Saturday, August 15, 2009

Osaka Koya-san Kyoto: Days 5-7

Two nights ago we arrived in Osaka. We had some trouble figuring out the JR (Japan Railways) trains, but eventually arrived at the best hostel of our trip so far... Osaka-shiritsu Nagai Youth Hostel. Cheap, clean, friendly, and they had much-needed laundry facilities and a great subway map (and an 11pm curfew)! We didn't mind the curfew so much since we were so exhausted... we grabbed a quick bite at the nearest soba noodle restaurant, did our laundry, and hit the sack.

Late-night soba restaurant.

Then, early yesterday morning, we hopped on the very easy, very punctual, very clean subway to go to Osaka Aquarium shortly after they opened (to avoid long lines). We were rewarded for buying our aquarium/subway 1-day pass with a very short wait, but crowds of families with kids made the first few exhibits more trouble than they were worth. However, the massive 8-story main tank with two whale sharks, plus the giant crabs, glowing jellyfish, and non-stinging ray petting area exhibits certainly made the trek worthwhile.

Giant ray: Osaka aquarium main tank.

Since we spent most of the day at the aquarium we immediately set out for Koya-san, where we observed the night time Bon festival in Oku-no-in cemetary and spent the night at Daimyoin (a temple lodging run by super-friendly Buddhist monks) complete with vegetarian meals and morning prayer meditation.

Buddha grave marker: Oku-no-in in the morning.

Finally, this morning we returned to Osaka via bus, cable car & train... stopped off in the Dotombori neighborhood for "okonomiyaki" at Chibo restaurant before continuing on to Osaka-jo castle.

Osaka-jo (jo = castle).

We then proceeded to get back on the train to take a special limited express train (shinkaisoku - only ¥540!) bound for Kyoto. Arriving less than an hour later, we quickly checked into our hostel and then went straight out for tempura and gyoza in the Gion area. No geisha or maiko tonight, maybe tomorrow after we return from our Nara day trip!

BakPak Kyoto

Mia chows on some fantastic fresh-made tempura

(sent from my docomo phone)

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