Day Six: Osaka

Back in Osaka, back chez Tim, where you can tell you’re getting near his place when you spot Hotel Mickey Cookies.

Back in Osaka - Hotel Mickey Cookies
Mickey Cookies is a Love Hotel.
A “love hotel” (ラブホテル) is a type of short-stay hotel found in Japan operated primarily for the purpose of allowing couples privacy to have sexual intercourse.
Which is probably why you can rent it for 90 minutes.

Costume Hire
And hire costumes.

But that was just on the way to the Osaka Aquarium!

Osaka Aquarium

We arrived at the aquarium just after it opened (as recommended by Lonely Planet Japan) to a sign advising that there were … a LOT of schoolchildren inside. Like thousands. And they recommended that we come back later.
But we had come all this way so we went inside the door where a lady reiterated what the sign said and handed us two tickets to the IMAX theatre show “Under the Sea” to occupy some time before we could come back and brave the hordes.
So occupy some time we did. Incidentally, I had really wanted to see “Under the Sea” narrated by Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet when Craig and I were at the Science Museum in London but he scoffed, and we didn’t see it.
Instead we saw it completely in Japanese, not dubbed by Kate and Johnny, and it was just as amazing. Impressive 3D and an empty cinema (seriously, there were two other people in there, and the IMAX cinemas are LARGE). Plus, due to the complete language barrier I got to play the fun game “fucking or fighting?”.

By the time we made it back to the Aquarium pretty much all trace of the children was gone. It was a little eerie. But we got to go inside!

Feeding time for the Otters

Whale Shark and Entourage

The Osaka Aquarium Kaiyukan (海遊館) is one of the largest public aquariums in the world and is home to a pair of Whale Sharks.
Whale Sharks are the largest living fish species and can grow to 12m in length. Their mouths? can up be up to 1.5 metres wide.

Kid and the Tail

But I was more impressed by (unsurprisingly) the Manta Rays.

Manta Ray. My favourite.

Partly because of my well documented love of Rays, partly because it was completely unexpected, partly because as a child I had read and reread and reread The Girl of the Sea of Cortez by Peter Benchley and it just … stuck with me.

Friday: Literally awesome.

Manta Ray

Dork Ray

(they had other Rays there as well)

Stingray face

Reflection

Dork Ray

Craig christened this species the Dork Ray.

Smushed Face

With Dolphin and entranced child

Christmas time at Kaiyukan

Dolphin and Santa

Aquarium Quote

Capybara

And randomly, as you leave, there is a Capybara.

Capybara

Craig touching a SharkTouching a Shark
Touching a sharkTouching a shark

Baby Sting Rays

Poor Otter

Sting Ray

The area is Aquarium themed

Puffer Fish

Ah. Just like that, I’m exhausted. I will finish of this day later.
So. Many. Fish. Photos.

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Day Five: Hiroshima

Breakfast in Hiroshima
A breakfast of Brioche (I hope) and Sports Water (we never did work out what that flavour was) before heading out to, of all things, the Mazda Museum.

Guide and the 60s car
Yes. Seriously.

Wankel Engines
It wasn’t exactly interesting to me, but Craig enjoyed it. And I did like seeing the Assembly line. No photos of that though, in case I sold trade secrets or something.

RX* Wiring

1990s Concept Car - Water Bubble
1990s concept car, designed to look like a water bubble. I like it.

We caught the train back to Hiroshima and then a tram down to the A-Bomb Dome and Peace Park.

A-Bomb Dome

Peace Volunteer

A-Bomb Dome Info

Mobilised Students Memorial
The Mobilised Students Memorial.

Children's Memorial - for Sadako Sasaki
Children’s Memorial – for Sadako Sasaki

I remember a little yellow book in my primary school library all about Sadako, and a song that we sung in choir.
Sadako was two when the bomb exploded in 1945 and was diagnosed with leukemia at 10 years old. On her sickbed she started folding paper cranes spurred on by the Japanese saying that one who folded 1,000 cranes was granted a wish, by August 1955 she had reached her goal but she continued to fold cranes until her death in October 1955.

