Tag Archives: train

Osaka, 2016

My husband, daughter and I caught the Shinkasen very fast train from Kyoto to our next destination- Osaka. We spent a little time hanging around the train station in Osaka before we could check in.

There were many artful manga posters, a lot of samurai, art deco lights and some great earing shops. My daughter also got her fast food fix at Lotteria.

Upon arrival, we found our modern apartment and then headed out to the Minami area in the late afternoon. The atmosphere was electric and caused me to think that Osaka was the most liveable city in Japan that we had been to yet.

We strolled the Dotombori river walk, over bridges and beside the river. A tall duty free Ferris wheel rose above a lantern-lined promenade. I spotted a fancy establishment that just had a giraffe on it, framed by projected lines of light that changed colour periodically.

A stage was set up on the water where Japanese pop stars were singing, which my daughter loved; and there were stalls selling beer in plastic cups that you could drink on the river bank, which my husband loved; so everyone was happy.

As the light began to fade, the high-rise buildings lit up with neon and boats passed along the river hosting tourists and locals partying. The famous running man at the mouth of the Shinbashi-suji shopping district was flashing and crowded with people.

On Dotombori Street, the crowds grew thicker, jostling for a place in one of the many restaurants with various gimmicky signs. There were plastic puffer fish, crab, octopus and gyoza next to a market of local food stalls.

We ended up heading to a quieter back street for dinner on the way back to our apartment. Amongst cool funky bars and skewer stalls, we found an oyster bar that served wasabi oysters. It had been nice to head out at night and mix with the locals.

Related posts: Onsen in Nantan, 2016Markets and Manga in Kyoto, 2016Gion, Kyoto, 2016Food and Fervour in Kyoto, 2016Kyoto, 2016Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

Onsen in Nantan, 2016

One of the main things my husband wanted to do in Japan was visit an onsen. Most of the best spas are in the snow, single sex and naked. Seeing as we had our daughter with us we had to find a family onsen near Kyoto that allowed swimwear.

Our journey to Rurikei Onsen in Nantan began with a local train through plunging rivers and mountain tunnels. It seemed like the spa was in the middle of nowhere already, but the best was yet to come.

When we arrived at the closest train station, we found out that we had missed one of only a couple of buses that go to the spa in the morning, so we had to catch a taxi. As the cab climbed further into the mountains and the meter ticked over, I feared that we were lost.

Eventually, we pulled up to the Rurikei Eco Resort Village and there was not a tourist to be seen. The functional spa had pools, hot spas, cold spas, reading rooms, relaxing rooms and a foot tub where fish ate the skin off your feet.

The prettiest was the traditional looking outdoor spa with bamboo decorations and I liked the indoor waterfalls. The weirdest room was the mysterious room that had coloured rocks on the roof that could be seen glinting in the dark room.

The resort also had a hotel and healthy eating restaurant attached to it where we had a tasty light lunch. It also had the only beer vending machine we saw the whole time we were in Japan. I was beginning to think they were a myth.

With time to kill before the free afternoon bus back to the train station, we wandered around the surrounding gardens. The backdrop of mountains was beautiful and they were building a little tent area for future campers. Lots of autumn leaves up here, a cute little friendship pavilion, a water wheel and real waterfalls.

They were setting up the gardens for Christmas with lots of colourful lights, a few Christmas trees, reindeer, angels and even Santa’s sleigh that you could sit in. There was also a strange kids playground that consisted only of stone animals, like Narnia. There were kangaroos, tigers, giraffes and duck statues mixed in with real cranes in the river.

While we were waiting for the bus back at the spa entry with the old folks, I felt the ground roll underneath me. One of the older ladies started freaking out and we realised it must have been an earthquake. Small, but still shaky, it was a very odd feeling.

We caught the train back to Kyoto, happy in the fact that we had been somewhere only locals go and had our last dinner in a neighbourhood restaurant serving Kyoto specialities like mackerel, fried chicken and sake.

