Maigo in Japan: Kansai


Part 3 of my trip: kansai. I had really been looking forward to visiting the kansai region for the sole purpose of being able to hear people speak kansai-ben! (And to visit the famous sites and temples of course 😉 ) I have no idea why, but for some reason I just absolutely love the dialect, and if I could speak it, I definitely would. But one step at a time, my current Japanese still needs to be improved.

My first stop in Kansai was Osaka. First I would be visiting an old middle school friend of mine I’ve known since the age of 11. I’d met up with him last year in London, but it was exciting to be able to visit him in his home country, and have him show me around. Being shown around by a local is always the best way to go in my opinion.
 The trip to Osaka from Aomori was loooong. It took me about 9 hours! I could’ve arrived much quicker if I had read the timetable correctly, but I didn’t. I ended up catching slow trains, and it just took forever. I finally arrived in Osaka at about 3, and it was absolutely smouldering. After a short break at my friend’s place, we went out to hit the town. First, he took me to a figurine shop. It was really a fascinating place. The figurines made in that shop were even sometimes used in movies. Seeing the amount of detail that goes into making them was really impressive.
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We then went to Namba, one of Osaka’s most famous spots. And boy was it busy. And bright! If I had to use one word to describe Osaka, it would have to be: colourful. Not only are the streets colourful, but the people too. Everyone wore such vibrant coloured clothing, and seemed so lively. And compared to other places I visited, the Osaka-jin are not shy. They’re not afraid to come up and talk to you and are really friendly, which is great. Actually one of the days I was there, and oji-chan that was walking in the same direction started talking to me, and because it was so hot, decided to treat me and my friends to an ice cream. It was a really nice gesture, and I can’t really imagine anyone doing that in London.

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Day 2 in kansai I went to Kyoto and met up with my friend from Shizuoka (with whom I had originally been staying with). Kyoto is big. And most of the famous sites are not in walking distance. Probably the best way to get around is by bus, which is what we did. You can buy a one day bus pass for ¥500, which is a steal considering that one bus ride is ¥220.  We spent about 2 and half days in Kyoto and managed to cover quite a lot of ground.
Kinkakuji
Kinkakuji
Tenryuji temple
Tenryuji temple
Kiyomizudera
Kiyomizudera

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If you manage to walk from this boulder to the next (6m away) with your eyes closed, you will find true love 🙂
I failed 😥

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Nijijo
Niji-jo illuminated by the light show we went to see
Fushimi inari
Fushimi inari

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Arashiyama
Arashiyama
Arashiyama
Arashiyama
Soba Ice cream (so yummy!)
Yuba Ice cream (so yummy!)

In the evening we were actually lucky enough to see the local fisherman perform ukai: a type of fishing that uses birds to catch the fish.

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At one point I managed to really embarrass myself, when a fish suddenly jumped into our boat. I screamed and hurried to the other side, scaring the children that were on board and leaving the poor fish flapping about. But thankfully someone rescued it. あぁ, 恥ずかしかった.  (〃艸〃)
The ukai was really interesting to watch though, and I would recommend going if you can. It cost us about ¥1700 (£11) if I remember correctly, and was completely worth it.
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Our first night in Kyoto we stayed in one of the J-Hoppers Hostels. You can find them all over Japan, and the hostel we stayed at was quite nice. On our second night we stayed at another hostel called Toujian. It wasn’t the nicest hostel, in terms of aesthetics (which is understandable at ¥2000 a night), but we enjoyed it so much more because the oji-chan that runs it was the sweetest person ever. When we couldn’t find our way to the hostel at 11PM he came to pick us up. And when we were leaving in the morning he gave us both some drinks and snacks for our trip. For ¥2000 you even got some breakfast in the morning  (tea, toast and  hardboiled egg), and a towel was provided. The place didn’t have any showers, but access to a nearby sento (public baths).  By now I was getting pretty used to bathing in public. So if you’re looking for somewhere cheap to stay, this is the place!
We went back to Osaka for an evening to view a 花火大会 hanabi taikai (firework display). Japanese love fireworks, and it is as much a part of the culture as is sushi. It’s a great opportunity to get the lovely yukata out and spend some time with family and friends.
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We met up with a whole bunch of friends, bought lots of snacks and drinks and made our way to the park where the fireworks would be showing. Before the display, we spent our time eating, drinking and playing card games. And finally the fireworks started. They were incredible 🙂
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After Osaka and Kyoto I went to Nara. The parks were filled with deers.
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The deers are so used to humans, you can go right up to them and pet them. You will also find many senbei sellers in the parks, who you can buy senbei from to feed the deers.
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I tried to feed the them, and got attacked instead. Before I could even taken my wallet out to buy the senbei, I was suddenly surrounded by about a gang of 10 of them. The ring leader was especially impatient, as she bit and pulled on my dress, and nudged my leg.  I finally got to buying the senbei, and thought it would calm them down. But with fear of my dress being completely chewed off (and me ending up in my underwear in the middle of the park), I ended up having to throw the senbei as far away from me as possible. I did not get to feed them in the nice sort of fairy tail way I had pictured myself doing 😦 But I believe it may have been karma getting me back. Because just 5 minutes before I had seen a girl cornered on top of a wall surrounded by deers yelling “yamete, yamete! stop, stop!” And I kinda laughed thinking “aww how cute she’s scared of the deers”…. (T ^ T)
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Aside from getting mobbed in the park by deers, the park also offered some beautiful candle lit illuminations for our eyes to feast upon.
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The next day I went to Todai-ji to see the daibutsu (giant Buddha). It was impressive!
Todai-ji
Todai-ji
Daibutsu
Daibutsu

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I absolutely loved visiting Kansai. Kyoto and Nara were such beautiful places, and Osaka was loads of fun. I think if I had to live in Japan, it would definitely have to be Osaka.
The next and final part of my trip…Tokyo!
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