Western Honshu

A lot of catching up to do, for I’ve passed through some more of Kyoto, Nara, Osaka, Hiroshima, and Miyajima since the last entry. The typhoon brought one more very rainy day on the 31st, but after that it definitely go better. The day before that heading out of the hostel for more sight seeing, Khalil and I got into a parade of the Kyoto Women University. We are not sure about what they we’re celebrating,all we could figure out was that the University was established 111 years ago and that they we’re celebrating the 100th anniversary of something. The parade was fun though.

Kyoto Women University Parade

After that we went for the sight we intended to including the Silver Pavilion with a very nice garden. From there strolling along the Philosopher’s Path we got to the Honen-in Temple, where the ubiquitous colorful spiders caught most of my attention and as most of the time we ended up seeing less than planned, following the notion ‘less is more’ and taking our time for the places we visited. On the way back to the hostel we hopped of the bus to have a look around the Nishiki food market, trying some tasty specialities.

Garden at the Silver Pavilion
Spider at the Honen-in temple
Nishiki Food Market

The day was Saturday and the day before Halloween, thus Mark (my canadian roomate) and I headed out to check out the nightlife and the potentailly extravagant japanese costume. We ended up at a club called Sam & Dave and the atmosphere was stuff and hot, but good. As expected it was mainly the girls who had invested much effort and care into their appearance. It got late the next day was more or less gone, but as mentioned no big loss as it was marked by torrential rain.

The day after that the weather finally got more clement and more sight were on the schedule, although I started to feel a slight sight seeing saturation. Still I went on visiting Nijo-jo Castle, Eikan-do Temple for its garden and a couple more places. That evening is also when the last blog entry was written.

At Nijo-jo Castle
Eikan-do Garden

On the 2nd of November I finally left Kyoto in the morning to spend the day in Nara. The visit of the tourism information at the station was very fruitful as the nice lady suggested a student guide for the day. A free service! That’s how I got to know Akane, who would guide me through town explaining many interesting aspect of the locations and general facts and customs of the japanses culture. The highlight was without a doubt the Todaji Temple with the famous Big Buddha, which is truly gigantic and is sitting in an equally gigantic hall! The afternoon was rounded off with a pleasant Sake tasting at a Sake factory and the visit of a lovely little coffee house. A big Thank You! goes to my guide!

Big Buddha, measuring 15m in height.
Coffee House in Nara

As the sun was seting I got back to the station to catch a train to Osaka. There I checked into a Capsule Hotel. Quite an unique experience. I was a pretty good value as additionally to the capsule for sleeping you can use all facilities for free all night long. This includes a Sauna and a public bath featuring a hot, a cold and a bubble basin. Sweet!
There obviously was a holiday coming the next day, as the streets at night were pretty busy. But I didn’t quite realize that until the next day and I was anyway too tired to stay out late that night. At least I got to see some more of Osaka that way instead of just sleeping in… Thus I went to see Osaka Castle which looks best from outside and features a museum inside, with too much information to read with the sunny weather outside. It was a wonderful autumn day and tons of people were strolling in the park around the castle. Therefore I joined the serene atmosphere in the warm sunshine under the autmn foliage.
Before sunset I finally went towards the Floating Garden Observatory known for nice views over Osaka and opulent sunsets. It held what it promised and it is indeed one of the best observatories I’ve been to recently.

Famous Osaka Billboards

At the Castle Park
Sunset from the Floating Garden Observatory

In the evening I then realized that I had missed the big night out, as I was trying to find some spot to get a drink. I walked many paths I had the night before to see little people and not much activity. Somehow I still ended up in a funny bar, the Blow Bar meeting Suzuki and Ayane with whom I would have a couple of drinks, play table tennis and darts, whereas at the latter two I was not as succesful as with the first one…

My last Shinkansen ride the next day brought be to Hiroshima, which I left deeply impressed and a litle depressed. The horrific history of this place gets a fairly new nature once you are actually there and wander through the elaborate Peace Memorial Park and walk through the Museum that tells you all about it. I hope I will witness the historic moment where the Peace Flame will no longer be burning, marking our planet’s relief of all nuclear bombs and the threat of nuclear annihilation.
The present city, however, is rather nice and lively. I’d liked to stay there a bit longer, as at most places I’ve been to here in Japan. But the calling of the South got louder by the day.

Children's Peace Monument
Peace Memorial Park

Before flying down to he Okinawa Archipelago I spent a day on Miyajima Island, know as one of the three most scenic spots in Japan featuring the Itsukushima Shrine listed in the UNESCO World Heritage. I also hiked up to the top of Mount Misen, the highest point of the island. Ascending the 535m up there were the first sporty activity in a long time, was quite fun and rewarded with panoramic views over the inland sea. After relaxing in the sun I headed back down to take loads of pictures of the shrine and the Torii Gate in front of it. At low tide one can wald around the shrine and to the foot of the big gate, but as the tide comes in it get all immersed into the water. I’ll spare you the tons of pictures resulting of that day and finish of this entry with a couple of my last pictures on Honshu before leaving for Okinawa the next morning.

View from Mount Misen
Itsukushima Shrine
The Torii Gate at Dusk

Greetings from Okinawa!

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