Children dedicating cranes

SADAKO FROM HIROSHIMA
1. She saw the Thunderbolt in the sky
like a million suns, it prickled her eyes;
she saw the Thunderbolt in the sky –
two years old, it prickled her eyes.
But now she sits making paper cranes,
paper cranes, paper cranes.
Now she sits making paper cranes – Sadako from Hiroshima.

2. She was a runner, swift and strong,
she was tall and slim and her legs were long;
she was a runner, swift and strong –
ten years old and her legs were long.

3. She went to hospital tired and weak,
it was hard to laugh, it was hard to speak.
she went to hospital tired and weak,
eleven years old, it was hard to speak.
And now she sits …

4. She lost the race that she wanted to win –
paper cranes couldn’t cover her with their wings,
cranes couldn’t cover her with their wings –
twelve years old and she wanted to win.
And now she lies with her …

5. This is our cry, this is our prayer,
“May the crane of peace fly everywhere!”
This is our cry, this is our prayer,
“Crane of peace fly everywhere!

Peace Flame
Peace flame

Craig and I with the Peace Flame
A lovely Japanese man carrying his own DSLR offered to take this photo, it worked much better than at Fushimi Inari where a well meaning American lady carrying a little point and shoot offered to take one similar.
She was perplexed by the viewfinder, ahh how cameras have changed.

I talked to a different group of kids
There were small groups of children running around talking to tourists and practising their (ever so polite) English.
They asked what our names are, where we were from, our favourite part of Japan, and if we had a message for the Japanese people. They had us write our answers on 1 side of a piece of paper and circle our home city on the world map printed on the other.
In exchange they gave us each one of these pink pieces of paper.
Craig has a photo on his camera of me with the Japanese school children. We are the same height.

Korean Memorial
Korean Memorial
(it’s no use Mr James, it’s turtles all the way down)

V for Fanta Jelly!
Fanta Jelly!

8:15
8:15

Thursday: 8:15 - Watch in the Museum
8:15
Hiroshima Museum

Craig, caught thinking
A hilariously unplanned photo of Craig caught thinking.

Sadako's Cranes
Some of Sadako’s cranes!

A girl, holding a fish, riding a fish. Of course.
A girl, holding a fish, riding a fish. Of course.

Hiroshima Castle
Hiroshima Castle.

Bombed Willow Tree

Detail

Beware of Schoolgirls

Back at Hiroshima Station
Back at Hiroshima Station.

Craig, waiting for the Shinkansen
Waiting …

Me, waiting on the Shinkansen
Waiting …

Bullet Train
and a slightly slower bullet train back to Osaka.

Day Four: Kyoto to Hiroshima

Buying tickets
By day 4 we didn’t even need to look for the “English Assistance” button on the ticket machines.

Blythe doll as advertising for a University?
We were catching the train to Inari. Blythe dolls were advertising a University. Kinki University. Seriously, check the bigger version!

Off the train at Inari station Craig and I followed a group of Japanese people wearing backpacks, and a few other tourist-y looking people. A few metres down the road we stopped as we hadn’t seen any signs directing us to Fushimi Inari.
I think we had all been following students.
A Spanish lady, a Swedish couple, and a Japanese couple were also lost. A lovely little old Japanese lady who was passing directed us back up the road where there was a GIGANTIC Torii if only we had turned left out of the station instead of right.

Fushimi Inari

Raining
It was raining. Which meant that it was actually quite quiet. And lovely.

Wishes, Prayers

Poor Sam
Poor Sam.

Origami Cranes

Beautiful paintings
Okay. That’s enough of the prayers.

Fox

Fushimi Inari Taisha (伏見稲荷大社?) is the head shrine of Inari, located in Fushimi-ku, Kyoto, Japan. The shrine sits at the base of a mountain also named Inari, and includes trails up the mountain to many smaller shrines.
Merchants and manufacturers worship Inari for wealth. Donated torii lined footpaths are part of the scenic view.
Inari is the Japanese kami (spirits, natural forces, or essence in the Shinto faith) of fertility, rice, agriculture, foxes, industry and worldly success and one of the principal kami of Shinto.
Inari appears to have been worshipped since the founding of a shrine at Inari Mountain in 711 A.D.

