Hein (fub) wrote,

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To Osaka

This morning, we packed all our stuff together, said our goodbyes to the owners of the ryokan ("Untill next time!".... just don't hold your breath...) and went to the station. We parked our luggage in a coin locker and walked to a temple to the south of Kyoto station, through a rather run-down neighbourhood where a tourist is an attraction himself. The temple itself was not very interesting (to us), but the flea market that is held there every first Sunday of each month was. It was remarkably Japanese: there were many stalls with many things old and new, in perfect condition and half-broken, like the flea markets at home. But what was different is that the stall owners had used tarps, plastic crates and even complete display cases to make their stall into small shops. And since they didn't have to worry about theft as much, they had a rather relaxed attitude to the whole deal -- sometimes it took a bit of time to find the owner of a particular stall.
We walked around for the better part of two hours. We didn't buy much, except for a cloisonne bead and a beautiful pin of a stylised sakura blossom that now adorns the flap of the caching-bag, next to the Poffertjes Event 2007 pin. I found another pin I wanted at another stall, and asked the owner how much it cost. He seemed to be in a good mood, since he had been joking around with two women while I was pawing through his box of pins and medals. He laughed at me, and told me to take it with me, as "service"! The women admired the pins I already had, and I thanked the old man. We need to punch a small hole in the flap of the bag before we can fit it, but it'll be on there as well.

After that we walked back to the station, meanwhile keeping our eyes peeled for an ATM -- unnoticed, our money supply had almost run dry, and since Japan is very much geared towards physical money, you want to have a few banknotes in your wallet. When we were close to the station, we crossed at a pedestrian crossing behind a group of older ladies who had just asked something of one of the many policemen who had appeared on the street. Just as they were crossing, I noticed a gold watch lying on the ground -- one of the ladies had checked the time and had dropped her watch in the confusion. So I ran after her (we had to cross as well) and gave her the watch back. She and her friends starting thanking us profusely by bowing repeatedly, but I wanted to get off the street because I didn't want to get run over when the waiting traffic got their green light! So I just sort of smiled and waved them away. We found an ATM boutique at the other end of the street and ducked into there to try our luck with the ATMs there (none of them worked, by the way), when the lady entered after us! She handed us a package with "Japanese sweets" as thank-you for giving her her watch back! Such a nice gesture -- I had thought the matter closed, but perhaps this watch was very important to her (it seemed to come from the time when gold watches were still made of gold) and she wanted to do something back. Now we had something to eat in the train! It turned out to be a steamed bun with adzuki paste and a patch of (I think) yellow soy beans. Quite good, and they must have come from a good store.

We found our ATM near the Miyako Mitchi complex, near one of those computer-controlled waterfalls that show pictures and letters, and afterwards we decided to do lunch there. One shop had a good selection of dishes and boasted of "Kyoto-style home cooking" -- a perfect way to close off our visit to Kyoto. We were seated and got the English menu, and klik chose a set menu. I had seen a wax representation of a Oyakudon bowl, but it was not on the English menu. So I asked if they did have it (they did), and that is how I ordered something in Japanese that wasn't on the menu. Just a few more weeks and I'll go completely native. ;)

We reserved seats in the shinkansen to Osaka, got on board, tasted the sweets and drank tea and coffee. klik had booted up the laptop to write an entry, and after just a few lines of typing, we arrived at Shin-Osaka... We packed everything up again, followed the masses out of the station and onto a platform for a line that would bring us to Osaka station itself. There we followed the even denser masses of people through the station in search of a coin locker to temporarily stuff our luggage in. That took quite a bit of trouble, because everybody was out shopping today!
We got out of the station, got our bearings and walked around for a bit. We happened upon a game arcade and went in to check out the games. The most popular game seemed to be some sort of real time strategy game where you gave your units power-ups and commands through (physical) cards that you shuffled around on a game board. And of course those cards are collectible and need to be purchased separately... There were several of those types of games, but we didn't stay long because everything was turned up to 11 and the many different flashes and sounds combined into a veritable cacaphony we wished to escape.

When the check-in time arrived, we collected our luggage (which was quite a feat because we lots our way in the many interconnected, subterraneous shopping malls) and went on the trek to the ryokan. Especially around the station, the streets were packed. Luckily, as we got further away from the station, the foot traffic subsided a bit and we could walk full on without tripping on the natives.
We found the ryokan without any problems. The manager showed us our room -- just around the corner from the entrance. It is huge. We have two sides of the patio garden to ourselves: a big room (12 tatami!) with a TV, airconditioning and a warm water cooker (the type where you can put 2.5 liters of water in, and when it warms up you can tap water of 95 degrees at will). A separate dressing area (our suitcases were already there) with a small fridge, a corridor with mirrors and two wash basins, and our own set of toilets (your choice between Japanese-style and western-style). And the wireless accesspoint of the Freespot is on the reception counter, so we have rather good signal strength in our room too! After Yuhara, this is really something else!
We chilled in our room (enjoying cup after cup of tea, and using their net connection) and then went out for dinner. Most shops didn't advertise their wares in English or with photos or wax reproductions, which makes it hard to walk in and order something. In the end, we found a small eatery (open from 6AM to 10PM) that basically prepared pre-made stuff and added a few fresh ingredients. We ate there, and it was delicious! It's become a bit of a sport to eat as cheap as possible in places that aren't really geared towards tourists, and this time the total rounded out at under 1500 yen (about 10 euros) for dinner and two beers. :)

Now we're chilling again, after the bath -- we fit in their bath together, so that's cool too. Tomorrow, we'll go see Osaka Castle and Den-den Town, the Osaka equivalent of Akihabara.

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