April 13, 2010 - Kyoto, Japan

Right Osaka, then

Jings it wis only a few days ago and already I cannae mind what we did. Things are starting tae blend intae each other. All the hotels look the same. All the castles and temples look the same.

Osaka's a nice place, mind. Lovely people, quite lively. Huge place actually...seems tae go on and on in every direction and just thousands o concrete buildings wi the odd quiet wee spot wi a temple in it. Big Castle in the middle.

Oor hotel is braw and oor room is a bit bigger than the last two shoe boxes we were in. Right in the middle of things anaw. Soon as we're checked in we go oot for a wee wander and oor street is pretty chilled wi all coffee shops and jazz tunes floating doon fae somewhere. And what's this?....a cheese shop....haw haw lets hae a look in way...whisky...tons o it....a whole wall of Scottish malts...right jist leave me here. Seriously a magic wee cheese and booze shop aboot two doors doon. Later in the week I procure a wee bottle o a 10 year old Japanese single malt called The Yamazaki. Surprise,'s pretty decent. Tastes a bit like The Macallan but a little sweeter. The oldest single malt distillery in Japan, don't ye know...built in 1923. Very braw indeed.

Onyway so we wander along fae Cheese 'n' Booze and slap in the middle o busy shopping and general craziness area, Shinsuibashi. We just end up wandering aroond here for the rest o the day and get some food off one o the stalls. I plump for Okinomiyaki (cabbage pancakes) and Jacs bravely tries the Takoyaki. Takoyaki is a local specialty and is described in our guide book as 'deep fried octopus balls'. Presumably it's a piece of octopus dipped in batter and deep fried and not actually 'octopus balls' as in gonads. Dae octopuses hae balls? Who knows. Anyway Jacs confesses they are a wee bit squishy in the middle and I think this is nae what she was expecting. She eats a fair amount o it all the same. Fae my point o disny look too appetising. Fair play tae the lassie for trying it though.

The next day isny too pretty weatherwise. It's no raining but it's no far off it. We subway on over tae the East side o town and check oot Osaka Castle. Osaka castle occupies a fairly important place in Japanese history. In the late 16th century Japan wis fairly splintered and there were several competing warrior clans fighting for territory. The two big cheeses in all this were a fella called Toyotomi Hideyoshi and another fella called Ieyasu Tokugawa. They ended up on the same side but Toyotomi was in the stronger position so Ieyasu took a backseat tae allow Toyotomi tae go ahead and unify Japan fae Kyoto while he set up his own wee clique up in Edo (now Tokyo). Toyotomi began construction of a new castle in Osaka. He then did something really bleeding stupid. He tried tae invade China through Korea. Quite why is uncertain but what is certain is that it wis a bit o a disaster and significantly weakened his position. Soon eftir this, Toyotomi carked it leaving only a five year old son as an heir. Various regents took over the reigns and the clans allied wi Toyotomi squabbled over his legacy but there wis nae unity and Ieyasu, sensing his chance, made moves tae take over the country. He finally conquered all who opposed him at a gigantic battle at a place called Sekigahara and, claiming royal heritage, persuaded the Emperor (who in these days had little real power) tae proclaim him Shogun of all Japan and moved himself tae Kyoto, the capital. The last little pocket o resistance emanated fae Osaka where Hideyoshi Toyotomi's laddie, Hideyori, was holed up and scheming in the castle his old boy built for him. Ieyasu beseiged it and, though Hideyori managed tae hold oot for a year or so, he eventually relented in 1615 and the Toyotomi clan were vanquished leaving Ieyasu Tokugawa, at last, entirely unopposed. The Tokugawa shogunate went on tae rule Japan for some 270 peaceful and prosperous years.

The Tokugawa eventually rebuilt Osaka castle and as it stands noo it is a pretty impressive building. It's seven stories high and we pad on up it past a whole bunch o displays aboot the seige and fae the top ye get a cracking view o Osaka which, as I've mentioned, just goes on and on for miles in all directions. When we get doon we fly across the road tae the Osaka museum which is pretty smart. Rather than just the usual artefact displays, the Museum has huge models of Osaka street scenes through the ages including some from the early twentieth century that ye can actually walk around in. We're impressed. At night we have the recurring problem of trying tae find somewhere that has a menu we can understand. We eventually just chance it on some place that looks busy and have noodles. Man, how much could I murder a plate o mince and tatties?