Kitten at Fushimi-Inari
Kitten!

Torii
Torii!

Fox and Torii

Wednesday: Torii

Anime Fox

Me and the Torii in the Rain

Craig in the rain
Oh lord, Mo-Vember.

Engraved Torii
And after a while the rain became a little too heavy and we headed back down the mountain.

It was magical and one of my favourite moments on our trip.

Happy Terrace at the top of Kyoto Station
We went back to Kyoto Station and visited Happy Terrace.

No Glowing Cubes
Where we had to leave behind our glowing cube. Not cool, Kyoto Station, not cool.

Skywalk. 11 Floors Up
And we wandered across the Skywalk. It was 11 storeys up and Craig took photos of the structural bits and pieces. Getting his structural-draughtsman-geek on.

We had lunch at Katsukura. I rolled my eyes at the other tourists taking photos of their food and now? I find myself wishing I had done the same. Naturally.

And then, the moment that Craig had been waiting for, the Shinkansen!

We rode this Bullet Train

Inside the Shinkansen

Things we noticed: there was very little blurring outside the window. We were travelling at 280km/h and yet? couldn’t tell at all. Also, there was no countryside to speak of, just varying levels of city/suburb.

View from Shinkansen

Sunset from the Bullet Train

The sun set while we were on the train and we arrived into Hiroshima in darkness.

Day Three: Kyoto

A full day in Kyoto

Beautiful Red

Craig and I followed a walking tour from our Lonely Planet. It was long and exhausting but comprehensive and we saw beautiful beautiful temples.

Wishes, prayers

Jizo.
Jizo
Jizo are small statues decorated with red aprons here and there in Kyoto, and especially at Kiyomizu. Each of these represents the soul of a dead child, often placed by a mother who aborted a baby. The apron is meant to keep the child warm in the afterlife, to atone for the death.

Purification

Kiyomizu-Dera

Dragon

V for Victory

Kyomizu-Dera and Kyoto Tower in the Distance
We were on a verandah that dated from 1633. Eesh.
(that’s the Kyoto tower in the background)

Otowa-no-taki, the lucky waterfall

Otowa-no-taki, the lucky waterfall

Information

Drinking for Health, Longevity, and Success
You drink for Health, Longevity, and Success.

UV Sterilisation

Jizo

Geisha

Geisha crackers?

Tanuki - A Racoon Dog
Tanuki – Racoon Dog
Statues of tanuki can be found outside many Japanese temples and restaurants, especially noodle shops. These statues often wear big, cone-shaped hats and carry bottles of sake in one hand, and a promissory note or empty purse in the other hand. Tanuki statues always have large bellies. The statues also usually show humorously large testicles, typically hanging down to the floor or ground.
The legendary tanuki is reputed to be mischievous and jolly, a master of disguise and shapeshifting, but somewhat gullible and absent-minded.

Yep. Those aren’t legs. They’re balls. Giant racoon dog balls.

Tanuki

Kannon

The Ryozen Kannon is a war memorial commemorating the Japanese who died during World War II located in Eastern Kyoto. The concrete and steel statue of the Bodhisattva Avalokiteśvara (Kannon) was built by Hirosuke Ishikawa and unveiled on the 8th June 1955. The statue is 24 m (80 ft) high and weighs approximately 500 tons.
(I love big Buddha!)

Wishes, Prayers

Amazing Leaves

Carp!!

Heron in flight

Beware Duck, Carp are HUGE
Beware Duck, Carp are HUGE

Vibrant Red

Monk and the Moon? a Banana?

Striking Leaves

At Chionen Temple, where we walked on a Nightingale Floor.

Flowers at Chionen TempleFlowers and Chionen Temple

Bunny!

Craig found a model store
Craig found a model store. I stood outside (it was claustrophobic in there! (and boring))

Fanta Jelly! The obsession begins
The beginning of an obsession. Fanta Jelly.

Soy Sauce flavoured crisps

We collapsed back at the hotel (Soya Sauce crisps!) before heading out to the covered shopping district to hunt out food and … an umbrella.

Dentist sign?

