppet, and made her move as if you would forget that they are there.

After the show finished we went upstairs to sit and have our own tea ceremony. the woman taught us all the ettiquette of the tea ceremony, It is quite important as so where the instruments are placed when you are not using them and washing the bowl etc. But what i found most interesting was the importance of the way that the bowl faced depending on the time of year. as we are in spring the side with the cherry blossoms is most important. that should be the side facing you while you make the tea, and the side to point to your guest as you give it to them, but then when they drink it that side must face away from them. It was all rather pleasent and dignified, and if i could buy the instruments in england i would consider myself, hosting a ceremony.

From here we decided to have a couple of drinks and so after wandering around ashort time we found an izakiya. Though the man wasnt too happy about us only ordering drinks! but we were both full from our dinners so we couldnt manage any food. After this we went our seperate ways, rachel to her ryokon and then to tokyo in the morning, me back to the hostel, just catching the last bus!!!

Posted by leiasj 03:41 Archived in Japan Comments (0)


Day 3

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this was a pretty big day. Lots of walking and seeing temples/shrines. First I got the bus, because a day bus ticket costs 500yen, so by just using it 3 times its a saver, plus i knew how far it was to walk to the start of my temples hopping, and that i would be going away from my hostel and not in a loop at all.

So my first stop was SAnjusangendo temple which I had heard was good. The draw of this particular temple is the 1001 Kannon. ONe big one and 500 smaller ones on each side. It was quite overwhelming, I didnt count them but I should estimate that 1001 would be acurate. Unfortunately, as with many of the temples/shrines I was unable to take any photos, which is odd because at the next temple i went to there was a poster for the Sanjusangendo temple which had a photo of the kannon on. So anyway, i just took a photo of the poster, which looks like a real photo now! IN the gift shop for this temple, rahter than getting a mobile charm, which i have decided to collect on my travels, I paid to receive a small trinket which sybolises the following:
Fukurokujyu- The God of 3 blessings: Fuku, Roku and Jyu. Fuku for prosperity. Roku for wealth. Jyu for long life.

from here i went across to yogen in, but i was not allowed in because i didnt speak japanese, which is what i gathered from the little old lady, i think that was her opinion, since there was an english sign!

from here i went to another quiet temple just because it was en route but it was quite pesent anyways, called chishakuin.

coming from this direction to the next temple meant that i missed the crowds and enjoyed a pleasent walk through a huge buddhist graveyard. upon reaching kiyomizudera temple, i met the crowds coming from the Gion direction. this temple is up a hill a way, so it offers some very nice views over kyoto. one experience at this temple is to walk through the womb of zuigu bosatsu. this route beneath the temple is darker than pitch black. to find your way through you must feel your way with the buddhist beads to the stone where you then make a wish. another reason i liked this temple was for its 2 pagoda, i like pagodas almost as much as i like torii! another feature of this temple is the love stones, if you can make it between them you love wishwill be granted soon. since seb wasnt there i had little chance of making it to the other stone, the idea is to have someone guide you. so i didnt attepmt to make it through the crowds, since failing would result in it being a long time before my love is realised.

the walk down from the temple was via the main route lined with lots of touristy shops which were nice to look in and i also got to try some japanese sweets flavoured with cherry blossom. on the way i passed yasaka pagoda, which is all that could be done at this pagoda.

My walk continued up some stairs and i came across something that I was not expecting. From the view at Kyoto Tower I had seena large statue in the distance, and on reaching the top of these stairs it was the same statue that appeared before me. It was a giant Kannon, which i discovered was to remember the unknown soldier of WWII. I was offered a stick of incense to light and leave in memory. The statue itself was very impressive.

Just over from the Kannon was Kodaiji temple. Here I encountered my first rock garden, or in western terms zen garden. It was very interesting to see, and the more japanese gardens i see the more i would like a similar style garden myself if possible.

Down from Kodaiji temple i went to Maruyama park, where again there were some very nice gardens and some street performers to entertain. A man with a dog stopped to talk to me, he wanted to tell me some good places to visit in Kyoto.

From the park I walked down to Yasaka jinja shrine, which is apparently the guardian shrine of Gion.

From here I went to CHioin temple. THis temple has the largest gate in Japan and the largest bell which takes 17 monks to ring it! I then visited the nearby Shoren in temple, which was quiet and pleasent.

That was all the temples etc that I had planned for the day but it was still early so i squeezed in one more. For the second time in the day i came across something which I had spotted from the Kyoto tower but wasnt sure what it was. But it was amazing!!! A giant red torii, the entrance to heian jingu shine. this being a relatively new one, only 110 or so years old. so the shrine itself wasnt very impressive, but the torii over the road looked really cool.

So after this shrine it was time for me to take the bus to gion, with hope of spotting some geisha on their way to their appointments. I knew the street that i had to go to and so walked up and down a few times. Crowds started to assemble and it was a mix between looking for lions on safari and waiting for the Queen. Not really sure where the geisha might appear from but cameras at the ready like they are celebrities when they do appear. Sure enough it wasnt long before a geisha came flying through, as if appearing from nowhere and disappearing as quickly. Going into tea houses to make appointments. What somewhat spoilt the atmosphere was the hoards of taxis passing down the street, which otherwise appeared to remain as it would have looked for centuries. And also when a couple of geisha climbed into a taxi with a man and his wife it somewhat spoilt the image. But aside from this, i was very happy with my geisha encounter, having waited 6 months in japan before experiencing it.

Posted by leiasj 23:01 Archived in Japan Comments (0)

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