Japan – Speechless

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This second trip to Japan is a complete, unfiltered assault on my senses. I return to my room each night completely shattered, my nerves shot. I have travelled to some relatively extreme places, but Japan repeatedly leaves me bewildered, shaken and stirred.


Waiting for my flight at Taipei Taoyuan International Airport – formerly Chiang Kai Shek… the island is in the process of severing links with the man, which I think may be going too far in some ways

After a couple of months of tough projects, I escaped from the ROC while the rest of the island celebrates Chinese New Year, and landed in Japan’s third city – Osaka. I have already visited Japan once before while visiting my sister, so some of the sights and sounds were certainly familiar, particularly after living in Taiwan for so long.


Shinkansen are astoundingly, stupifyingly fast – especially when standing a few metres away when they rocket by


Zoom Zoom


I definitely need a post dedicated to bullet trains. This is the oldest type, I think, but still my favourite – why oh why doesn’t the UK have these?

Osaka is certainly more laid back and accessible, though it must be said that there is less to see than some of the other locations here. The prime attraction is the city’s castle, and this constitutes the most visited tourist attraction in Japan. I might suggest that the only reason for this is that there is nothing else touristy to see here! It was still a bit of a let down to reach the top and be told, in dramatic scale model style, that the entire thing is made from concrete and was constructed a in the last forty years. Still, Osaka’s octopus balls I could eat all day.


Picadilly Circus in London can only dream – Dotomburi in Osaka


The kids rock out to scores of amateur bands. They were actually pretty good and made for a very nice alternative use of a shopping arcade, once the shops has shut. Tokyo, sadly, has pushed out its amateur rockers from Harajuku.


The walls of Osakajo (Osaka Castle). Interestingly, some of the blocks which seem to be as big as small lorries were only recently discovered to be about 20cm thick. All for show!


My old man’s a Samurai


Roar!

I had been hankering to visit Kobe for years. The only two pieces of knowledge I have are A. the earthquake and B. the beef. Earthquake aside, I had a bit of a disappointing time looking for a decent beef restaurant and in the end I gave up. Much like buying an expensive bottle of whiskey or wine, I didn’t want to part with my cash without knowing what I was buying, and certainly not in one of the establishments established solely to cater to the dollars of Jonny Foreigner. They are 100 bucks a piece, minimum, so that cow lives to drink beer, be doused in Sake and receive erotic massages for another few months. But revenge will be mine, fat, drunk cow – mark my words.


A super cool shopping arcade under the railway line had a super vibe, packed with old record shops, vintage clothes and military surplus


China town in Kobe – ironically, full of Taiwanese tourists (though I can hardly talk!)

After the suburban delights of Kobe, it was a delight to reach the castle town of Himeji. What a castle. Set as the backdrop to the Tom Cruise vehicle ‘Last Samurai’ and James Bond ‘You Only Live Twice’ it really lived up to expectations, and at the end of the day the sun emerged from between chilly clouds and I think I almost burnt out the SD card slot on my camera, taking the same shots over and over again as the light continued to improve.


How cool is this?!


View from the quarters of ladies in waiting


I am a Ninja. I kill people. And I am awesome.


This is the where the Samurais and warrior dudes keep their stuff. Know that I was almost peeing myself being surrounded by so much cool and smooth weaponry.


Sakura! (or actually Plum – thanks Kaoru!)


The Japanese clearly mastered Corporate Identity a long, long time ago


Carping on


A Kimono-clad lady flees a ninja attack!


Plum I guess. Not Sakura.


Rooflessly good


I never really understand why bamboo never got exported to Europe when trading began. It’s such a versatile material, and surely some seeds could have been taken over? One of my little questions.


How cute is this little girl? I mean really?!


Roar 2.0

It was at this point that I was in somewhat of a quandry – head for Hiroshima or for the delights of Kyoto and Nara? Well, after the so-so reaction to Kobe, I decided to stick with the ancient Japanese thing and head for Kyoto. It seems that I could spend several days here with no problem, and I am presently in a hostel, ready to sleep in the floor of the living room as the place is booked out – makes a nice change from the businessman hole in the wall hotels I have been frequenting up to this point. And tomorrow I plan to rent
a bike and check this place out – I already have invitations from a fleet of Taiwanese students who clucked away with me in Chinese while booking in. A nice reminder of travelling on more limited means!

Sayonara!

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