Inglorious Basterds - Japanese Poster

The Inglorious Basterds poster looks so much cooler in Japanese.

Day Two: Nara to Kyoto

After our first full day in Osaka, Craig and I caught the train to Nara, on our way to Kyoto.

Deer!! OMG! Deer!

Nara is famous for the deer which, designated as National Treasures, roam freely through the 502ha Park.
They are almost tame! almost. According to the warning signs (which are ENTIRELY in Kanji) they can shoot electricity out of their heads. Creepy deer.

I took about 7000 photos of the deer.

Deer Souvenirs

I didn’t buy an inflatable deer. But I did buy a hat which makes it look like I’m wearing a deer on my head!

Perfect

Craig and Todaiji

Craig outside Tōdai-ji, the largest wooden building in the world, is a temple which houses a 50 foot tall Buddha (have I mentioned that I love Giant Buddhas?) Vairocana.

Ahh! Big Buddha

Vairocana (this iteration) is a Buddha who is the embodiment of Dharmakaya, and who therefore can be seen as the universal aspect of the historical Gautama Buddha. In Sino-Japanese Buddhism, Vairocana is also seen as the embodiment of the Buddhist concept of shunyata or Emptiness.

Painting roof tiles. Auspicious.

Painting roof tiles. Auspicious.

So damned picturesque

Most of the leaves had turned by the time we arrived in Japan but some trees were still astounding.

Posing!

Lanterns

More Deer Sign

I’m guessing it says “Caution. Angry deers can electrocute”.

I think that you are Lovely

Ahh. Dying. So cute.

There were a LOT of deer about.

So cute.

Kanji

Feeding the Deer!

Then we bought special deer crackers and fed the adorable little beasts.

Deer Crackers

I found it a little terrifying though, they are quite tall. I mean, compared to me.

Craig and the Deer

Like a painting

Boarding Point for Ladies Only, Nara Station

The platform for the train from Nara to Kyoto was lovely. Rainbow glass and special boarding points for ladies (at peak times only of course).

Rainbow Wall, Nara Station

We caught the train to Kyoto, struggled (just a little) to find our hotel then collapsed.

Little bowls, Hearton Hotel

Day One: Osaka

From the Archives

Orange Juice

In the early early morning (read: 9am) Craig and I crept out of Tim’s place and wandered around Osaka, just a little, to see what we could see and to find breakfast. And to hopefully not get lost.
We sat on the bank of a river (read: concrete stairs next to a river) and ate brioche, taro-flavoured donut, and orange juice. Watching cyclists pass us by & feeling delightfully out of place.

Fruit for Sale near Osaka-Jo

We made it back to Tim’s (success!) and teamed up with some couchsurfers he was hosting (Tin-tin, Agatha, and Mark) and we all went out to Osaka Castle, Osaka-jō.

Craig & turning leaves
Ahh Mo-Vember, how I do NOT miss thee.

Guy with an Iguana on his back
No. I do NOT know what the Iguana is about. But I like his kicky leash!

Small child and Sake Bottle flowers

Osaka Castle through the changing leaves
Osaka-jō

Close up

Plastic food - display

Grape Fanta!

That dog is wearing SUNGLASSES
Yes. That dog is wearing SUNGLASSES.

Yaki tori. Perhaps chicken?
Yaki-tori.
Yes. To drive my darling Mother completely insane we bought skewered chicken cooked (ish) from a stall.

Either way, it was delicious.
And we ATE it. It was delicious. And we didn’t die.

After the Castle we went to a store called Don Quijote (not a misspelling BTW & yes that bugs me now) which was terrifying.
It’s a discount chain store and was … sensory overload. I couldn’t even bring myself to take a photo. I was too busy.
And yes, they sell sex toys and yes I did look. But no, they weren’t any stranger than in New Zealand. Or London.
I did however try to convince Craig to buy a kigurumi (a full body animal costume). He did not.

We made it back to Shinsaibashi Station and arranged to meet up with Tim & Mio for dinner. We wandered through the Dōtonbori area to look at the lights and the people who are just there to see and be seen.

Glico man unlit - Dōtonbori

Glico is the company who make Pocky!