Related posts: Markets and Manga in Kyoto, 2016Gion, Kyoto, 2016Food and Fervour in Kyoto, 2016Kyoto, 2016Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

Kyoto, 2016

On the train from Kanazawa to Kyoto I snacked on an immaculate take away bento box while we passed a huge lake.

The warehouse apartment that we were staying at in Kyoto was near Goo temple opposite the Imperial Palace Park.

Also known as the pig temple, the Goo temple was a shrine to 300 boars that saved a lord from death. It was an interesting little place.

The Imperial Palace Park was walled with entry gates, long gravel walkways and huge trees that looked pretty in the afternoon sunlight. We saw some cranes and the Tsukushima Shrine surrounded by water.

To get inside the palace itself you need to book ahead and children under 20 aren’t allowed into this, as well as other palaces in Kyoto.

We found a local supermarket that was so bountiful with fresh prepared food that we didn’t need to go out for dinner.

On our first day in Kyoto we went to the two main things I wanted to see here- the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove and Fushi Inari Taisha Shrine.

The Tenryu-ji temple marked the entrance to the Arashiyama Bamboo Grove. The grove itself was very green, cool and peaceful. The trees were truly very high and bent into each other. A couple were getting pictures at the end of the walkway, her red dress a stunning contrast to the bright branches.

Our next stop was the Fushi Inari Taisha Shrine. Thousands of red gates in rows of varying closeness dotted with statues of foxes. We entered through the impressive decorated two-storied gate at the entry, past the main shrine and the place where good luck charms of little red gates are hung.

Where the gates were most close together was the Senbon Torii- 1,000 shrine gates, which led up the mountain to the inner shrine. We stopped just past this point as the road got steeper and the gates more spread apart. The place was one of my favorites in Japan and more than lived up to expectations.

On the way back down we stopped for a tasty kebab, orange juice served inside an orange and a tiny toy fox to take home.

In the afternoon we went back to the Imperial Palace Park. My daughter had spotted a large children’s play park there the day before and wanted to go back. I think she had started to miss playing with other kids, or maybe just being a kid and having a swing.

Related posts: Takeyama, 2016Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

 

Takeyama, 2016

The train to Takeyama wound through rice fields and rocky rivers into the pine forested mountains. The beautiful autumn leaves began to emerge the higher the train went.

We walked around the pretty little town with its wooden houses and an alpine feel. The river water was so clear that you could see koi swimming against the current.

After a little searching we found the Karakuri Museum. This puppet museum showcases acrobatic puppets used on floats in a festival that the town is famous for.

There was a rolling puppet that served tea and one that wrote calligraphy, from which my daughter was lucky enough to be given writings from. The museum also had a huge collection of lion masks.

Takeyama is also known for sake breweries, so we went into a local shop with the cedar ball hanging above the door signifying that the spirit was served there. After a tasting, we purchased a bottle to take home.

We had some rice dumplings on a stick, followed by lunch in a local restaurant. It was a family owned establishment where we had baked curry and a special kids meal with an origami of a flying crane on beautiful patterned paper for my daughter.

The day trip to Takeyama was one of my husband’s favourite days and it definitely made for a lovely sojourn.

It was dinnertime by the time we arrived back in Kanazawa, so we retested the theory of the best food being near train stations with a nearby sashimi restaurant that definitely delivered.

We also purchased our Japanese souvenir- a striking red kimono doll with the unique style of lacquer and woodwork combined.

The next morning we were back at the train station, leaving Kanazawa for Kyoto. While we were waiting for our train, the local TV station interviewed us about why we had come to Kanazawa, what we had done and what we liked. It was quite a thrill to be filmed and even nicer to be asked again at the end of our stay.

Related posts: Samurai and Shidax in Kanazawa, 2016Seeking Geisha and Gardens in Kanazawa, 2016Kanazawa, 2016Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

 

Kanazawa, 2016

The next day, we caught the fast train to the ‘small town’ of Kanazawa, which had less than 500,000 people. How is that considered a small town? Small by Japanese standards I guess.

