Interesting couple of days and everything has gone to plan. Be warned, this will be a long blog entry.
I headed to Shirahama on a whim yesterday and it turned out to be a good idea. The only downside was it took 2 and a hlaf hours to get there so I didn`t have a whole lot of time before it was dark. My trustee Lonely Planet book only had one page of information and no map for Shirahama but the description was enough to get me motivated. It could have turned out bad but all went well. I was able to pick up a map from the tourist information centre including local accomodation and after a short bus journey soon found the place I was planning to stay. Shirahama is a beach/onsen town. I headed out straight away to explore the area. The white sand beach was lovely and although it wasn`t hot, the weather was pleasant enough. I dipped my feet in the Pacific and took a stroll along the beach which looked particulary beautiful as the sun was beginning to set. Despite my lack of time I wasn`t in the mood for shooting about so sat for a while on some rocks which jutted out to sea. The whole place was quiet as it is off season which suited me fine as I just wanted to relax. After leaving the beach I headed for an Onsen which is the most famous in Shirahama and is mentioned in ancient Japanese texts. It is an open air onsen that juts out on a cliff face overlooking the ocean. Unfortunatly it was shutting just as I arrived but I wasn`t to bothered as it gave off a funky smell. From there I headed to Senjo-Jiki(thousand tatami mat) which is a pretty rock formation which stretches a little out to sea. A tour bus of Japanese arrived at the same time as me, thankfully they departed ten minutes later but not before a hail of blinding flashes from their cameras. I clambered out along the rock formations as the sun was just beginning to dip below the horizon at about 5 o`clock. It created a nice effect. On one side of the rocks it looked like night but turn the other way and it still seemed to be day. I was planning to head to a cliff face after I had already trekked some and it was drak and I couldn`t be bothered. Instead I headed back the way I had come and went to a simple indoors onsen. The owner didn`t quite know what to make of me but he had a huge smile on his face and seemed delighted that a westerner had visited the onsen. I got some odd looks from the Japanese men inside. A hot soak was just what my weary muscles needed. The area was deserted when I reached the beach. I grabbed a bowl of snack noodles from a shop for my dinner and sat on he beach looking out at the Pacific. A hand full of people stroleld past but I was pretty much on my own. I sat thinking about Britain out there somewhere on the Ocean but then realised I was staring atthe wrong ocean. Taking one last stroll down by the sea I felt as if I might be the only person int he world, the only sound to greet me was the crashing of the waves. I felt a bit lonely but not really in a bad way, more contemplative than anything. Looking forward to returnign home but at the same time obviosly a tad dissapointed that my travels are over and I have the next three years of my life planned out which is a scary thought. Great day in a different place and best of all I didn`t see one white person all day.
The plan today was to return to Osaka and book the remaining days I have in the same place I stayed in Osaka before and then head to Kyoto for the day to explore Northern Higashimaya(I explored southern when I was here last). Didn`t arrive in Kyoto until 3. the trip from Shirahama being the reason why. My first stop was the Nanzen-ji temple complex. The complex is huge and I havn`t got a clue whatthe main building was but I know I didn`t go in as it had an admission fee and I didn`t pay any. I can`t get over how beautiful the autumn leaves are here at the moment, I know I keep mentioning them but they really are something special, fanatstic reads, oranges, and yellows, an artists dream. The main temple area was packed with people but I soon lost the crowd when I headed up a trail which was suppossed to lead to a grave yard on the hilltop. I passed a grave yard not far up the road but didn`t think it was the once lonely planet mentioned as it was nothing special and barely up the hill but in retrospect it probably was the main grave yard. However the little adventure I had going the hill was fantastic. Steep stone steps lead up the wooded hill and the setting sun was creating a dazzling effect as it shone through. Every now and then I came a cross a solitary gravestone on the hill. Further up I came across a what Isuppose one would call and alter set upon a nice marble(maybe) floor. Further up from that was a tiny hut with some some religous articles in it by a water fall. A little further up from that was tiny cave, upon entering it a discovered a very small alter. It was really quite bizarre but a brilliant find. I was alone up in the woods as well and felt as if I had made a secret discovery, I almost felt sorry for the people flocking around in the main temple complex. The huge temple buildings are great but this tiny alter in a cave somehow seemed so much more signifcant to me. I carried on up the hill hoping to come across the graveyard(the on I now think was at the bottom of the hill). What had started out as a path soon deteriorated into a very narrow clay mud trail with lots of tree routes and rocksa making for hard walking. My adrenaline was pumping however I carried on up the trail, getting higher and higher, for a good 15 minutes of solid walking. Eventually I gave up knowing that I had other places to visit. Would have been intersting to see exactly were it led though. By the time I got back down it was getting chilly and I knew it would be dark soon. It was 4:45 and I knew there was no way I would get to Ginkaku-ji before it closed at 5, it was one of the main sights in Kyoto. However I decided to follow the Tetsugaku-no-michi(path of philisophy) which is a small path which follows a pretty canal to the Ginkaku-ji. Iwas hoping I might be able to get a glimpse of the temple even though it was shut but alas when I arrived I found it was behind large locked gates. The walk was really nice in anycase. It was dark and cold when I started to head back and I was dreading getting lost but managed to find my way back to the subway station.
I am heading to Kyoto again tomorrow and plan to start early as I have a very busy day ahead of me. I need to visit the Arashiyama area and a couple of big sights in other parts of Kyoto and the hopefully if I have time head back to Ginkaku-ji. I think I should be able to fit it all in jsut about if I get up early enough but we shall see. My rail pass runs out tomorrow but if I don`t see everything I want to I will by a return ticket to Kyoto the day after as it is very close(only 15 minsutes by bullet train) and the tickets and cheap.
I got back to Osaka at about 7:30. Having a quiet one tonight, bought a few beers and plan to watch a video which the hotel lends out for free. Can`t go wrong with a beer and Eraser. Sorry if I have put you all to sleep. Will se you on the 21st. Will let you know what time I arrive home when I update my blog again mum which should be tomorrow.