Glico Man - Lit up! Dōtonbori

Osaka Crab - Dōtonbori

Takoyaki - the signature food of Osaka
Takoyaki (たこ焼き) is a the signature dish of Osaka. It’s a dumpling made of batter, diced or whole baby octopus, tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger, and green onion, topped with okonomiyaki sauce, ponzu, mayonnaise, and katsuobushi (cuttlefish shavings).

I like squid, but octopus? it turns out, not so much. I can still remember the feeling of the little purple sucker on my tongue. Creepy.

The Horrors of Park Place

Dōtonbori

I’m being over dramatic (Surprise!), there are no horrors. Well, very few anyway.

In fact, last night I even managed to sleep with the bedroom door shut and all the lights off. What? yes, I’m 26 and scared of complete complete suffocating horrifying darkness. Aren’t you? Can’t you feel it pressing in all around you? Hiding anything but also an entity? Can you now? Anyway. One curtain open and I coped. Victory!

Also? we live in the bush. Not REALLY of course, we are walking distance to civilisation and other houses, but there is an awful lot of greenery all around the house. Lots of trees and ferns. It feels decidedly bush-esque. This means insects. A lot of insects. Myriad insects. And I do not like insects. There are spiders and moths and THINGS I CANNOT EVEN IDENTIFY.

But mainly? MAINLY? (well, besides the insects thing, but I can’t effectively control that) it’s because the phone lines at the house are all messed up (Craig’s technical term there) and as such we have not had internet since Wednesday.
AND I HAD PLANS. I had plans to post all of my Japan photos this week. But no. You just get one shot of Dōtonbori at night and well … they are sending out a technician tomorrow so we shall see.
If we are without internet indefinitely? I might come out in a rash. I’m a little worried.

Week Forty-Six

365 in 2009!

Sunday: Souvenir Pins - Osaka Castle
Sunday
Osaka
Our first full day in Japan, Craig and I tagged along with a couple of couch-surfers and went to Osaka Castle.
I love these souvenir pin-ball machines.

Monday: Macro Deer
Monday
Nara to Kyoto
On our way to Kyoto we spent the day in Nara, famous for the tame deer which roam the city and Nara Park.
According to legend, a mythological god Takemikazuchi arrived in Nara on a white deer to guard the newly built capital of Heijō-kyō. Since then the deer have been regarded as heavenly animals, protecting the city and the country.
Also? they are ADORABLE.

Tuesday: Geisha!
Tuesday
Kyoto
In Kyoto, we walked for miles and miles through winding streets, temples around every second corner.
My favourite moment was spotting this Geisha at Kyomizu-Dera.
EDIT: I’ve been advised (ahh the wonder of the internet) that it’s actually a tourist dressed up like a Geisha. Which is a little disappointing but I suppose it’s as close as I was ever going to get. If we’d had more time in Kyoto, and more money, then I wanted to try this as well! Next time, maybe.

Wednesday: Torii
Wednesday
Kyoto-Hiroshima
Our last day in Kyoto, we visited the Fushimi-Inari shrine which has thousands of these bright red Torii lining mountain paths.
As we walked the paths the rain set in, we had umbrellas and rain coats and most of the rest of the tourists cleared out. It was magical.
We caught the Shinkansen to Hiroshima in the evening.

Thursday: 8:15 - Watch in the Museum
Thursday
Hiroshima-Osaka
A watch frozen by the Atomic Bomb, in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum.
We spent the morning at the Mazda Museum (yes, seriously) and the afternoon at Peace Park.

Friday: Literally awesome.
Friday
Osaka
Ahhh, the Osaka Aquarium. I loved seeing the Whale Sharks but it was the Manta Ray that took my breath away.

Saturday: Tim and Mio, adorable
Saturday
Osaka
Our last day in Osaka. We wandered the shopping district with Tim and Mio (how cute are they? answer? VERY) before collecting our bags and heading off to Kansai International Airport.

&

Looking at Craig when the timer went off

In the grounds of Hiroshima Castle, Craig was checking I had myself framed properly. I was peering at him in this photo.

(More Japan photos in the next week or two!)

The weary travellers return.

