August 17, 2005

I had a holiday

Phuket.
I have to work tomorrow.
I did have holiday.
My legs are in a world of pain they have not known before.

Friday
Arrived in Kyoto on the night bus. the night before I got the bus platform early - as my paranoia insisted - however I was waiting at the platform from Kyoto not to. Luckily a kind Japanese gentleman going to Osaka (same bus) took me to the right platform -- neither platform was actually outside the city office - the place I was told to go.

Once I arrived in Kyoto at 6-7am - I went staright to my hotel, handed my vucher, got a receipt and was then told that check wasn't until 3pm. I needed a shower so badly!!! But as I had plans to meet Ken in Osaka sometime before 10. Ifound a locker - squished my bag inside (fter getting changed and reorganised my backing slightly in a toilet) and headed on the first train I could find to Osaka.

On the way to Osaka - told Ken that I wa getting there early, but not to worry as I needed breakfast and to buy a phone charger anyway first. Oddly passed a trainstation called Ibaraki on my way -slightly disturbing.

At Osaka found the gate Ken told me to find, bought a charger and hotcakes and started eating (the pancakes) while waiting. No sign. 10 comes, no sign. Get a message about 10:05 "where are you, I'm here". Okay - I point out a nearby convinience/tobacco shop as a landmark and say meet there. "I'm there, where are you?". Okay, a juice shop. Same thing. --- Yes this continued for about 20 minutes before I decided stuff it - tell me what station to buy a ticket to and I'll meet you there.
This was a smart decision - we still walked past each other on the platform once, but found ourselves on the return trip 2 seconds before the train was going to leave.

At Koshien we watched the very famous high-school baseball tournament. Here the best teams from each Japanese prefecture come into a knockout tournament to find the future stars of pro-baseball, and win prestige. As its a knockout tournament system each team playing here has not lost a single game per season - depending on the orefecture they may have won 5 games, or more than 10. So that means around 19 teams are about to have their first dramatic loss of the season --- which for many of the boys will be their last game of proper baseball.

The entry for the stands is free (unless you want premium seats where you can actually see the game). Although this was my first baseball game, I have seen American and Olympic baseball (it was like holy-shit - Australia has a baseball team and they are kicking ass) - but Japanese baseball does not have hot-dogs --- instead popcorn, yakisoba, and beer were available. Oddly cans are not allowed into the stadium - but once inside you can buy cans of beer - go figure that one out.

After watching a game of baseball - we decided to head to Universal Studios while we still ahd time to see things. Universal Studios Japan is a helluva lot better than Universal in Orlando -- or maybe it was because we went in off-peak season in Florida. While there were still extremely long lines -- apart from the 1 and half hour wait for Shrek 4D Theatre - they were bearable because of side entertainments speedy movement - and at Spiderman the nifty trick of starting the line all the way on the other side of the building and passing you through about 10 rooms before you actually reach the ride. And also it was all under cover - a very smart idea. Spiderman was the best ride, shortly followed by Jurrasic Park - for having the most cruel-ass surprise drop in the world --- Now Splash Mountain is huge - but you are expecting it - this just came the feck out of nowhere - I thought it was a nice little kids ride.

Back in Kyoto - checked in and went to sleep.

Saturday
Lets see how far I can walk. Slept in -- unsurprisingly after two sunrises in the previous week - plus the comfortability of the night bus. Woke up - missing breakfast (which as it turns out was not included in the room) and headed to Astro-Boy-Land next to the Train Station. Actually Osamu Tezuka World - which consists of a store, 20 minute film showing the origin of AstroBoy (Mighty Atom) and a manga library. All in Japanese again, but it was worth the price ($2).
Then I went for a walk up the Kamogawa river trying to find temples by following a Japanese map. This was not a smart idea.
6 hours, lunch, and a few temples later I reach the fork in the river, notice the sunset and think, maybe I can walk all the way back. But first lets check out the Imperial Palace Park - which is actually a National park - and so I think for that reason had three police cars patrolling the grounds.

