|Osaka – or is it Kyoto ?
Osaka is a major port city on the south-east coast of Japan. Much of the city was destroyed in the war, so it is mainly industrial and new-build.
Our trip (in fact, most of the trips today) went to Kyoto, about 1 and a half hours away.
That’s what they said, anyway.
The two cities are in fact pretty much connected – we kind of saw a couple of green bits that could have been fields, but it would be tricky to say where Osaka ended and Kyoto began.
They have International Summits in Kyoto. Probably on those days they clear the streets for the delegates ? Today there was no International Summit – in fact, it was some kind of National Festival. Our destinations today were 3 Temples, two Buddhist, and one Shinto (ancestors/family).
Put these two things together, and there are two results: on the downside, jammed traffic everywhere, and jammed Temples, but on the plus side, hundreds of girls in colourful Kimonos who had dressed up for their days out (and some boys, tho not in kimonos)
To reach Temple 1, we had to walk about ½ mile, including crossing over two level crossings and a steep uphill climb – on a normal day this would probably be do-able. Today the sheer volume of people and traffic made it pretty hazardous. The lane was narrow and lined with stalls and shops, of much interest to the Japanese visitors who kept stopping randomly. Going round them meant stepping out under the wheels of a passing car; not going round them meant losing sight of our guide who seemed intent on racing on ahead. Once we reached the Temple, we gave up trying to stay together; however, judging how long to allow for the return journey to the coach was tricky given the conditions. As we came back down the path from the top of the Temple site, we passed the guide and about half the party going up. Good, we thought, we are well ahead…..they must have found a quick way down though, as we were pretty much last back, having got caught by both sets of level crossing gates. (Reminds us of Barmouth).
Today’s coach of fellow passengers was rather odd. I mean, odder even than previously. We decided a large number of them were truly “ignore-ant” – they seemed to have an amazing ability to ignore every single thing our hard-working guide said, and then to argue among themselves and repeat what she said or what they thought she said, usually inaccurately. It is unusual to give a return time as “3.50”, but she did spell it out as “3-5-0” as well; and returning by 3.15 would have given us a very short time at the Temple; but the discussion about “what she said” was painful to hear.
As we went to Lunch, she pointed out the emerging cherry blossom, yet again telling us that in a few weeks it will be spectacular. It is in fact a little late this year due to the cool weather. (Thanks for that! ) Overheard from the ignore-ant section “early April ? that’ll be the start of their autumn won’t it ?”. They’ve clearly been ignoring everything anybody has ever said to them about hemispheres all their lives
At our Japanese lunch, again served in a multitude of dishes all set out and beautifully presented, I shared a table with the worst food-refusenik I have ever come across (this is NOT J!) He drank his Coke, but ate nothing, I tried the “bean curd”, a sort of grey Tofu – a bit dull but perfectly pleasant. “This could do with something to liven it up?” meaning maybe some soy sauce ? Totally deadpan he came back with “chips?” He still ate nothing ..turned out he had a couple of cheese rolls in the coach to keep him going……not all of us are that keen on raw fish, either, but how sad to come all this way and not even try the sticky rice, the green beans, the orange jelly dessert.
The second Temple featured 1000 statues of Kannon supporting a large central figure. They were arranged in rows on ten steps, and one walked along the front of them admiring them all (they are all different and some over 1000 years old). From the end of the display, the effect was pretty much of an old-fashioned football stadium of standing terraces…..photos were forbidden, but we have some postcards.
Our final Temple was reached up another steep and narrow lane, with a massive coach park about half way up. Hint to town planners: do not put a coach park up a steep narrow lane. Hint to tour operators – do not try to visit this coach park on a National Festival day. It could have taken coaches one-way plus pedestrians; or pedestrians and parked vehicles but no coaches. It could not take two way coaches, parked vehicles and thousands of pedestrians – how someone did not get hurt we will never know. As we arrived a heavy rain shower started. Our guide then announced that for this Temple we needed a ticket which she would get and distribute to us; hence we must keep together on the way up the hill to the entrance. Yeah, right. With the teeming rain, people were running everywhere to get some shelter, many of them dangerous in their deployment of umbrellas. Tour groups became inextricably mixed. We finally came to a total stop under the roof of a gateway/pagoda where A LOT of people had obviously taken shelter. Total gridlock. Crush. Lots of “oops”ing and sorrying, then..a loud, regrettably very English voice from somewhere behind “Oh, just get a move on will you”…… Like, where to and how? Levitating not being among my accomplishments, I felt there was little I could do. It slightly spoiled the experience.
This was where we saw the majority of the geisha-girls, some beautiful and colourful photos. Some very tranquil and iconic Japanese gardens. See photos. Eventually.
Returning was a bore; we bust a gut to get back to the coach (at 3.50 !), but due to problems with the narrow lane, by 4.15 we had not in fact got out of the car park. So the trip back became 2 hours, and while one can find things to look at and watch when stuck in city traffic, there is not much you can do when stationary on the expressway slip road…..