Craig and I arrived back in Wellington at Midday on Sunday. After a 12 hour overnight flight during which we collectively achieved around 4 hours sleep and a 3 hour stopover in Christchurch. We were vaguely delirious with the exhaustion and so we decided, ever so sensibly, that Sunday afternoon would be the best time to move ourselves from our cozy abode (aka a little room in my Parents’ house) in to the large and empty house we will be living in until further notice.
At the time? it seemed like a good idea. At 8pm on Sunday it seemed like the worst idea in the world.
We spent the first night rattling around the big house like Kendra (a simile suggested by my baby sister and I’m gonna run with it) with little more than a fridge, a tv, and a bed. But without the stripper pole in the living room.
And Monday, Craig feeling jet-lagged and off work, we moved the rest of our life into the big house, and spent too too too much money getting the ephemera one needs to outfit a house. By 7pm we were mainly finished* though the internet is still not connected (sob).

I told you all of that by way of explaining the lack of photographic evidence of our time in Japan and the lack of yet another 365 update**.

Also! The internet and my disinclination to research (crazy, I know) led to the following items being USELESS in Japan:

1 pair of jeans. 2 turned out to be sufficient
My scarf, hat, and gloves
My hairdryer. My straighteners could deal with the voltage difference but my hairdryer was ridiculously underpowered.
1 pair of shoes. I made do with my boots on days we had to travel, and 1 pair of plimsolls. Fancy flats were superfluous.

It turns out that in Japan, the autumn/beginning of winter temperatures are somwhere in the range of 17-24 degrees celsius. In New Zealand we call that SUMMER.
It was, however, hilarious seeing everyone else wearing long sleeves & jackets & scarves while Craig swanned around in a t-shirt. I am eternally grateful that I included my blazer as a last minute addition to my bag, I could not have survived wearing my winter coat.

So. In short? we are home. Japan was amazing. Lovely. Incredible. We had a great time. Photos will be forthcoming. Maybe.

* We haven’t even started on moving my books though. That’s a weekend size chore.
** I forgot one day! Agony! I was going so so well. It was the day we flew to Japan where we left our Auckland accommodation (chez in-laws) at about 6am, spent the day on the plane, arrived in Japan and felt overwhelmed by it all, then went out with our friend & host-in-Japan, Tim, for dinner and drinking before crashing into bed just after midnight. Sigh.

Almost almost almost gone

Bags!

Yes. Those are the bags I have packed for our darling little trip to Japan. They seem … remarkably small. However I’ve gone over my mental list a thousand times and I have everything I can think I’ll need for a 9 day trip:

3 pairs of jeans. 1 to be worn on the plane. What? they’re very stretchy jeans!
1 pair of leggings in case I tire of denim clad pins
6 tops (1 white, 2 black, 3 coloured)
1 dress
1 skirt
1 blazer
A scarf, hat, and gloves because it’s wintery up there
Enough underwear to sink a ship (or rather, to last 10 days)
Scant jewellery
Basic makeup
Hair appliances
iPhone and camera chargers
2 pairs of shoes
2 bottles of wine as payment for accommodation at our darling friend Tim’s abode.

And yet – all of this fits into a bag that TECHNICALLY is carry on legal. But I will be checking it. I hate people who test the limits of carry-on-only. Especially when they use bags with wheels.

MY carry on bag is my little old guess handbag. It contains mainly camera ephemera (camera, extra lens, wide-angle adaptor, spare battery, memory card, remote) as well as my travel wallet, a small book (A History of Love by Nicole Krauss), bits and bobbins along the lines of floss and mints and hand lotion, my iPhone & headphones, a neck pillow, earplugs, eyemask, and a small bag of musk candies. I don’t think there’s anything else I need.

This is terrifying me. I’m not used to packing light AT ALL.
And mainly? I just really hope that anything I HAVE forgotten (and there is likely to be something. Last time? toothbrush. NOT THIS TIME!) they sell in Japan and is not break-the-bank expensive.

Now? my main problem is that the outfit I have to wear to Auckland and on the plane tomorrow is far far too wintery to bear wearing in this unusually sunny Wellington weather.

But I must. I’m leaving soon!

Plane Clothes