That nigt decided to go to the single club in Kyoto noted in the Lonely Planet guide (which I bought that day after leaving my copies at my apartment). Arrived way to early - though it was about 10. Things didn't start happening till about 12:30 or 1am. A foreign DJ, plus a DJ/MC group "Good Job" were playing - and it was actually pretty good Dance/Club style music. A bit Techno, and bit Dance, and a dash of pop/hip-hop stuff. Met hot Japanese girls. Hot Japanese girls turned out to be girls (17 - Damn lax club entry laws in Japan). No booty tonight. Stayed at the club until sunrise anyway (I needed a train back after a day of walking and a night of dancing). Yet another day of sunrises. -- Aim tomorrow - actually find a temple.

Sunday
First things first - find an English map.
Went to the International center - which is on the 9th floor of the train station shopping center building.
Used the internet, and found English map.
Plan - lets visit Kiyomizu - which I'm sure was earmarked as the best temple in Kyoto by the teacher before us.

And it was.

Managed to not get too lost finding it - did get sidetracked to another temple - which appeared to be doing quite well - I assume a lot of people were visiting the temple and doing business for Obon - I had OmuRaisu (Rice and Egg/Omelete) at the temple restaraunt. - Christian churches could learn from Buddhist temples --- set up souveneir shops, books shops, and cafes in every one. (Though then we'd probably be forgetting Jesus' anger rampage in the Temple).

So, Kiyomizu was the best temple ever. First off went to a cellar with a holy wish rock. Now this cellar was pitch black. As well as heights pitch black does not make very happy. At the same time - Walking down a slope relying on nothing but a rope of beads to lead you to safety was a bit freaking freaky. I actually spent about 3 minutes at the start waiting for the man ahead of me to move - it was a curtain (it was pitch black okay).

The rest of Kiyomizu consisted of awesome temple goodness, like shrines, shops, noodle bars, wtaerfalls, pagodas, prayer gates, charms, giant pink fluffy bunnies and good luck rituals.

After Kiyo-Mizu headed towards Gion, going through some parks. Just stumbling across temples, and the tribute to the unnamed soldier (a giant buddha-like statue). And as the awesominity of my getting lost - I just feel like I'm getting lost and I'm suddenly exactly where I want to be.

Gion performance was correctly overpriced, and incorrectly timed in the LP Guide (meaning I missed two minutes). And the general feel of Gion was not one of especially old Japan (except for the cobbled street with Gion Corner at one end -- and then department stores, pachinko and Omiyage galor at the other).

Then went to a funky Hamburger restaurant just plastered with individuality - but then couldn't eat the cheeseburger because I was too full (and unwisely ordered a large size steak).


Monday
Lets go somewhere new, and get attacked by native wildlife.

Nara is fucking awesome. See some temples. Learn about culture. Watch a festival. Get mauled by deer.

Deer are everywhere in Nara - or at least in the parkland - which is where the tourists go. You can buy deer food every few hundred meters and then get attacked until its all gone (and buy some more). Given Japanese females and children propensity to be scared by anything from butterflies to twinkle twinkle little stars - you'd think free-roaming hungry deer would be a supid idea - and yes it is. I saw at least 20 instances of girls (read 20-30 year old women) running from dear that just nuzzle against them - but your under 10 year old boys and girls just burst out crying - and parenbts then prod them towards the animals for more tirture. Ah, Japanese parenting techniques - make them cry, it builds character.

Deer did chew on my clothes.

In Nara I did more walkning, and then when i decided I'd had enough, and it was time to head back to Kyoto - I noticed that a stage was being set up and what looked like candle holders were being set up everywhere. So I jumped off my seat and crushed a poor Japanese woman's foot (true story - sorry Japanese woman).

