15.05.2015 - 18.05.2015
Been a bit on the go since Kyoto. Did a couple of days there, and took in the Kinkaku-ji (which means Golden Pavilion, and is hence gold in colour), the Ginkaku-ji (which means Silver Pavilion, and is not silver in colour), and some of the 10,000 tori gates at Fushimi Inari. Mind you, these visits were accompanied by almost everyone else in Japan. Also went to a ninja museum (the real deal, had some really cool original ninja gear and great history, plus some cool sword and archery displays).
All the schoolkids who think their English is superb and are confident enough to speak to you seem to want to practice their English. So when I talk back to them in Japanese it gets some funny reactions. Sometimes it takes a couple of seconds for them to register that I actually replied in Japanese. Usually they stop their English and switch then.
Went to stay at a Buddhist temple the other day for an overnighter. Imagine a uni town, with about 40 small unis, where all the students are Buddhist monks in training. Plus all the spin off industries like shops that sell lucky Buddhist charms (guaranteed to ward off 99% of all known household demons), clothing (these guys don't wear orange, they have all sorts of colours according to their student year rank), and vegetarian food (all the Buddhists are vegetarians). Lucky for me I found a place that sold fried pork cutlets and other goodies. The temple food was OK, but the monk's life is definitely out.
This place also has temples and shrines everywhere, including a cemetery that has been is use for over 1000 years and has a heap of Japanese historical leaders buried there. Its strange to see a cemetery amongst a forest of 500 year old trees over 100ft high.
In Osaka now, and its a bit like being in Blade Runner (for those who know them film). Very flashy and electric on the surface (don't know what would happen if the power got cut off), but there is a real underworld just off the main drags. It's the first place I've seen with any graffiti (all the other places have been nearly spotlessly clean). Real entertainment hub, and not really a tourist town, unless you're looking to buy. And you can buy pretty much anything, if you have the right money. Not exactly illegal, but most of it wouldn't be available at home. One place I saw, but didn't visit, was a target shooting cafe, where you can pop zingers off between courses. Looked like airguns from the ads.
Not much obvious in the way of crime, though the coppers here are pretty strict. Saw a foreign guy arrested for a forged rail ticket at a rural station the other day. Rail staff called the boys, and they responded - three cars, four uniforms and two plainclothes. Didn't exactly rough him up, but they weren't gentle. Spoke to the station staff later on (was I getting involved - no way!) and they told me that among particular foreign ethnic immigrant groups, rail ticket fraud is rife, and they stamp it pretty hard. Anyone complaining about the ticket inspectors in Melbourne have nothing to complain about, trust me.
Food is still great, and weather is pretty fluid, between hot and sunny to hot and rainy to hot and humid. Sometimes altogether. Had some octopus balls the other day as well (what??? I hear you say). Not as bad as it sounds. Little pastry balls with slices of octopus and vegies cooked on a grill. There's never a dull moment with the food, though I do draw the line at eating anything that winks back at me.
Touring Osaka today and back towards Tokyo in next few days. Winging it from tomorrow on, so dunno what'll happen.