Last night in Osaka and farewell Japan

6 04 2010

On Saturday we had pancakes for breakfast with Atsu in Kyoto, before packing our bags and catching the train to Osaka.

Once we had checked into our hotel near the Shin-Osaka station we went to Green Earth restaurant for lunch. Last time we were in Osaka it was closed for O-bon holidays. It was cheap and simple food, but vegan. Unfortunately they have removed soy cheese from the menu so we couldn’t get a vegan pizza. We settled for the lunch set and a spicy hot sand.

We had dinner in the hotel and repacked our suitcases (again) and did a final load of washing in Japan. We watched some TV- the best Japanese TV seems to be in Kansai kingdom. We watched a game show with human curling competitions and stayed up to watch the Sarah Connor Terminator show in English.

Sunday morning we left the hotel early and caught the Shinkansen at 8.02am.  3 hours later (and after using the office seat in the reserved section that had powerpoints for laptop chargers) we were in Hakata. We had to catch a taxi to the International Ferry Terminal since we had only 15 minutes until we had to check in on the ferry.

At the terminal we got our boarding passes, submitted our alien cards, went through customs, immigration and into the duty free shops then onto the little jet foil JR beetle. We left Japan around 12 noon, and arriving at South Korean immigration and customs around 3pm. We think there was a total of 3 white foreigners on board, including us. The rest of the passengers were Koreans and Japanese.

Straight out the exit door and there was the shuttle bus to Busan train station. Tickets were only 900 won (about 90 cents) – Korea is already cheaper than Japan!

From Busan station we had about 4 minutes to find our KTX train to Seoul. We matched up the times (3.50pm departure) with our tickets and ran to platform 6 and boarded just before the doors closed. We put away our suitcases and went into car 9 to find that people were already sitting in seats 13 A and B… huh? Was it double booked? They called a train conductor who spoke English and while the departure time was correct, the train number was different.  Perhaps there had been a booking mistake in Japan when they booked our Nikkan Kyodo Kippu (Japan Korea ticket). So, we got moved to car 17 to where there were 2 free seats. At least we didn’t get kicked off! We almost thought we were in trouble when a passenger boarded at a later stop and stood looking at our seat numbers, but then they went away and we were safe in our seats!

We arrived in Seoul around 7 pm, walked through to the subway and boarded a crowded subway train for our hostel, the funny named Mr Sea. We bought some foods at a local supermarket with a very grumpy checkout-oldwoman and had curry for dinner. Yay! We made it to South Korea!

Kobe, city of earthquakes

14 08 2009

We were told that we had to leave the house by 7.30am so we got up early and had porridge for breakfast and headed out.

We took the subway to the JR station then caught a train to Kobe. We arrived in Kobe a few minutes before the tourist centre opened so we waited to collect a map and get directions to the Earthquake museum.

We caught a train to the museum and wandered around on the tour. There were videos, movies, simulations, models and lots of photos and written materials about the massive earthquake (“the Great Hanshin Earthquake”) that hit Kobe in January 1995. About 6000 people died in this earthquake and huge amounts of damage done to buildings, bridges, railway lines and other infrastructure like water and electricity. The first time Benno came to Japan on his school trip was a few months after the earthquake and the shinkansen lines had only just been repaired.

After the museum we caught the train back to the station and went to the only veg restaurant in Kobe, Modernark pharm. It was a very popular place and they had great food, including burgers, curries, raspberry soymilk lassi, soy latte, sesame shortbread and cakes.

After lunch we caught a train to halfway between Osaka and Kobe and visited the Tezuka Osamu manga museum. Osamu Tezuka was a famous manga artist and drew comics such as Kimba the white lion (from which Disney stole the Lion King plot) and Astro Boy.

We caught the train back to Osaka and went to dinner at a french vegetarian restaurant far away from the city. We caught 2 train lines to get to the station, then had to find a bus to go out along the highway. We weren’t sure where to get off but the bus driver helped us and eventually we found the restaurant. We had vegan ome-rice (omelet rice, a japanese favourite) made with yuba or tofu skin, and risotto. Then we had mango sherbet for dessert. It was already getting late so we found the bus stop, caught a bus back to the station and then a train back to Osaka and then subway back to our host’s apartment.

A hot, busy day in Osaka

13 08 2009

From Nara we caught the train to Osaka, the third largest city in Japan. We didn’t want to be carrying around our heavy luggage so we left it in a locker at the station, but also left our camera in there… duh.

We bought a one-day subway pass and from the JR station we headed via subway to Osaka-Jo. Although it’s a reconstruction, Osaka-Jo has lots of interesting displays. It was so hot and humid that it was an effort wandering around the castle. It’s also quite large- with the observation deck on the 8th floor. Strangely, Osaka-Jo seemed busier than Himeji-Jo.

From the castle we caught the subway to a restaurant for lunch – it was closed for O-bon. So we caught another subway to a second restaurant – it also was closed for O-bon holidays. We thought we’d never find a restaurant… so we had some chips, banana and cooked corn cobs from a convenience store for lunch in desperation.

Then we went to Osaka Aquarium. It was packed – more so than Shinjuku-koen at hanami time. We took ‘waiting tickets’ then wandered through the Tempozan marketplace for an hour while waiting for the time when our ‘waiting ticket’ said we could line up.  After lining up we still had to wait to enter the aquarium, then buy tickets, then join the throngs wandering around looking through tiny windows and the aquarium. I don’t see how it could be a family friendly excursion for the day, but every family in Osaka was there (it seemed).

We saw giant rays, star fish, an octopus, clown fish, otters, dolphins, the famous whale sharks, turtles and scary Japanese deep sea giant crabs. However, the enclosures seemed much too small for the larger creatures (such as the whale shark) and the crowds of people were intense. So, while it was in air-conditioning (a nice relief from the humidity outside) it was not such a peaceful afternoon excursion. However, we did get to see Capybara.

After exiting from the aquarium we called up every restaurant in Osaka that was in the vegan pocket guide. Only one was open for dinner and the rest were shut for O-bon holidays. So we caught the subway, making several changes, and arrived a Natarji, an upmarket vegetarian Indian restaurant. It was a lovely, authentic Indian meal.

After dinner we collected our luggage from Osaka JR station (but it took a little while to retrace our steps and find it). Then we caught the subway again to our indian host’s house but he had given very few directions and even when talking to him on the phone he was unable to give clear directions. So it took a while to find the house, but finally we did and we were able to go to bed.

Photos are from our keitai, so are not the best quality.