Travel notes from Japan - Kansai (2007)
Kyoto, Kobe, Osaka
by Lorenzo Casaccia

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Japan is a place where you tell yourself "This is so like Japan!" until you start thinking the whole world works like this. Whether it is the schoolboys or the fashion victims, the temples or the conveyor belt sushi, the neon or the feeling of being lost in translation, there is no place like Japan where you feel the difference and in such a confortable way

### OCT 7 - OSAKA
Flying into Osaka. The airport is on an artificial island. Bus to the hotel, very tiny room.
Walking around town. The city is unattractive, many high-rises, terribly hot.
The Umeda Sky Building is an attempt of modern architecture, you can go on top but the view is nothing special

### OCT 8-12 - KOBE
Attending 3GPP SA2, the usual delirium. What's up with the next gen of telecom anyway?
Kalle has lived in Japan for a couple of years so we get to sample a variety of Japanese dishes, various tempura, meat dishes, odd creations, and so on.
On Friday, we indulge in a memorable Kobe beef

### OCT 13 - from KOBE to KYOTO
Going in the morning for a walk in Kobe.Our hotel is on an another artifical island in front of Kobe. On Saturday morning, in front of the conference center, a squad of middle-age women are bent on the pavement cleaning it of the smallers pieces of trash: eerie.
Feels like Asia, swarms of people going in all directions, and multi-level walkways. Kobe is cute, walking around some part and some earthquake memorial. Basically no foreigners around. Later taking a train to Kyoto
Walking in Sanyo Arcade in downtown. It is Saturday afternoon and everyone is sporting the latest fashion. Boots and shorts and the rule over here. Plenty of people biking

### OCT 14 - KYOTO
Going for northern Higashiyama area (Eastern Kyoto)
- Konchi-in temple, Nanzen-ji Temple, Eikando Temple
- Then walking north on the so-called "Path of Philosophy"
- Honen-in and Ginkakuji temple. The latter is extremely crowded, takes away some beauty.
Most tourists are Japanese. Wonderfully decorated garden, very pleasant to walk by.
Often, there is some smell of citrus or other herbs.
Dinner in a fantastic hole-in-the-wall sushi place recommended by the LP: Tomi-Zushi, very easy to start chatting with locals although the average Japanese speaks terrible English
At 10pm everything seems to fade, even Gion. The inner streets of Gion only leave an array of clubs of dubious appearance

### OCT15 - KYOTO
Nijo-jo: castle, with delightful tea garden
- Nishi Hongan-ji: under heavy remodeling
- To-ji: wonderful set of buildings. Five-stories pagoda. The lecture hall has 21 statues whose placement has some meaning according to Esoteric Buddhism
- Train station: modern building with a couple of bizarre details
Taking a bus in the wrong direction and wasting some time to get back on track
- Hiking up Kiyomizu-Dera, multi-level system of buildings; spectacular views and colors around sunset. Meeting three fun and active Spaniards
Peeking in Ryozen Kannon by night

### OCT 16 - KYOTO
Today going for the Western area
- Nishiki Market
- Ninna-ji
- Ryoan-ji (with the most famous zen garden of Japan)
- Kinkaku-ji (with the reknown golden pagoda)
- Kamigamo shrine

### OCT 17 - NARA
Visiting Nara, about 45 minutes from Kyoto: another array of temples
- Kofuku-ji
- Todai-ji: majestic wooden building with a giant buddha inside
- Kasuga shrine, lost in the wood
- Kasuga-yama forest: not sure why this has been blessed as World Heritage, seems just an ordinary hill where to hike for about 1 hour, and the view from the top is just so-so
- Gango-ji
Going in the same sushi bar as Monday, meeting up with random japanese, all very curious and eager to talk in spite of colossal language barriers (seems the typical well-educated engineer speaks quite a poor English)

### OCT 18 - HIMEJI & UJI
- Scorching heat in Himeji: how can it be so hot in mid-October? The Himeji castle is not so special as they tell you.
Taking the shinkansen back (bullet train)
- Uji: hosts a major temple (Byodo-in) and a shrine (Ujigami). Byodo-in is wonderfully kept, with a museum that reconstructshow visually it was looking, when the wooden temple was colored by orange and red pigments and the golden phoenix on the roof was still there in his original splendor

### OCT 19 - KYOTO
Just chilling out, walking to my favourite spots (in the rain), looking for cool pictures, and some gadgets and books



Kobe, Osaka & Himeji

Nara & Uji

George's pictures from the 3GPP SA2 week


Random jazz band on a Kyoto street

Conveyor belt sushi

Strolling in the Sanyo Arcade in Kyoto

Things I love in Japan

- The fashion victims
- The food
- The zen garden
- The cleanliness
- The ubiquous clerks shouting "Irasshamaise!"


Sushi: Tomi-Zushi: between the southern end of Karawamachi-dori and the river (it is on the Lonely Planet)

Bookstore: Random Walk, in the Sanyo Arcade somewhere. Basically it has everything you would want to find: guidebooks on Japan, novels of Japanese authors modern and classical, books on Japanese culture, on Japanese architecture, art, comics, etc etc. Modern Japanese magazines ... and all of this in English. Plus a huge section on international paperbacks (in English also). Amazing

UNESCO World Heritage sites

The larger Kyoto area & Kansai sport in impressive number of UNESCO World Heritage sites.

It is not clear what's up with this Unesco World Heritage stuff, since, as any such selection, the list is quite arbitrary (e.g. some temples really seem not to deserve the title, and others such as Nanzen-ji should be in).

Nevertheless UNESCO is now quite a popular brand exactly like any corporation (at least I know someone who would like to join :-) and if nothing else their list provides some guidance to figure out what to see out in the mass of available attractions.

Lastly, UNESCO seems to have selected a number of sites that are very difficult to reach, e.g. in very remote locations outside Kyoto.... and also at least one per corner of the map. Maybe they wanted to maximize travel as well

Anyway this is the list, with an indication of how much these places are off the beaten path
(*) requires some detour
(**) requires a major detour or a dedicated trip

### Kyoto
- Nijo castle
- Kamigamo shrine (*)
- Shimogamo shrine (**)
- Daigo temple (**)
- Enryaku temple (**)
- Ginkaku temple
- Kinkaku temple
- Kiyomizu-dera temple
- Kozan temple (**)
- Ninna temple
- Nishi Hongan temple
- Ryoan temple
- Saiho temple (**)
- Tenryu temple (*)
- To temple

### Uji
- Byodo temple
- Ujigami shrine

### Nara
- Heijo palace (*)
- Kasuga shrine
- Todaj temple
- Kofuku temple
- Gango temple
- Yakushi temple (*)
- Toshodai temple (*)
- Kasuga-yama forest (*)

### Himeji
- Himeji castle


© Lorenzo Casaccia, 2007