We whizzed past canola fields, mountainous forests and the sea. We were greeted at Kanazawa train station by a huge gate and a waterfall. There was also a robot that gave directions from an iPad and looked up at you when you spoke.

In Kanazawa, we stayed in a great traditional Japanese house in Katamachi that was made of dark wooden slats and paper windows- thankfully also with glass on the outside. It had a communal sleeping room and cushions to sit on the floor in the living room. Why do people sleep and sit on the floor in Japan?

The town had its own busy Shibuya-like crossing, albeit smaller and with more pushbikes than cars. We found the pretty Saigawa River that ran through the town and that every block had a temple. There were some cute little houses and creative signage adorning bars and buildings.

For our daugther, we found a small kids play park nearby, stone statue children outside one of the large shopping centres to pose with and a character dressed up promoting a restaurant roaming the streets to meet and greet.

The mascot of the Kanazawa looks like a fat Russian nest doll, but it has a moustache and the town is known for its Samurai and Geisha districts. We were told that the Japanese came here to relax and buy kimonos.

For dinner we went to an authentic restaurant that served pork cutlets and Oden- meat and vegetables served in soup broth. Our daughter liked the complimentary cabbage leaves that you could dip in special sauce.

Our first day exploring Kanazawa started with the Omi-Cho market. It was filled with seafood and delicious croquettes. We found an apple for our daughter to eat that was half the size of her head.

We were stopped by a group of school children on assignment to practice their English who asked a series of questions and then gave us a paper crane as a thank you. One of the questions was- where would we prefer to live: Kanazawa or Tokyo? It was only the start of our first day here, but we already knew that with its slower pace and smaller size, Kanazawa would be our choice.

Related posts: Tokyo, 2016: MiraikanTokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and YanakaTokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and ShibuyaTokyo, 2016: Ueno and HarajukuJapan, 2016

Tokyo, 2016: Miraikan

On our last day in Tokyo, it was our daughter’s choice of what to do. She decided on the robot museum, also known as Miraikan- the National Museum of Emerging Science and Innovation. Although definitely not my husband’s or my first choice of what to do in Tokyo, it actually ended up being one of the best days we had in the city.

It’s true that half the fun of Miraikan was getting there. After surviving the rush hour train and getting pushed on by a man in white gloves (why is everyone so polite and friendly, except when you are getting pushed onto the rush hour train?), we took the futuristic elevated driverless train to Odaiba- Tokyo Bay.

We passed tall office buildings, went over Rainbow Bridge, past a strange clock with feet and a replica Statue of Liberty, to a world of artificial islands where nobody seemed to live. Some buildings were square arches, some were round balls, but they were all glassily glinting in the sunlight.

The Miraikan museum itself was very interesting. My favourite thing was the enormous globe that hung from the ceiling. Visible from all levels, it changed colour as images were projected onto it.

As promised, they had many different kinds of robots, from small pet robots, to Asimo the walking talking robot who also used sign language and an android who I actually thought was a real person the first three times we walked by it.

At the end of the Asimo demonstration, they asked the kids what kind of robot do they want to live with? and encouraged them to find museum staff and tell them. What a great way to harness the imagination of children and get them involved.

There was also a large hands-on kids activity area where they could create, play and learn. Even here, the kids were all so quiet and well behaved. How are the kids so quiet in Japan?

They had interesting displays depicting what happens to infrastructure when a volcano erupts, a great demonstration showing how the Internet works using coloured balls and a short 3D planetarium movie about the universe.

There was a dance lighting area and my daughter’s favourite of course- a stamping activity- also incorporating a digital game this time. We ended up staying the whole day and were thoroughly entertained the whole time.

That night, we tested the theory of the best food being near the train stations and went near the local metro for karajuku gyoza and ramen. The ramen water was boiled in chip fryers and a thin crust attached the gyoza’s.

They were definitely the best of either item that we had ever eaten. An older lady, perhaps a regular, seemed to agree as she came in, ordered quickly and happily slurped her noodles in appreciation.

