Saturday, February 11, 2017

Day 7: Japan (Osaka)

It was our last full day in Osaka and we made full use of the day to visit main landmarks in Osaka. That morning, as we were walking towards the train station, we came across this bar. It looks dodgy but we decided to give it a try. The owner was very friendly though we had a hard time communicating ie. pointing pictures on the menu and made full use of body language to describe things.

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Our first stop was Osaka Castle. It is surrounded by its huge park. This castle houses an informative museum about the castle's history and Toyotomi Hideyoshi. It was not difficult to find the place but to reach Osaka Castle, you need to walk some distance from the train station. There are a few stations to reach this place – we stopped at Tanimachi 4-chome Station.

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Since we are sort of an anime fans and the boyfriend was excited to see some cosplays on the street, we went to Den Den Town which is located in the Nipponbashi area. Den Den Town is an electronics district, probably like Low Yat Plaza in Kuala Lumpur or Bukit Jambul Mall in Penang. It is also know to be an otaku paradise with numerous manga and anime retailers as well as a maid cafes.

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We had Japanese curry rice for lunch and shockingly, the are delicious. Not spicy but, delicious. We did check out a few anime retail stores and geez, they are everywhere! We even entered an adult store just to check out the place. I was walking ahead, rows to rows, while the boyfriend was behind me – just to see the reactions of the Japanese guys who saw me. Fun experience. Highly recommended.

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We did check out one of the maid cafes there. The food was not great but the place is interesting. Oh well, I don’t think people go to such cafe for its food. The men can take pleasure by using the bell to call out to the waitresses. Well, most of the customers are men when we were there.

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Our last destination before we called it a night was Tsutenkaku Tower, located in Shinsekai. The tower is 103 meters high, with the main observatory at a height of 91 meters. In order to get up there, you need to take a lift which was located underground. Its open-air deck on the top of the main observatory was closed during our visit. Anyhow, we were still able to enjoy the night view of Osaka.

To be honest, we did not go to much places during this trip. Hence, we will definitely be back again…

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Day 6: Japan (Mount Koya-Osaka)

The next morning, we had our breakfast before we decided to tour around Mount Koya.

Oh ya, I almost forgot to share another tip – before we made our journey to Mount Koya, we made our luggage lighter. Instead of bringing the huge luggage with us, we changed into the smaller bags and left the huge luggage at the luggage locker in Namba Station. It made our journey a lot easier.

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That morning, we had another round of vegan food for breakfast in the dining room with the other guests. After we were done with our meal, we packed our bags and brought them along with us.

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It was raining that morning and the weather was really cold. The first place we went to was Garan temple. It was just opposite the temple we were staying. As we had a tight schedule, we did not go around the place.

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As we were walking towards the bus stop, a bell rang. It came from this huge temple, Kongobuji Temple. As we needed to catch our bus to go to Okunoin Temple, we did not enter the temple.

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Okunoin is known to be one of the most sacred places in Japan and a popular pilgrimage spot. It is the site of mausoleum of Kobo Daishi. To reach there, we had to walk past the Okunoin’s cemetery – the largest cemetery in Japan with over 200,000 tombstones. There are two approaches. If I had stayed another day in Mount Koya, I would have used the longer walking trail. Hence, we used the shorter approach.

This alternative route leads through a more recent addition to the cemetery with modern tombstones by individuals, associations and companies. Graveyard was meant to be an eerie place but, Okunoin’s cemetery gave me a really nice and soothing feeling. I felt calm and serene when walking past it. Even the boyfriend loved it.

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Before we left Mount Koya as a whole, we had our lunch at a restaurant just outside Okunoin Temple. As the  boyfriend was not hungry, I ordered mountain herbs noodle. It tasted weird but it was not all that bad.

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When we finally reached Osaka, it was the very first time for us to get out of Namba Station. We were there for 3 times and always stayed underground. We stayed in an Airbnb unit in Osaka> we did lose our way but we managed to pull it through.

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After settling down, the first place we went was Dontobori, known to be one of the most popular destinations at night. It is a popular shopping and entertainment district but, for us, it is our food destination. If it was not because of my gastric, I would wallop the street food there. 

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Dinner? We had pizzas at Pizza Bar. The environment was okay and oh, it is compulsory to order drinks. Not one drink, but two drinks since there’s two of us.

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We did try the cheesecake at Pablo before we left. I had seen on the net that it seems to be very popular. However, it was not that great – overrated.

The way back to our place is poorly lit but, it was not worrisome because, really, it is safe in Japan.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Japan: Day 5 (Ise-Mount Koya)

As the guesthouse did not provide breakfast, we had asked the host the night before on the recommended place to have breakfast. She recommended us to this 100-year old restaurant. It was neither difficult nor easy to find the place. Our worry was, since it is a 100-year old restaurant, it probably does not have an English menu.

And we were right.

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Anyhow, we managed to pull it through and left Ise to go back to Osaka to make our way to Mount Koya.

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It was a long journey to Mount Koya. We paid extra to take Limited Express (less stops that Local Train) and had to change to a cable car and lastly took a bus to reach the place.

We were staying a night in a Buddhist temple and they provided dinner for that day itself plus breakfast for the next morning. However, the only condition for serving the dinner is you need to check-in before 5.30pm.

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And we reached the temple at exactly 5.30pm!

What to do? They serve dinner either 6pm or 6.30pm.

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To be honest, I love the room. It is the best room for this entire trip. Traditional, yes, and a little bit of modern’s touch.

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Dinner was served in our room. The monks brought the food to us. We were not given a period of them to finish our food. We could just give them a call after we are done. Since it is a Buddhist temple, of course they serve vegan meals for both dinner and breakfast. It was my very first time to have a vegan meal. It was weirdly delicious.

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What happened next was the most interesting story. The temple does not provide private bathroom in each room. It is a shared bath and only operates from 4pm to 9pm. Since we did not have enough time to explore Mount Koya and to make it for the bath, we decided to stay in. Plus, there is a curfew in the temple which is 10pm.

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When I went to explore the bath, I was surprised to learn that it is an open bath! Of course divided into genders. But still..

It was a bit awkward for me but, I was lucky because no one else was there when I was taking my bath. I even dip myself in the hot pool to relax my feet. Unfortunately for the boyfriend, he had to two other men in the bath with him. Well, he was proud to show, well, you know..

Anyhow, it was a great experience and I truly enjoyed them!