Date of Travel: 25/02/2012
The rain had returned on the final morning we were in Takayama. There were a few last minute souvenir shopping we wanted to do before we left so we split up again. I returned back to the morning market near Takayama Jinya before having a quick walk through the Old Town back to the hostel. We regrouped at the hostel and headed to the Takayama JR Station. The shop Brownie and J.C. wanted to go to was closed earlier, so they rushed back to see if it had since opened but unfortunately they didn’t have any luck.
Next city on our itinerary was one we had already visited – Kyoto. We were going to stop by for a couple of hours to observe the Plum Blossom Festival in Kitano Tenmangu Shrine. The trip took about 3.5 hours by train. As such, we bought enough food in Takayama for breakfast and lunch to save us the trouble of looking for food once we arrived in Kyoto. When we arrived in Kyoto, J.C. and I found some large coin lockers available to leave our luggage. Brownie unfortunately was unable to find one, but he did find a security room that stores baggage for a cheaper price! Note to all reading this – if you want to leave large items of baggage in Kyoto for a day, leave it at the baggage storage room, not the coin lockers! Coin lockers however are cheaper for smaller luggage items.
We took a subway from Kyoto JR station to Imadegawa station, and walked to Kitano Tenmangu. I had underestimated the distance between the two locations, but the walk in between was a good refresher that we were back in a big city. When we arrived, we found ourselves among a large crowd mingling at the flea market held at Kitano Tenmangu on the 25th of every month. We decided to skip the stalls for now and head to the Shrine complex.
The highlight of the Plum Blossom Festival features an elaborate tea ceremony which we did not participate in. Rather, we observed it from a distance, and also explored the surroundings. There were dozens of Maiko (kimono girls) serving tea to those who had purchased tickets earlier in the day. It wasn’t the first time we had encountered Maiko on this trip, but it was the first time we were able to get decent photo opportunities of them.
Throughout the ground lie a number of bull statues. Like with that other creepy statue we had encountered at Todaiji Temple in Nara, rubbing the bull supposedly heals any ailments the person might have at the respective body part. There were also beautiful lion statues surrounded by plum blossom trees.
The Kitano Tenmangu shrine itself was larger than I thought it would be. It was perhaps one of the largest shrine buildings we had encountered on our trip thus far. There was an extremely long queue of people lining up to pay their respects to the shrine. There were smaller shrines and numerous tori gates littered around the ground as well, and it was quite enjoyable walking through and exploring everything. The rain let up as well thankfully! There were plum grooves around the back of the ground which we had considered visiting, but as we could see that a number of plum blossom trees had not yet blossomed, we decided against it. There were still the odd tree present that had fully bloomed which was beautiful.
We had a slower walk through the flea market after finishing up at the shrine. These stalls brought back memories of similar flea markets back in the countries I grew up in when I was a child. Most of these stalls were selling food, though some were selling toys/masks/clothes etc. There was a creepy one selling idol goods, including adult only items. It was funny how everyone was walking so closely together, but when it came to that dodgy shop, people crowded away from the shop, so there was about a half meter radius of empty space around that shop!
On the way back, we were deciding if we had wanted to take a bus back to the JR station. That would have saved us about a quarter of an hour so that we can move on to our next destination sooner. When we bus came however, we saw how crowded it was and decided to walk back to the subway instead instead! We were a bit hungry however, so we stopped by 7-11 along the way. I wasn’t hungry for a meal, but rather some desert. As such I bought a fabulous cup of cookie and cream ice cream, which was delicious!
When we arrived back at the Kyoto train station, we took the time to take a few more photos of the amazing architecture. After spending so much of our time here earlier in the trip, we did have a nostalgic feeling, especially after thinking about what we had experienced and accomplished on this trip since leaving Kyoto about 3 weeks ago. It would be the last time we step foot outside of the ticket gates at this station, so we stood around to soak in the atmosphere one final time before collecting our luggage and heading to our next destination – Osaka.
We arrived in Osaka quite late, and it took us a while to find our accommodation at Bonsai Guest Houses near the Momodani train station. We ended up getting lost as well as we walked out the wrong exit at the station! We checked in, left our luggage in our room, rested for a while, and then headed off to get dinner.
We found a decent place for dinner near the accommodation. It was one of those places that we ordered using a vending machine. It has been a while since we used one of those! Food came out quick as usual in these places, and damn it was good. After dinner, we headed back to the station to catch a train to the famous night time district of Osaka at Dotonbori. Along the way, we spotted a poor cat who was stuck under the platform at the train station! Poor thing D:
For those who are unfamiliar with Dotonbori, it is the site of the famous Glica neon sign. We walked along the canal which was lined by rows of such signs. J.C. did note that it was the first time on this trip we had encountered quite a lot of rubbish lying around on the ground. Still better than most places in the world, but enough for people to take note of.
Dotonbori was filled with interesting characters we had not yet encountered throughout the trip. For example, we came across a group of what appeared to be guy hosts (or at least it appeared that way). The main street itself was lined with colourful neon signs and interesting exterior decorations. It was a sharp contrast to what we had experienced thus far on this trip. And I suppose it should. Osaka is the biggest city we had been in thus far. The bright lights definitely added to the liveliness of the place, and it was refreshing being surrounded by so many people for the first time since leaving Sapporo.
Walking back towards the train station, we came across a very strange building exterior, where strange heads on short legs were used to support columns. Personally, those heads creep me out! There were several small displays at the train station which we had a quick look at, then noticed that a large group of youths were out breakdancing just outside the station. We went and watched for a good 20 minutes. Most of them weren’t any good (I’m one to talk – I suck too), but it was a sight we had not seen much of thus far in Japan. Just behind us were large overhead bridges towering above. It definitely hit home that we were no longer in laid-back Takayama. We headed back to the hostel shortly after for a good sleep after one of the more exhausting days in a while.
Subway from Kyoto JR Station to Imagawa Station – 250 yen
Imagawa Station to Kyoto JR Station – 250 yen
JR Trains covered by JR National Pass
Bonsai Guesthouse – 3,000 yen
Breakfast/Lunch – 800 yen [Onigiri, melon custard bread, chilli dog, sandwich, chocolate croissant]
Water – 240 yen [one of the vending machines ate my money – turns out it was out-of-order]
Ice cream at 7-11Kyotokamishichiken – 268 yen
Dinner at Meshiya Miyamoto Munashi @ Momodani Station– 590 [Prawn Katsu]
N/A ~all free~
Souvenirs from Takayama – 1,420 yen [String ball thing, 3D glass Takayama festival float]
Coin locker at Kyoto station – 600 yen
TOTAL (cost for whole trip in brackets)
7,418 yen (495,058 yen total)