Sunday, March 30, 2014

Japan Holiday - Day 1

We took two flights on Cathay Pacific, from KLIA to Hong Kong and from Hong Kong to Kansai International Airport, arriving at 6.00am on March 22 to begin our holiday. Our local tour guide for the 5 days was Colin Tanaka, a Japanese of Taiwanese descent, a short affable man who showed great enthusiasm and flair in his work. We like him from the moment he met us outside the arrival hall. The itinerary today include visits to a Buddhist temple in Wakayama, the Kuroshio fish market, Yuasa Town and the Shinbaisashi shopping street in Osaka before we head back to Kansai Airport Washington Hotel for our first night stay.

We had arrived Japan at the beginning of its Spring Festival when the Japanese people came out to enjoy the arrival of spring, the blooming of cherry blossom, the open air and visit the temples to pray and give thanks to the gods. Colin confessed we had to stay in Washington Hotel as those in Osaka have been fully booked and cost twice as much to stay. We had our first Japanese meal at lunch but were shown where to look for our dinner inside a shopping area nearby the hotel. It was an interesting experience. Upon making an order and paying for it we were given a beeper which sound when the food is ready. It was a self service concept and we return the trays when finished. This is where we can find food for less than ¥1000.

Wakayama is the capital city of the prefecture of the same name located south of Kansai about half hour drive away. The city was just awakening when we arrived about 8.30am local time and we climbed the 100 steps neatly cut stone stairway to the temple above to view the Kinokawa River beyond. The weather was chilly at 7°C. Being just hours descended from the plane we didn't have our gloves with us so was somewhat under-dressed. Climbing the stairs was manageable but coming down took careful and measured steps as my knees weren't as good as before. Up at the temple we spied a cherry blossom beginning to bloom while all the other trees were still carry buds that seems at least a week away from opening. We were quite excited and started snapping photos with it.

At the Kuroshio market we waited for the tuna cutting demonstration to start and window shopped the various stalls. All the labels and price tags were in Japanese so it was hard to guess some of the less familiar marine food and preserved foodstuff on sale.

At the Yuasa town the soy sauce museum people were unprepared for our visit. A middle aged Japanese lady hurriedly came out to show us the gathering room where she narrated how the soy sauce industry came to Japan from China some 750 years ago. Colin translated.

The last stop was to Osaka's shopping streets in Shinbaisashi where for 2 hours we walked about among the mostly young Japanese folks, mostly girls, sometimes jostling for space, and not really feeling productive. I'd rather be sitting in a park bench to rest, if you know what I mean. A 3-boy band was busking to a group of watchers mainly young girls and promoting their self produced CDs. I must say they are pretty good and showed great confidence and showmanship. Hopefully some major record producers spot them.

Please refer to my Facebook for the photo albums HERE.

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