Helen and Randall on the road

A bit about our adventures 2011-2012

Friday 3rd – Sunday 5th May 2013: Sumiyoshi, Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto

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On Friday morning we left Kyoto and travelled by taxi, VERY crowded JR Special Rapid service to Osaka and then local train to Sumiyoshi, to stay with the lovely Martin and Tilly – old friends of Randall’s – and their two delightful 7-year-old boys.

It was a festival weekend – part of Golden Week – and in Kobe (their nearest town) there was a flower-petal festival a bit like the one in Sitges for Corpus Christi:

Fri3-1

Kobe flower petal festival. Tom with balloon samurai sword.

Fri3-2

Kobe flower petal festival

Fri3-3

Peculiar dinosaur/dragon type creature.

Fri3-4

Balloon lady who made balloon samurai swords for the boys.

Balloon woman and the twins.

Balloon woman and the twins.

We wandered up through  Kitano to the temple/shrine at the top of the hill via a small plaza where an audience of locals were enjoying watching a performing monkey – little outfit, glasses and all. Cultural differences…

Prayers at the shrine.

Prayers at the shrine.

Holy Cow!

Holy Cow!

Fri3-8

Kobe – Kitano shrine

At the shrine above Kitano, Kobe

At the shrine above Kitano, Kobe

View of Kobe from Kitano

View of Kobe from Kitano

I have found my spiritual home...

I have found my spiritual home…

Shrine, Kobe town

Shrine, Kobe town

The boys!

Randall and Martin

The boys had been learning how to make origami Samurai hats:

Many hats!

Many hats!

Fri3-walk6

My attempt

That evening we headed into the bright lights of Osaka, although apparently it was very quiet compared to usual as it was a holiday. Still, we met one of Martin’s work colleagues and had a great dinner and some beers in a Japanese/Hawaiian fusion place.

The Osaka Station Water Clock

The next morning Randall and I slept late, and were surprisingly not woken by a noisy parade banging and crashing its way past. However luckily there was another so we didn’t miss out:

The moving shrine

The moving shrine

The moving shrine

The moving shrine

The moving shrine parade

It was really quite spectacular, with all the local children ‘pulling’ the cart up the road on a long rope, and teenagers hanging off the roof at alarming angles waving their flags and chanting.

The moving shrine parade #2

Even better, the local fire service were supervising the proceedings and gave Tom and Jack a ride in the fire engine!

Fireman friendly.

Fireman friendly.

It was late-ish before we caught the train to Kyoto to go shrine visiting – a bus from the station took us close to Kiyomizu-dera, we walked the rest of the way up the hill lined with little cafes and curio shops.

Strange machine we spent ages puzzling over in a shop window.

Strange machine we spent ages puzzling over in a shop window.

It makes cookies!

It makes cookies!

It was early evening by the time we arrived, but as it turned out that meant that the light was just amazing.

Fri3-17

View down the hill from Kiyomizu-dera Shrine

Gate to Kiyomizu-dera Shrine

Kiyomizu-dera Shrine

Bell at Kiyomizu-dera Shrine

Kiyomizu-dera Shrine

Bell at Kiyomizu-dera Shrine

Kiyomizu-dera Shrine

Kiyomizu-dera Shrine

The red pagoda across from the main building.

The red pagoda across from the main building.

The red pagoda

The red pagoda

By the time we got back to Sumiyoshi it was late evening and there was a festival going on around the local shrine with stalls for winning goldfish etc and most importantly great street food, so I finally got the takoyaki I’d been fixated on since reading ‘Sushi and Beyond – what the Japanese know about cooking’ (thanks Symon and Zoe for the recommendation!).

Yummy takoyaki = happy Helen

Yummy takoyaki = happy Helen

Fri3-walk4

Martin pondering whether to get a ‘sausage-onna-stick’.

On Sunday Tilly was feeling under the weather so the rest of us headed off to Arashiyama on the outskirts of Kyoto to the famous Bamboo Forest. It was a beautiful day so we first went boating on the river:

Obelix - I mean Randall - rowing

Obelix – I mean Randall – rowing

Being in a rowing boat with Randall – particularly when you are responsible not only for navigation but also for the well-being of a sevenyear-old without a life jacket – is not the most relaxing as one travels everywhere at full ramming speed. A bit like when Obelix rows. Still, it was very picturesque and we only had a couple of collisions.

Preparing to repel boarders

Preparing to repel boarders

Scenery

Scenery

Our first attempt at taking on supplies failed – just as we were ordering from the nice lady someone leapt into their boat, shouted a command and they zipped off at high speed. The second attempt was more successful and we managed some drinks and popcorn before drifting away to make space for the next customers.

Floating caff

Floating caff

All that rowing (or in my case lounging in the back of the boat) had made us hungry – time for more takoyaki!

Fri3-35

Takoyaki stall at the riverside.

Takoyaki stall at the riverside.

From here we headed to the actual bamboo forest:

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

Fri3-28

Arashiyama Bamboo Forest

In rather typical Japanese fashion it was all very regulated – no wandering through little meandering paths in the forest, just a wide tarmac path along with the other tourists, the rickshaws and the bicycles. It was pretty but not overwhelming, so Martin took Caroline and the boys back via the temple while Randall and I continued walking for a little while and then found a spot in the sun for a couple of beers:

Fri3-29

Beer garden.

Fri3-30

Art gallery that the beer garden belonged to.

We headed back to Sumiyoshi in time to drop off our luggage at a convenience store for the apparently famous Japanese luggage forwarding service as the next day we were heading to the mountains for the Alpen Route where big bags aren’t allowed. We hope to see our luggage again soon.

Our stay was rounded off by a night out in Kobe with live music by The Tardy Boys – drinking, dancing and much fun!

Kobe by night

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