Friday, 30 September 2016

The urban castle

Fri 30th Sept

        "When the black rains down on this cold gray town"
       When Greg Allmann sang these words nearly 30 years ago they were meant to be about Osaka so when I arrived here this morning I was a bit ill at ease.
      The sun beating down on Osaka soon changed that idea for as I walked out from the station after a brief hurl in a Bullet train from Kyoto I could see that the landscape had changed from one of industrialisation and a dank landscape to one of modernisation and a well planned city with modern office blocks dwarfing the station building.Even more so was the beach volleyball court which was situated about one hundred metres from the front door of the station.It was situated on the way to the spot where Lady Watson thought Osaka castle was so I had to take a few photographs of the  game that was being played.I took a few photos before I was accused of concentrating on the scantily clad females-perish the thought.
    After being dragged reluctantly away from the game we continued on our way to the spot where I was told the castle was.
       On finding the castle didn't occupy the choice of Lady Watson I asked a charming little lady in the local tourist office where the castle was she gave me instructions how to get there as it was a bit of distance away.We about turned and headed back to the station,stopping off for another look at the volley ball players,and jumped on a train to the nearest station to Osaka castle.
        The castle is right by the railway station and therefore we didn't have to walk far before we seen the castle moat which in itself was amazing.This was complemented by the overpowering walls which deterred all but the cunning few.
    After entering the gate we followed the path up the hill towards the castle itself and lo and behold it looked amazing especially as it still looked stately amongst the overpowering skyscrapers standing overhead.
      The only blot on the landscape was the lift that had been installed obviously not installed in the Edo period.
        The castle from the outside was amazing and looked like it had just come from the set of Shogun.After a brief look from the outside we headed into the castle being doused in a fine water spray as we went in obviously to cool us down as the temperature was in the nineties.
          The inside of the castle was just as amazing as the outside with all the displays from through the centuries including pictures,models and artefacts.
  Another lift had been installed which took visitors up to the fifth floor where you could continue up on foot to the top of the castle and view the surroundings.
   After a quick tour of the top visitors could make there way back down through the castle looking at all the exhibits bit by bit with pictures of all the warring families(some things never change)and also see the amazing artefacts ranging from swords,armour to the amazing letters and scrolls sent between the warring families.I had hoped to take some photos but this wasn't allowed on some of the floors as Lady Watson found out with a lecture from one of the staff.He sounded as though he didn't take prisoners.
There is even a stand giving you the chance to don a samurai helmet and wear a kimono which doesn't make for a fearsome warrior especially with some of the garish coloured kimonos.No I didn't indulge-that will come tomorrow.
We spent a good two hours going around the castle before heading for the ubiquitous visit to the souvenir shop where I purchased yet another T-shirt.I can hear Mr Ray shaking his head as he refers to me as the t-shirt man.A few more souvenirs were bought before we headed to Kobe and a place that Lady Watson had planned to visit the Kobe Nunoniki herb garden.It didn't seem that interesting till I found out that we had to get to the garden by cable car.
    As I said the fancy way up to this herb garden was up in a cable car which gave us great views of Kobe which is Japan's sixth biggest city.Kobe is one of the major ports and was also where You Only Live Twice was filmed-another one of the list.
     The cable car took us right to the top of the mountain where an incredible herb garden and fragrance museum is in existence.
We had a walk around the museum and had a chance to take in the fragrances that make most of today's perfumes.I even finally managed to smell both mryyh and frankincense and believe me I'd rather have Old Spice as a Christmas present.
       We finished off our visit by sampling some bratwurst(yes we are still in Japan but couldn't pass it up)before heading back down the cable car in order to catch the train home.
      Tomorrow our plans are to go our separate ways with Lady Watson heading to find some geishas whilst I head for the local film studios hopefully to be the only Scottish samurai around.
      See you when I see you

Thursday, 29 September 2016

The long road to the Imperial Palace.

