Welcome to the show! Tonight, I start on a series looking at the travels through Japan of myself and Alex.
A while ago somebody had the idea of going to Japan. Hrm well actually the thought has crossed the minds of many. But since there’s no time like the present, we booked some fantastically cheap flights and leapt across ocean and landmass alike in an Airbus A330 from the Gold Coast to Osaka. Here are some airport/plane snaps.
The landing at Kansai International was smooth. It’s a big airport, situated in the bay, conveniently connected to Osaka by rail and road. First order of business after the nine hours in a pressurised tin can speeding faster than your mum: money, tourist maps, and dinner. I ordered some okonomiyaki and Alex some takoyaki (though I should mention in order not to imply he’s quit vegetarianism, he did pick out the octopus and I helped myself).
Then we hunted down the train station. In order to ride a train you need a ticket, and we ended up laying down ¥4000 (~$50) each for two-day Kansai JR passes. The train left the airport, and roared up the side of the bay to the Osaka loop line, where it eventually took us to Osaka station. The hotel was about 1km north, so although getting the subway was possible, we walked instead. Checked in, checked out the room, checked the email. Behold, our first encounter with the INAX, a Japanese smart toilet.
The INAX features two water squirters for cleaning ones rear and, for ladies, front matter after use, as well as a seat and lid that can be dropped and will still close softly. But where’s the flusher? Turns out it was not on the main control panel.
Second bathroom innovation: the shower. There are two knobs, like a regular shower. However, instead of the cop-out approach of having one for hot and one for cold and letting the monkey figure out the right combination, this shower has one knob for temperature and another for flow rate. Also, the temperature knob has a locking button that can optionally prevent the knob proceeding beyond 40 degrees, presumably in the event of children.
We hit the sack and awoke some hours later in Osaka. It struck me as being vaguely reminiscent of Melbourne, though the train system is probably the least similar (in that the JR trains actually work. A rant for another time, perhaps.) After breakfast at the bakery café in the hotel, which had a rather satisfying set menu, we checked out and left our bags with reception.
We can get pretty gadget-nerdy at times, and it turns out Osaka has one of the bigger streets for obtaining well-priced electronics, an area known as Den-Den Town. We walked south back to Osaka station, and caught the loop around to Tennoji, where we walked past a few temples and shrines and vending machines on the way.
Despite all the stores we could have gone into, we pretty much spent most of it in Sofmap. Alex got a Nikon, I got some green goo. Win! But there was much more win at this store.
They had a pretty neat section on the fourth floor for keyboards and mixing desks and other audio production gear, and I was quite tempted. I also looked around for anything that could go in my ExpressCard/34 slot, and for SSDs. Alas, they had not a large enough SSD, nor could I find anything else. But what really tempted me was the out-of-production Mac equipment: they were still selling 12” Powerbook G4s (I can’t begin to describe how much I wanted one back in the day), and even a couple of beige G3 Macs, as well as some of the old accessories.
Bah! I really couldn’t indulge—for you see, in the process of moving out recently, I had vowed to get rid of useless belongings in order to make space for things I really wanted, and I already have enough nostalgia-pacifying computers. Really.
We had lunch at Mickey D’s. Currently they have an “American” theme to their promotion (lol). I got a Texas Burger meal, and this would have to be almost the unhealthiest burger McDonald’s could devise: imagine, if you will, a bun between two slices of meat. Hehe, almost. The Texas has one meat patty larger than the surrounding bun, some cheese, mustard, and bacon. It’s basically a meatwich. (It was pretty delicious.)
Then walked around a bit more before calling it quits. The other objective was to get to Kyoto, where the real fun would start. So the next moves went: train to Osaka station, walked to hotel, got bags, walked back to station, train to Shin-Osaka, limited rapid train to Kyoto, fumbled about in Kyoto station looking for the tourist information centre, obtained a map of Kyoto, and then caught the subway to Higashiyama. Though perhaps we should have waited for the next stop, as once again, we ended up walking 1km to the hotel.
The Westin Miyako Kyoto is quite large, each floor a maze of long corridors and passages. It took about five left turns to get to the room, and we continued exploring the expansive hotel later in search of internet. Before that, we went for dinner. I had some yakisoba, and Alex had a mixed-vegetable okonomiyaki this time. The dinner was semi-ceremoniously dumped upon the heated metal surface in front of us, and we shifted bits and pieces onto the small places with chopsticks.
The final order of business for the day turned out to be the obtaining of foods for breakfast. There’s a convenience store that goes by the name Lawson. It has a nice selection of baked goods and plenty of instant ramen options. Best was yet to come: after purchasing ¥3300 of things, we were told to pull five cards out of a box. As it happens, three of the five cards were for the clerk to go fetch: as a prize!
And so began more walking. Last night there was a festival marking the end of winter, but we were quite pooped by the end of yesterday that we slept instead. Oh well. But it looks like there was some party, because some of the decorations were still up.
All the shrines, temples and so on were great. But for a challenge, we went up the mountain.
And then back down for a bit.
And then at the end of all that mountaineering, was the shrine and temple to end all shrines and temples: Jishu shrine and the Kiyomizu temple—a UNESCO world-heritage site, with utterly amazing buildings and endless entertainment. Lots to do with love. For instance, there are a pair of stones separated by about 10 metres. If you can walk from one to the other without using sight, it is said you will have more luck with love.
After all the fun at the temple, we had some “lunch” in the form of condensed heart attack wrapped in a pancake: the Japanese crépe. This one has a slice of cheesecake together with some blueberry sauce and stuffed with whipped cream. I washed it down with some Fire from the vending machine (served hot. Just the thing I needed on a very brisk day.
This was followed by more walking, back into town. We passed another awesomely-named store called Raak. I obtained a pack of the national food: Pocky. And some sushi on the side.