Monday: Jetstar is not my favourite airline – but it’s not down there with United – hehe. The plane was nice and new and smelt like leather! Bringing own snacks is okay – though I didn’t organise all that well – not like when neophyte31 packed me a lunch for my flight from SF to NYC. Drinking red wine on the plane however always makes the time pass better – I would have liked to have a nap – but as it was a day flight and Japan is only a couple of hours behind I didn’t want to confuse myself too much. Arrived in Osaka and stayed right at the airport – room was nice but small – and I got my first introduction to the scary Japanese toilet with a *lot* of buttons… hmm though the nice warm shower to the nether regions is quite pleasant. I also had another classic Japanese experience buying beer out of a vending machine 😉
Tuesday: around an hour from the airport on the train to Osaka the next day. Dropping the bags in a coin locker, I wandered off to see Osaka-jo (castle) – which was rather impressive until one realised it was an “artist’s impression” of the original which was destroyed several times already – most notably during WW2. There was an interestingish display of history – the family tree of the appropriate shogun – sweat absorbing underwear – letters that had been sent to various important people. The sort of thing that I found a lot more fascinating in a Scottish castle when I actually had a clue of who the various important people were! It’s strange traveling when you have only a very vague understanding of the history – I mean I know “of” the unification of Japan, the shoguns, the Meji restoration and so on… but that’s not the same as recognising the names of various important historical figures so I could be impressed to see a piece of lacquer armor they (may) have worn. They do however have special Hello Kitty/Osaka-jo souvenirs – I bought a little washer – because as I discovered Japanese public bathrooms don’t have paper towels or air dryers… people carry washers around so they can dry their hands afterwards… so I now have a Hello Kitty visits Osaka-jo version of my very own.
Also on Tuesday was the Osaka human rights museum – which documents the struggles of various oppressed peoples – the Koreans, the Ainu, the Burakin (japan’s very own untouchables) – also Hanson’s disease survivors (aka Lepers) who were forced to live in sanatoriums until the 90’s, women, victims of pollution and so on… Anyway – very interesting museum – though I’m sure I missed a lot as most of the exhibits were text based and only a small part was translated. There was also a special exhibition of Ainu craft particularly textiles which was very good… Well worth going along to – I wished I’d had a bit longer so I could watch some of the videos which had english subtitles – but I had to hop on a train to Nagoya!
Nagoya was really just a way station – the hotel room was big and super comfy – wandering around looking for food was a little intimidating – explaining I’m a vegetarian – the phrase book phrase failed me – so I have fallen back on my tried and true method – which is to learn the word for vegetables “yasai” and repeat it often with a hopeful expression. So far so good 😉
Wednesday: In the morning we were heading off to snow monkey land – where – surprise surprise – there is snow! So I bought so ugly but snuggly gloves from the big department store in Nagoya. So far I’ve been surprised at the lack of gloves both on hands and on sale – perhaps I’ve just missed noticing them – but even when people are snuggled up in all sorts of padded down jackets they don’t seem to wear them so much. Which is a shame – because I had high hopes for some cute, short leather ones at some time… perhaps I’ll have more luck in Tokyo. Quite a lot of boots however – smiling – not that I’d be on the look out for boots and gloves for any nefarious reason…
The train trip from Nagoya to Nagano was very pretty – see – I do catch trains! Though sadly there’s no dining car with good red wine at 200k/h like I had in the UK last year 😉
Arriving in Nagano we had to make our way to the ryokan which is right on the edge of the national park where the snow monkeys live…
Hmm – more updates later – I’m a day or so behind but hey – there is a *lot* of shopping to be done now I’m in tokyo!
and – lots and lots of photos!