The next day is a beautiful sunny day and we decide tae catch the train oot tae a place called Takarazuka tae pay homage tae the recognised God of Manga, Osamu Tezuka, who has a museum dedicated tae him oot there. Manga is a form of Japanese comic and is massive, massive business globally. It's influence can be clearly seen in American superhero comics and the computer games industry. Anime, Japanese animation, is an obvious off-shoot and has produced a few classic movies such as Akira, Ghost in the Shell (also a computer game), Howl's Moving Castle and Spirited Away. Neither of us are particularly intae Manga but we are both intrigued by it so we make the trip. Besides - Takarazuka is supposedly a nice wee place and we can get there for free wi oor train passes. When we get off the train we walk doon a road lined on both sides wi tons o floo'ers and blossom trees and it looks spectacular in the bright sunshine. The museum is slightly disappointing being pretty small and wi no a lot o English translations on the exhibits but we do get tae see some o his early sketches and catch an entertaining wee cartoon. It's enough tae gie us a wee taster. There isny much else tae dae in Takarazuka though, it's a pretty poky little town tae be fair, so we fire back on the train and back tae Osaka. Back at Osaka station we hae a wander roond a fairly mad department store across the road fae it. There is a huge big-wheel on the roof, an enormous, red, model whale hanging fae the ceiling and a huge Sega games arcade on the top floor. Interesting stuff. We then wander through Osaka some 2km back tae oor hotel, checking oot some smartish buildings on the way (Osaka has loads o cool buildings) and I'm buggered if I can remember what we dae for oor tea.

Another day trip the following day. This time back doon the trainline towards Hiroshima tae a place called Himeji where there is a well famous and spectacular castle in the middle o the town. The castle was used in...wait for it...The James Bond movie 'You Only Live Twice' as the ninja training camp. Whooo! It also apparently features in The Last Samurai wi Tom Cruise. It's a great looking building, huge and white - dominating the town like Edinburgh Castle does (though naewhere near as smart). Inside it's entirely wooden and ye file up steep staircases and through gloomy, atmospheric rooms - the only light coming in through narrow, barred windaes - until ye get tae the top where ye get a cracking 360 o Himeji (which is surprisingly big). Only slight complaint is that it is ridiculously busy and ye get shunted aroond the place in single-file wi a million other tourists (in yer socks I might add - ye arny allowed in wi yer shoes so ye have tae carry them aroond wi ye in a plastic bag) which disny gie ye much time tae absorb the atmosphere in any one place. And this is a weekday aswell....just can't imagine how busy it wid be here at the weekend. Still....pretty impressive place though and, hey, it was in a James Bond movie! It actually only takes a couple o hours tae dae this so we manage tae get back tae Osaka for the back o three. While we are sitting on the platform at Himeji, a couple o trains go through that dinny stop there think they're fast when yer on them but it's quite something else tae see them go past ye! It's like it causes some kind o vacuum or can almost feel yer eyeballs getting sucked oot as it screams past in a blur. Unbelievable. Onyway back in Osaka we head doon tae the harbour area for a wee look and are fairly impressed wi (another) giant ferris wheel (112.5m), the very impressive Osaka Aquarium building and some other things roond aboot including an incinerator plant that looks like a turkish palace. At night, in an effort tae save some cash, we hit an all you can eat pizza place and stuff oor faces for aboot £7 each.

Saturday is oor last day in Osaka so we head down to the South of the city tae an area called Tennoji and check oot the very lovely gardens around the zoo. It's an absolutely smashing day and the gardens are a great place tae spend a couple o hours. We wander up tae a temple complex called Shittenoji (and yes...many jokes are cracked) one of the first Buddhist temples built in Japan and dating back to 593 AD. It's alright. We then wander back up to near where oor hotel is and take one last saunter along Shinsuibashi stopping in for some noodles and a beer oot one o them places where ye order yer food at a ticket machine ootside and just hand the ticket to the waitress. Crazy. We go back to the hotel and I polish of my Yamazaki wi 'Open All Mics' on the radio owr the net, nearly pissing myself with laughter on discovering that Celtic were beaten in the Scottish Cup semi-final by Ross County. Hilarious.

And that wis Osaka.






Japanese Single Malt
Statue in Case
Wooden Temples
Shoulda, Woulda, Buddha


elliot Mather:
April 15, 2010
I've got a bottle of Yamazaki 12 year old in the hoose, it's no a bad wee drop i'll give you that.

As I recall James Bond almost gets killed by a ninja with a bit of thread. What a rubbish weapon, you have nunchuks and you turn up with a bit of thread for a fight. Donut.
May 17, 2010
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