Osaka, Himeji, Nara and Kobe.

Hi friends,

This is a long one…

I didn’t spend that much time in Osaka itself in the end, although it was a good location to base myself from for the day trips I managed to fit in elsewhere.

The only thing that was really on my list for the city was to see the city from the “Sky Garden Observatory” near Umeda station. The building itself is pretty spectacular by day (and was voted one of the top 10 most interesting buildings in the world at some point), and it looks like it should belong in Mordor at night…

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I visited late evening, and ended up spending a few hours up there waiting for sunset. It was a wonderfully clear day, and the view was incredible. My photos aren’t bad for once… but even they don’t do it justice. It’s the only sunset I have ever watched with an audience that gave a sigh of disappointment when the sun dipped behind the mountains for the last time that day. :)

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I also managed to get tickets to see the Sumo wrestling at the Prefectural Gymnasium. Like everything else in Japan, it was pretty different, but by early afternoon I was well into the swing of it and cheering along with the rest of the crowd. The competition takes place all day, but starts with the junior fighters in the morning, and ends with the most successful. I still don’t know much about how sumo works, but I am most impressed at the agility of some of the fighters based on their size! I should also add here, that it seems to be the more muscular fighters that were winning most of the time, not the heaviest. (I am trying desperately hard not to add captions to these photos).

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My first Osaka day trip was down to Himeji, as I had heard that Himeji Castle is more interesting than the one in Osaka. Unfortunately they are doing restoration work to the main castle keep for the next year, so it’s all hidden behind scaffolding, but the rest of it was very interesting. The castle itself is the best example of surviving Japanese castle architecture from the feudal period, and was originally built in 1333, although the most recent expansion (to the size it is today) was in the 1600’s.

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The gardens beside the castle itself are the most beautiful I have visited so far though. I spent several hours strolling here, and really enjoyed whiling a day away with this backdrop.

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I also participated in a tea ceremony here, which was a little daunting (as I had no knowledge of the etiquette), but they were extremely welcoming and very helpful. This is the tea house building and a section of the gardens, but I didn’t want to take any photos inside. It felt like I’d be disturbing the serenity!

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The following day I headed to Nara after being told it was a must-see by one of the friends I made in Tokyo. He wasn’t wrong. The Todaiji temple is absolutely stunning, and another that will stand out for me in my Japan memories. It was founded in the 8th century, and contains the worlds largest bronze Buddah Vairocana statue. They are in the process of restoration work on the temple as well, and I was so blown away by it’s beauty, that I donated a new tile for the roof (complete with my name and a wish). :)

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You really can’t appreciate the scale of the Buddah from my photos.

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Nara Park is scattered with even more shrines and a selection of beautiful gardens and ponds too.

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To finish off my day, and because I could (this JR rail pass is by far the best purchase I have made here) I went to Kobe for dinner. After conversation with a few travelling friends, it had been pointed out to me that a trip to Japan just wouldn’t be complete without sampling the finest of Wagyu, the Kobe beef – and there seemed like nowhere better than in Kobe itself.

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It was incredible, and the experience is something I will remember for a very very long time. I went to Wakkoku, a very upmarket restaurant just a short walk from the train station (another recommendation). They don’t have tables in the typical sense, but all guests are seated around the hot plates, and have their own personal chef cooking their dinner in front of them. It is a lesson, and definite art. Everything is presented to you before they begin to cook, and then each part of the beef is cooked in a slightly different way to ensure it is all cooked perfectly. Once cooked (little by little – hence no real photos of that), you are instructed on which of the sauces each part should be eaten with.

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The beef itself was the softest (almost mousse like texture) I have ever eaten, but incredibly incredibly rich. You couldn’t eat a bigger steak than they give you – I could almost feel my arteries clogging as I ate it… As a once in a blue moon opportunity though, it was worth every penny I paid for it – and I really hope I get to experience it again some day! If you find yourself in Kobe, don’t hesitate to go here!

The rest of the food was excellent too. <3

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Also as I’m posting this on the 26th… HAPPY BIRTHDAY DAD! :)

Cx

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~ by pandaclaire on March 26, 2014.

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