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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together


JAPAN | Tuesday, 1 July 2008 | Views [1472]

Mon 30th Jun - Main ojective of today was to sort out my visa for China. Up early to head for Osaka, the nearest consulate. Fortunately, from Shijo station in Gion, the Kheihan line goes straight to Osaka Yodoyabashi station (400 Yen), from where it is easy enough to catch a couple of subway lines to get to Awaza (an extra 200 Yen), which is where the consulate is. There are a number of choices of trains linking Kyoto and Osaka. The price is about the same, but some are express, some semi-express and some limited. A bit of a gamble which one you get really, although it is easy to work out which is which.

On arrival at the embassy, the fun started, although not impossile to sort. They wanted a copy of my sailing booking from Osaka to Shanghai, which I didn't have. Fortunately, one of the nice staff came with me to a local office to ask them if I could use one of heir PCs to get into my Hotmail account, so I could print it off. Got that one sorted.....the buggers charged me 1000 yen for the privilege! Anyway, next they wanted a photocopy of the Japan visa. Why I don't know, as I wouldn't be there without one. I guess it was to make sure the dates matched up? All that done and proof that I had accomodation booked for Shanghai, I was given the option of same day service for an extra 2000 Yen. Worth it, so agreed. Total cost would be 8000 Yen! One of the dearest visas I've had to date! Due back at 2pm to collect it, so off into Osaka.....

There isn't much to see in Osaka during the day and with limited time, I chose to go to the Umeda Sky building. Back on the subway, and off into the backstreets of Umeda for a explore. Wandered through the Hankyu building first (this has a ferris wheel on its roof....pretty cool eh!), before heading for the sky building. I have to say that the skyline here is fairly cool. Some fancy looking buildings. The highlight though, is the Sky building. At 173m it isn't the tallest by far, but what it lacks in height, it sure makes up for in stature. 700 Yen entry. An awesome design of two towers linked near to the top by what is called the 'Floating Garden'. Accessed via a sequence of escalators, followed by a lift, followed by an awesome escalator that runs through a glass tube. The journey to the top is excellent. A restaurant up top is a swanky affair and the observation deck on the 40th floor is a magnificent one. So much so, that marriages are held up there. There is a bridal shop on a lower level for all that is required, and the marriage area is laid out with hi-tech seating and dazzling white. A great place for such an occasion. You can get out onto the final roof level which was very windy today. I am into architecture in a big way, and this building was an amazing place to visit. Outside the building is fairly cool too, with a row of stainless steel fountains and great use of line and materials.

After an overdose of wow factor, time to head back to the consulate via a lunch stop. Got back early so killed time in the local park. All went well at the consulate, so am now in posession of my Chinese visa, which can be used any time before september and only lasts for 30 days from entry. They have stopped issuing 3 month visas until after the olympics, which commence on 8th August, so have to be clear of Beijing well before then.

Happy now that is sorted, off to fill in the rest of the afternoon by visiting Osaka Castle (Osaka-Jo). Back on the Chuo Line for a few stops heading east. As soon as I got out of the subway, was struck by the Osaka History Museum and adjacent NHK Broadcasting buildings. Went for a look around. Another couple of examples of superb japanese building design. There is so much glass and texture around that I wonder what weird and wonderful designs they will come up with next?

Off to the castle (600 Yen entry), 100,000 worked for 3 years to build it in the 16th century! It had been destoyed a long time ago but re-built in the early 1930s using more modern techniques, whilst still preserving the original feel. It is a massive and decorative building, with a commanding view of its surrounds from the 7th floor.

It has been a long day and so ambled around the adjacent park and then made my way for an altenative train route back to Kyoto from Tenmanbashi station. Made the mistake of ambling though a few of the amazing underground shopping mall stores to my way. For anyone with a weakness for shopping, these places could drain money from you almost by osmosis!

As its late in the day now, it is fairly congested on the trains, so standing room only for some of the way. Ended up having to change trains three times but made it eventually. Also hadn't eaten that much today, so stopped off for some sushi and a beer. Aaaahhh that's better.

Tue 1st Jul -

Last day in Kyoto area, so heading off to Nara for some more sightseeing. On the local train again to Tanmabashi then swap to the Kintetsu line service to Nara. A bit of an annoyance on the latter part... Got my ticket (500 Yen) as usual and boarded the train...when the ticket inspector came around he wanted another 500 Yen as this was a 'Limited Express'. As far as I could see, all of the trains going thru to Nara were Limited Express trains. Lost the argument with him so had to pay up.

It was going to be a hot one today, so fancied heading for some shade. A couple of minutes up the Nobori-Oji road from the station, and you start to see one of the things Nara is famous for....deers...large numbers of them. Beautiful little bambis everywhere. At the side of the road. Very placid and happy for people to stroke them. Away from the main road is the Kofuku temple. Very similar to many I have seen, but no less superb. Today must be school tour day as the kids are crawling over everywhere. Some stopped to say hello which was nice.

Further on up the road after having been stopped a few more times to sign kids school books, and have photos taken with them....started to feel a bit of a tourist attraction myself! They were so sweet, it was lovely to practice english with them.

Further on and left reaches the highlight of Nara... The Todai-Ji temple (entry 600 Yen). This is enormous and has as its centrepiece a massive sittin buddha and a couple of ferocious protectors. An formidable looking building that was worth coming here just for that. There was a walking uide in the guidebook which I was following, and I was glad I did, as some places you wouldn't see otherwise. A few highlights were...Nigatsu-do temple with its superb view from raised position of the Nara valley. The Kofoku-Ji Pagoda with hundreds of lanterns and a long stretch of Tori gates. A realy nice wooded path to wander through beween sights made it more comfortable out of the heat. A nice lunch stop in a café with stooped little old lady serving. There were more things if interest but I am getting a bit 'templed-Out', as you can imagine. They are all beautiful, but there are so many of them. At one, the priest was out in his colourful robes and the assistant girls were dressed up in a pretty traditional uniform with a head-dress. This country excels at being polite and attractive. A nice coincidence when I bumped into a lovely mother and daughter, who I had seen before earlier in Japan. Nice to see them again.

Back on the train and return to Kyoto to get ready for tomorrow as will be heading off to Hiroshima, stopping at Himeji-Jo along the way. More of that in the next blog.......

Isn't this year going fast? July already!.....


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