Jeff brought his friend Jason alone. They went to Case together and both work for Apple. Jason is cool, and I’m glad I got a chance to meet him. I picked Jeff and Jason up at the airport on the 28th. By the time we made it back to Osaka we were pretty hungry so Dan, Jeff, Jason and I went to Let’s Sushi Time (the conveyor belt sushi restaurant). Add Jeff and Jason’s name to the list of people going to hell for whale consumption. We also tried fugu raw. Again, it was not a very nice fish. It was really chewy and not very tasty. I just don’t get it.
The first day was Osaka trips. We went to the Umeda Sky Building, Yodobashi Camera, and Osaka-jo (castle). All were really fun and cool. I have been to all of them before, but it was fun to experience them with new people.
The next day it was back into town to do the Aquarium. The giant wheel was running and we decided to ride it. I am mildly acrophobic, so this prospect did not sit well with me, but after riding the wheel I am cured! Jeff calls this “emersion therapy” (this will come up again in Nara). We also made a trip to Den-Den Town. Den-Den is the Osaka equivalent of Tokyo’s Akiharaba. Den-Den is not as big as Akiharaba but it is more manageable. I really like it. It is electric paradise and also filled with manga and figurines. It is amazing. That is where I got the figure that is featured in my new icon. The otaku heaven. Otaku is the name for those who are socially inept and love toys, video games, manga, and anime in Japan. It is a bit derogatory like “nerd” but it is also embraced by those that are otaku. I am not full otaku, but I fear if I live here too long I may go totally otaku!
The next day it was off to the ancient capital of Nara. Nara is like a small scale Kyoto. It is really nice, but useless post 5:00. Dan came along and we went to the park district which has all the sites. There are also a ton of tame deer running around. This delighted Jeff (for some reason). We saw the Taidoji (the giant pavilion). It is the largest wooden building in the world. It is pretty darn big! We also went to the Nigatsu Shrine (February shrine). It was up in the hills and absolutely gorgeous. The view was particularly stunning. On the way out of Nara we noticed a kid TOTALLY FLIPPING OUT. This kid was about 8 or so and was going crazy. He was completely afraid of the deer. He was really deep into the park by that point and (presumably) passed a lot of deer to get there. This is what we think happened: he was all gone how about the deer and then one deer turned on him and give him a little head butt or bit his hand when he was feeding them crackers. BOOM! Now he is freaked out by deer. Jeff and I decided that the only way to cure him of his phobia was total immersion therapy. We decided that he should be drugged, stripped of his clothes, dipped in peanut butter, and covered with deer cracker crumbs and left in the park. Being exposed to the onslaught of deer would cure him. Total Immersion Therapy!
The next day was off to Kyoto. I hate the Kyoto bus system. It needs to be improved. It is not very sight seeing friendly. It takes a lot of strange routes and makes way too many useless stops. I can understand that Kyoto is a city as well as a tourist destination but even the busses marked “sight seeing busses” stop at pedestrian places. GRRR. At one point we were on the bus and a really sketchy guy came on with a semi light cigarette that he put in his pocket!(?) About five minutes into the ride his backpack started leaking some kind of a fluid, eeehhhhh. We got off the bus as soon as we could. I hate Kyoto’s busses!
We saw the Kinkakuji (The Golden Pavilion) on the first day. But then it started pouring rain. So our day was over in the city. We ended up taking a train out of the city to an onsen. It was fabulous. It was a legit hot spring in the mountains. We were surrounded by Japanese cypress trees in this valley between peaks. The water was around 100 degrees F (40C), and had the tang of sulfur. It was great and so relaxing. We stayed for about 2 hours from 7 to 9. The clouds parted and we were under a great night sky with a waning crescent moon. It was very relaxing. I may have to go back sometime.
We caught a train back to Kyoto and to our ryoken. Jeff became obsessed with yukata robes.
The next day we went back into the mountains to a place that has an insane amount of torii gates. Now I love torii, so this was more or less the greatest place ever. The paths were literally solid torii gates. The grounds stretched for around 4km. We only walked about 1/3 of it. I was in heaven. I LOVE TORII!
After the torii shrine (sadness-SADNESS) we went to the Heian Shrine. I am not a fan of the Heian Shrine, I find it too gaudy to be Shinto. I prefer the natural aspects of Shinto to “Big Shinto”, but the Heian Shrine’s garden is a beautiful stroll garden with many ponds, tree sections, and lots of blossoms. Well worth the price of admission. We finished out Kyoto trip with Nijo Castle. Jeff now became obsessed with nightingale floors, and “needs to put these in at my apartment” to “avoid assassinations”. Then it was back to Daito.
Yesterday Jeff and Jason left for Tokyo on their own.
EDIT: Flickr page updated with some pictures