Here's to getting my final bullet train for a mere 20 minutes to Osaka, where I was due to meet my friend Greg as our travels overlapped since we last saw each other in October back in Borneo. How time flies!
I arrive at Osaka on a wet and miserable day but see Greg stood at the ticket barriers. Having spent the last week and half doing Japan on my own, it was nice to see a friendly face again. We went to find my hotel - Buisness Hotel Wako to dump my bags before seeing what Osaka had to offer. Well, the hotel was cheap at ?9 a night. It reminded me of what I imagine a YMCA to be like, I had my own room with a TV which was fine and at the price I couldn't grumble, but there was a strange smell about the place that reminded me of cat litter tray. Happy to dump my bag and get out we headed to the nearest café to get an early afternoon caffeine kick and to shelter from the miserable rain. Knowing that we had to go and explore, we sought shelter in the Namba district where there is a long undercover shopping arcade. With the hunger hitting we dived into a cosy little restaurant for my favourite; okonomiyaki. Man I could eat that for almost every meal I think. Unsure what to do since it was pouring with rain, Greg suggested going to Kobe and since we both still had our rail passes and go to a sake distillery. With the promise of free samples why not?! We jumped on to the first train to Kobe and tried to find at least one of the distilleries, which was easier said than done even after asking at the tourist information centre.
After a bit of a walk, we came across our first distillery and wandered about the 'museum' element where it described how the sake was made, but the main reason we were there was for the samples. We managed to get 4 free samples including a plum wine. It went down easily. We went to try and find another distillery but sadly it had just closed. So instead, we had a couple of beers and headed back to Osaka and grabbed a cheap and cheerful curry. From there we decided we'd have a few drinks and found ourselves in a tiny father and son whiskey bar, the place looked great with the entire back wall covered in old beer bottles and cans, including my namesake a Whitbread beer bottle. The entire bar (all 10) were entertained by this fact and even clapped when they saw I had the same surname. Then the actual bar and back bar was full of hundreds of different whiskeys and brandy's from Europe. The owner couldn't wait to show me his Oyster card to prove he went to London a lot to select his whiskeys and we had fun using the iPad to translate our conversations. The locals were also so friendly, and they bought us a couple of whiskeys and brandy's to try. I was hammered when we came to leave and we picked a tasty tab as well, oh well it was worth it. Time to sleep it off.
The following day I was somewhat hungover and dragged myself out to get some breakfast in the form of yakisoba and spent most of the day meandering around different districts before resting up in a coffee shop for a few hours. Later I met up with Greg and watched a street performer before grabbing some food and calling it a day and said our goodbyes. It was an early night watching some random Japanese TV before passing out.
For my final day in Japan, I headed over to Nara, after purchasing a couple of cans of coffee from the vending on my street more or less for the novelty factor. Once in Nara I had a walk through the town up to the main complex of temples and shrines famed in Nara as the Historic Monuments of Ancient Nara, now a UNESCO site. It was a lovely sunny day and great to explore Nara Park with its deer roaming about. I had a stroll about the shrines / temples such as Saidai-ji, Kōfuku-ji, Kasuga Shrine, Gangō-ji, Yakushi-ji, Tōshōdai-ji, and the Heijō Palace which were all stunning and classically Japanese in style. I paid an entrance fee to go into and walk around the main temple: Todai-ji. This is an impressively large, wooden structure. However, I was somewhat fascinated by a Japanese couple where the bloke was pushing a pram that contained a dog and a cat and then I noticed that the woman had a cat thrown over her shoulder, what a lovely family day out ey?! The temple was just as impressive on the inside as it was on the outside, and for a small fee you could also get a fortune slip. I had met someone who had done this and had received his fortune that was all bad luck. So I went for it, hoping it wouldn't be bad luck but thankfully it was a very lucky fortune I received. I'll happily take that. Having explored the complex of Nara Park and its temples, I hopped on the train back to Osaka and decided to go shopping around Namba and managed to pick up a few bargains. Spent most of the evening aimlessly walking around the massive shopping arcade and getting my final vending machine token dinner. I'm going to miss this country!
But it's time to say goodbye and head to South Korea.