Turns out Tokae was on. I still don't know what it was - but it was a lot of candles and Nara's own personal Daimon-ji - which was very very good. Would only been better with some awesome Japanese Hanabi.

I bought my own candle, lit it and left it outside the Museum. Bought some fried potato (which contrary to American belief can be bought off the street in Japan - awesome!).

Back in Kyoto I decided to be adventurous and find some back alley restaraunt to eat at - with the adventurous meal of spaghetti and meat sauce. Which was pretty brave - as the Japanese don't seem to have the concept of serving meals at a temperature that is safe to eat. I've been toughening upmy throat, but got pretty burnt by this dish.

Tuesday
My last day in Kyoto - thankfully. Touring alone is not all that fun, I've found.

Lessons learned on Tuesday = plenty. If you need a coin locker to store your luggage for the day - get up early --- the large lockers disappear fast. Managed to shove my luggage sideways into a medium sized luggage, and my other bag in a small locker. Then had breakfast at McDonalds.

What to do with half a day left? I did some shopping. Not much walking today - because I was very tired --- so I decided to see the allegedly better rival temple to the large very cool temple I saw on Saturday. After walking there - I discovered like the other it was under some rennovations - but the entirity of this temple was being rennovated, so apart from the gates, there wasn't much sightseeing to be done here.

So I headed slowly back to Kyoto Tower, going through sidestreets to get a gander at some more of interesting Japan. My heart was set on zipping up to Kyoto tower and then seeing Daimonji and then heading back to the station and catching my bus at 10pm.
First I stopped at a video game arcade - and checked out what looked like the most awesome game. You buy some cards - use those cards on a board and as you move the cards you move soldiers on a battle field to attack your enemies castle. Yes it is as fucking awesome as it sounds. And when you win - you get more cards. Japanese arcades are awesome.
Stopped at The Gap and picked up a cool T-Shirt I wanted. And then headed to Kyoto Tower - CLOSED!!! OMG - closed on a night when they expect a lot visitors so they put out special tickets that sell up in advance - who would have known. Nevermind, the Train Station has a nice rooftop garden that you can surely see the mountain from. Hmmm.... CLOSED! And monitored by police. So I grab a gyouza snack and ponder my next move. There appear to be crowds on the massive steps at the station. So I wait there, trying to get a good look at the mountain. Not much luck. The police also shout a lot into megaphones. And slowly Japanese people seem to be clearing off. Soon I'm surrounded by other clueless Gaijin. I listen into the policfe commands "naninaninaninaninani dekimasen" - hmmm, you can't something something something something. So I wait a bit longer, strike up a conversation with two new JETs, who are not sure at all what is happening. So we decide to go to the other side of the station where they think we might get a better view. Just as we leave I check with the nearest policeman -- hmmm "Koko-kara Daimonji mirukoto dekimasuka" Here-from Daimonji Looking can you? (Okay, yes it was bad) Answer "Mienai" No See. Aaaargh. Curse you LP Guide "Just hop on the roof of a building".

The otherside of the building was not quite as dismal. We could see a simmering sight of slight yellow lines on two mountainsides. At this point we call it quits and the JET two decide to catch the early train back and wish me luck as I have no idea where exactly my bus leaves from - never fear. I have an hour.

So I find out where my bus leaves from - with the help of a very kind Japanese guy - who just had time to spare to help the helpless gaijin. Then its dinner time - and I head off to something Japanese - like Yoshinoya --- a Japanese style fastfood restaraunt. That serves you green tea or beer as a beverage. And rice and raw egg dishes. At first I was surprised at the presence of raw egg, but then I remember that I have actually had this before in Australia. And it is actually quite delicious. You use your hot meat to semi-cook the egg and then add some rice. Very Very Very nice.

Bus back and walk home and go to sleep.


Now I need another holiday.

Also turns out Kanto had a massive earthquake while I was gone. My herbs had fallen off the microwave onto the floor when I arrived home.

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