Day 24/25: Osaka & Kyoto
17.04.2012 - 19.04.2012 22 °C
It was time for us to leave Matsuyama and head to our final henro stop, Koya-san. We said farewell to Okaasan and Oneesan, and took the Willer's Express from Matsuyama to Osaka (11 am - 5 pm). We stayed with my sister's friend, Hikari-san, in Osaka. We had to take 3 trains from Osaka station to get to her apartment. We were carrying all our backpacks and luggage. My sister bought a freaking kotasu from Nitori, which she had to carry. And it doesn't make it better that we were taking the train during the busy hour when everybody is trying to get back home. Yep, everybody was staring at the two country girls who is carrying a kotasu on the train. But a nice bowl of hot ramen afterwards tasted heavenly.
Osaka is a VERY large city, or at least compared to the small villages/towns we passed through when we were doing the pilgrimage. Above are the famous neon signs that cover most of downtown Osaka. Everything is so colorful, so boisterous!
Downtown Osaka is a shopaholic's heaven, with shopping streets that never end. You have to push your way through the hoards of people. Never have I seen that many shoes, clothes, cosmetics, and beauty product in one area! You can start from one end and probably never find your way out.
Osaka is famous for their takoyaki and Osaka-styled okonomiyaki. And I obviously begged my sister to try BOTH of them. I would never think of adding mochi and cheese in an okonomiyaki, but it's the tastiest combination ever! The cheese crisps up while the mochi softens. When you bite into it, you get the crunch from the cheese crisps and the chewiness of the mochi. Just thinking about it makes my mouth water! （*´▽｀*）
Young college students - what do you do when you're tired of shopping and have a full belly? KAREOKE! We sang until our throats burned from the screaming. Thank goodness the kareoke came with free drinks! After two hours of screaming, we called it a night and took the train back home. Night time in Osaka is a bit weird and sketchy. There are many break dancers showing off their dance moves outside the train stations. Many college students going out to party and drink. LOTS of drunk business men. We saw a whole bunch of them going to the place called, "Nurse." My sister's friend said they were doing something we wouldn't want to know. Yet another mysterious side of Japan I want to see, but dare not to explore.
Our final destination before this pilgrimage comes to an end: Koya-san.
Dun dun dun…
After a 2-hour train ride, we took the rope way up to Koya-san. The area was very sacred and spiritual - many tombstones and large trees. We walked through the forest and reflected on our henro trip. "Wow I can't believe it's actually ending," I remember saying to Meagan. She was pretty glad it was coming to an end, but I knew deep in her heart she wanted to spend time with her loving sister longer. (/joke)
There were stamps we had to retrieve from three different places in Koya-san. Sometimes, I think they’re making more stamps to get money out of us. But we’ve already bought 88 stamps, so another 3 was nothing...
I thought it would get emotional, or something big was going to happen when I received the final stamp. But I didn’t. There weren’t any dragons or black holes that popped out when I completed the nokyocho. But then I realized - there was no instantaneous change. I've changed gradually through the lessons and experiences I've had from this trip.
After Koya-san, we also visited some of Kyoto's most famous sites. The Nijo-castle was breathtaking. However, the floors in the castle squeaks every time someone moves. It's to let the emperor know someone was coming.
We went to Gion District (Picture 4), which retained a traditional atmosphere (old Kyoto). Too bad I didn't find any Geishas. We also went to the Bamboo Groove (picture 5), Togetsukyo Bridge (picture 6), and one of Kyoto's famous Torii Gate (picture 7). And of course, we got in time to see the famous cherry blossoms in Kyoto. They were just finishing mankai season, so the petals were fluttering like snow!
OTHER INTERESTING STUFF:
Women Only Trains: There were specific parts of the train that were ONLY for women! This is to prevent chikan (gropers) from touchng other women during the busy hours of the train.
Self udon is probably one of my favorite dishes in Japan. I've had it in Takamatsu and I couldn't help but have another one. My sister was still full of udon from eating udon breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in Takamatsu. But I'm hungry for more. Cold udon noodles, raw egg, tempura bits, a bit of ginger and onions... YUM!