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Travel blog I don't mean to brag, I don't mean to boast, but I'm intercontinental and I eat French toast (Beastie Boys) | | | Photos available at www.istockphoto.com/georgeclerk

Nagoya to Osaka

JAPAN | Tuesday, 18 November 2008 | Views [2839]

My robotic hopes in Nagoya were sadly dashed by the fact that the museum closed recently due to lack of interest.  I can't believe that anyone would not be interested in a building full of walking and probably talking robots, but there we are. 

I tried out my new little camera's video mode to make the above, in a hotel in Kanazawa.  On TV is an English language program for Japanese learners, it just happened to be about robots!  Unfortunately I forgot to demonstrate the loo's lid closing - when you let them go at the top, rather than slap down quickly, the seat and lid separate, then slowly close like the eject on an expensive cassette player!

Next up was a train journey north to Takayama, where I'd planned to arrive on the first of a two day town festival, apparently timed to coincide with the best of the autumn colours.   

The train journey was very pretty, despite the continuing dull weather.  For the price of a GNER sandwich, I got a box full of delicious local specialities as we sped past mountain villages.

Having arrived though, it was soon clear that no festival was happening in the town - it turned out that the couple who told me about it had got the wrong month - the festival had already happened on 9th-10th October!  The town was fairly quiet and very cold, but still very impressive, with amazing autumn colours.  Some trees had the whole spectrum from fresh green to bright red on the same branch.

Thanks to a German tour group booking, I had to move from one ryokan (traditional inn) to another after the first night, but was glad - the Rickshaw Inn where I moved to was superb, and they also did a great breakfast.

I tried something local for lunch, and splashed out ¥2,100 for this spread, which included miso soup, raw beef, miso paste (I think) bubbling away on a leaf atop a burner, and lots of vegs etc.  Very good.

It wasn't until the evening that I heard about a local speciality, basashi, which is basically horse sashimi.  'Ah', I thought!  Casting my mind back to lunch, I didn't remember actually seeing the words 'raw beef', on the menu.  I think the menu was in Japanese as usual, and I just pointed at the picture of the one I wanted.  It looked like beef, and hadn't crossed my mind that it wasn't!  Oh well, I'll probably never know!

Anywhere, after two nights there I had a couple of train journeys to get up north to Kanazawa.  I was a bit confused about which of these trains went there at the connecting station, but the answer turned out to be the 13.23.  Normally you can just match up the destinations with the English translation at the top, but I had to find some help with this one.

In Kanazawa I'd booked a room in a 'business hotel'.  I normally mix dorms with single rooms as I go, and at $65 a night, which is way cheaper than a single room in the scummiest Aussie hostel, this one was a bargain (it's the one in the video at the top.)   

As well as unlimited free internet use, aircon etc. in the room, the hotel featured the ubiquitous vending machines, selling drinks, food, beer and toiletries; a kind of onsen on the roof, with indoor and outdoor pools and a sauna; plus a small reading library which was exclusively stocked with manga.  This is not just for kids - it's very common to see adults on trains riveted by manga 'comics', and even Japan's Prime Minister apparently says that he's proud to devote some time every day to reading manga.

Smoking laws here are almost the exact reverse of most European ones, you're welcome to smoke in bars, restaurants, cafes, hotels and trains, but outside on the street you get an on-the-spot fine, unless you're at a designated smoking station.  Sometimes these are enclosed glass cabins with aircon!  I can sort of see what is meant by the sign above, but am still bemused by the one below... is the ant drawn for scale, or is it also at risk from passive smoking?!

As well as a castle (a tiny part of it is above), Kanazawa has famous gardens, and I was lucky that finally the weather improved while I was there...

These contraptions in the gardens are not just there to look nice - they're to stop the branches from snapping when the city gets its annual heavy snowfall.

The new and very plush modern art gallery was filled with the work of Damien Hirst and others, but the best 'installation' seemed more like a magic trick than modern art:

Anything strange about this little swimming pool?...

...What about now?! (I don't have an underwater camera)...

...or now...

After Kanazawa I headed for three nights in and around Kyoto...

... then on to Osaka, which looked more Blade Runner-ish than anywhere I've been so far.  It looked even more like 'Blade Runner' than this when it rained!...

After a dorm in Kyoto, I stayed in a very cheap hotel (about 25USD per night) in Osaka.  That night I realised why it was so cheap - roughly every three minutes, 24 hours a day, a train passed close by and shook the whole room!

This is the Umeda Sky building in Osaka from the bottom...

...one of the two escalators in the middle...

... and the top...

Vending machines everywhere.  Here you find what you want on the screen, pay for it and get a ticket, then take that into the restaurant...

Rather than handing out leaflets which people throw away without looking at, people advertising things on the street hand you some branded tissues!...

All photos © George Clerk.  All rights reserved.  Licenses available at www.istockphoto.com/resonants or contact me at [email protected]

Tags: japan, kanazawa, kyoto, osaka, takayama, toilet

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