Related posts: Tokyo, 2016: Shinjuku, Tsukiji Market and Yanaka, Tokyo, 2016: Imperial Palace and Shibuya, Tokyo, 2016: Ueno and Harajuku, Japan, 2016

Return to sender

Once when I caught the train from Sydney back to Berry, I left my wallet on the train. Distraught, I sought out the station master, who located my wallet and had it sent back on the next train.

Another time, distracted by disposing the rest of my lunch one day, I left my phone on a table in the middle of the food court and raced back to the office.

Fortunately, by the time I had reached my desk, a kind soul had already found my phone and called my dad who had left a message on my work landline. I headed back to retrieve my phone and thank them. They wanted nothing in return.

Finally, there was the time that I was so busy getting off a broken down bus to get on the next one that I left my new red leather wallet on the first bus.

The kindly bus driver gave me a free ride back to the bus depot to collect my wallet which had been returned with the money still intact.

And so it happens, that just when you think there were are no nice people left in Sydney, something like this happens.

A man will get up for a pregnant woman on a bus.

A lady will slip over in the middle of the street and more than one person will rush to her aid.

A tourist will look lost and a passer-by will offer directions.

At the end of the day, I think we are all human and most of us are good.

Sure, there are some selfish horrible serial killer types out there, but these are not the norm even in a big city.

Good karma to all the kind souls that have always returned money, wallets, phones, bags and children that have been lost.  You’re the best!

Related posts: Degustation Delights, Cocktail hour in Sydneytown, Get your groove on, What’s your handicap?, Home is where you make it

India, 1987-1988, Part 2: The Journey North

In Trivandrum, Kerala, we went to a circus which had many live animals. At the entry to the circus was a medical fair that had jars with pickled foetuses from start to finish and cardboard cut-out enactments of rape scenes. There was an adult corpse next to a helpful doctor who was lifting the rib cage with a ruler to show us where the organs went.

In Kovalum, multi coloured Kathakali dancers put on a cultural show. They had large red skirts and green and blue faces.

We took a boat tour of the backwaters of Ernakulum, Cochin filled with Chinese fishing nets. There was an island where they turned coconut husks into straw to be used to make bright green and red mats.

On the train north people were hanging off the sides of trains because there was no room inside.

Goa was all about beaches and fish. There was Anjuna, Calangute, Vagator, Colva and Benalum beaches- long curved beaches with coconut palms bending toward the sea. I wore a wide brimmed hat that could be conveniently folded into a small circle. A man pulled wax and rocks out of Dad’s ears for a fee.

Having spent the most part of the holiday taking malaria tablets with chlorine tablet laced water and being vegetarians as cows are sacred and can’t be killed; it was great to have salty air and fresh tasty seafood.  There was also an ice cream van that used filtered water – we went every day.

The guesthouse we stayed in at Benalum village was owned by a lovely couple who spoke good English and treated us like family. My parents were still in touch with them for years after the trip.  We visited Bom Jesus Basilica in Old Goa and Santha Durga Temple. We shopped at Margoa market and saw a bear dancing- a sun bear that the owner has tethered to a stick with string through his nose.

We met a Mormon family from America which consisted of 10 children from the ages of 17 down to baby. The 16 year old twin boys were my favourite and a girl that was closest to me age. We rode hired bicycles and played lots of cards- I learnt how to shuffle cards cleverly.

There was a field trip to Cape Rama Fort that we explored thoroughly and to Anjuna market to buy cheap jewellery and handicrafts. Beggars were the most prolific here and dad told me not to give them money because we didn’t have enough for everyone.

Finally we visited the gateway to India in Bombay. We stayed in a hotel where the beds had no mattresses and there were cockroaches and people everywhere.

When we arrived home, my dad discovered that he had put the same film back in the camera twice thinking it was blank. We ended up with double exposed photos of elephants juxtaposed on top of temples; and us with the Mormon family at Anjuna market seemingly walking into a crocodile farm. Though a mistake, these photos were some of our favourites and illustrated India perfectly.

Published as part of A Memorable Journey on Story2Share.

Related posts: India, 1987-1988, Part 1: The Road South