Thursday 29th September 

         After one of the most comfortable and painless train journeys we arrived into Kyoto.The only downside was that Mount Fuji was doing one of its Scottish mountain impressions as it was covered in cloud.Hopefully it will be clear on the way back.
          Kyoto is a bit more laid back than Tokyo but there is still plenty of hustle and bustle.Our place of abode is only about 3/4 of a mile from the station but we still took advantage of the wonderful subway system arriving at our port of call only to be met by an enormous thunderstorm which proceeded to last for hours.Since we still had an hour before we could check in we headed for one of the local culinary hotspots-Macdonalds to dry ourselves out.On perusing the menu I saw that in true Japanese Halloween style they had fries with chocolate and pumpkin sauces.It sounded that weird we had to try them-they were different.
             We decided to have a quiet night in due to the weather which meant an eye opening visit to the local supermarket.The traffic passing the flat continued to be busy right up until about midnight but the sound of sirens continued all the way through to the morning.
        Morning arrived and the rain had disappeared so after brekkie we headed back into the main railway station so we could go our separate ways not in a Brief Encounter way but a difference of venue way.Lady Watson headed for the local market whilst I headed for the Kyoto railway museum-well it had to be done.
   All the guides say that the museum was right outside the station.Obviously they regard a mile as being next to the station.After a brief walk I heard the sound of a train which sounded as though it came out of a cowboy film so I knew I was headed in the right direction otherwise I was going to have to get my six gun out.Voila-Railway museum and the first train I set my eyes on was the 60's bullet train whose sibling I had just seen inYork railway museum.
          I went through the museum dodging schoolchildren by the dozen looking at all the exhibits and engines all the way through from the Japanese railways genisis through to the present day.
      There were diesel engines all the way through from the fifties which would be regarded as modern on British railways.
The one I've noticed is that Japanese railway officials through the ages didn't take any s**t and although today's conductors and guards are very polite,I'm sure they would act the same as their samurai ancestors if somebody tried to p**s them off.
      After spending an hour so at the museum I decided to visit the Kyoto Aquarium for a wee while and found it to be more fascinating than the railway museum.Maybe it's because I work with trains all day.
        The Kyoto Aquarium museum is well worth a visit even although the other half of Japan's schoolchildren seem to be in attendance.
   The displays were fantastic from beginning to end and the end of the tour was a typical Japanese garden complete with a miniature paddy field.
       They started of with a tank inhabited by a giant salamander which was an awful lot bigger than the specimens we have as pets back home.
       The displays continued with exhibits of the local aquatic wildlife both in the sea and the rivers.  
     The next display were seals in a tank which had to be seen to be believed.A recess had been built to let you walk under the water and see them from underneath.A separate cylinderical tank has been built to come out of the floor but still be connected to the main tank.
This was occupied by a large male seal who disappeared every so often back into the main tank in order to check on his harem. 
   My highlight of the museum was the feeding of a large tank of various fish ranging from sharks to rays.This was done by a scuba diver who literally fed every ray personally which was amazing as they looked just his pets.From two plastic tubs fitted on to his belt he produced fish after fish to feed the rays before heading into the Shark cave-albeit small sharks-to pander to their every whim.
      Moving on through the museum we next came to the penguin enclosure just in time to watch them being showered by the their keepers.As usual with penguins they just stand around all day looking bored but I'm sure they would look the same in the Antartic.
        Throughout the museum I was amazed by the different number of species on view including of all things jellyfish who had their own displays complete with sci fi mood music.
The conclusion of the tour found me in the museum's own Japanese style garden complete with its own paddy field.I've seen some allotments in my time but growing rice in their own back garden takes the biscuit.
    As this detour had taken up a bit more time than I had planned I hurried on to out next port of call which was the original Imperial palace of Japan.
     This was one of our holiday must do's as I'd read about it in both fictional and non fictional books.The palace was just I'd imagined with buildings and gardens right out of Shogun.We made our way around the outside of the palace buildings as we weren't allowed inside the buildings although we could see inside a few of them.
       One thing I found peculiar about the history of this building was the amount of times it burnt down.I'd have hated to pay the premiums on that building especially the way insurance companies charge you
The day was rounded off with a meal in a Japanese restaurant which was a tad unusual as in the middle of our table was situated a large metal heated flat grill and when our dishes were cooked in the kitchen they were literally placed without the plates onto the grill from which we just helped ourselves.Sounds different but it was delicious.
      Tomorrow we're heading for Osaka and Kobe to visit more film locations from Shogun and You Only Live Twice.
     See you when I see you.
         I'll put more pics on display when I get access to my laptop.

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Nihon e yokoso

UWednesday 28th September 
Welcome to Japan and what a fantastic place and people.The moment we arrived on Monday we have fell in love with the place and that was after an eleven hour flight combined with a one and a half hour flight from Edinburgh.The place is so civilised and the people can't do enough for you.
                After a nice meal Japanese style,ie everything just turns up when it's ready so we just ate it when it came regardless of etiquette.First time I've ever chosen fish by being presented with a large tray of fresh fish to select from.
       The following day we indulged in the ubiquitous bus tour stopping off amongst other places an Anime cafe for two enormous club sandwiches that even I couldn't finish.Lady Watson ended up eating pink rolls stuffed with pork burger and scrambled egg.
           Amongst other stop off points was the Asakusa temple and shrine.More pics to follow.Heading for Koyota next for a few days.No doubt more temples to come.