Sunday, March 8, 2009



We dock in Osaka at 7:00AM in a steady rain. We have a 7:30AM time slot for Japanese immigration where we are fingerprinted and photographed. They issue us a temporary visa/landing card and they tell us to keep it with us at all times. Now mind you, the ship has our passports so this is our ID for the day.

After completing the formalities, we grab a bite of breakfast, umbrellas and our backpack and head ashore a little after 8:00. There is a visitor information station on the dock that helps us with maps and instructions for the subway and the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Osaka to Kyoto. The portside Information representative tells us that there are three ATM machines between the ship and the subway where we can get Yen. So, off we go in a steady rain for the three-block walk to the subway station.

Unfortunately, none of the ATM machines will take any sort of card not issued in Japan. We return to the dock and exchange $200US for ¥18,000. At the proper exchange rate, we should have received ¥19,700 but tourists are there to be fleeced and we need the local currency. As a point of interest, we never saw an ATM in Japan, that we could indentify, that would take our card(s). The last time we were in Japan we flew in and had bought Yen at home. We also did get extra currency, but must have done it at the hotel.

We head back through the rain to the subway station and buy an all day pass for ¥600 each; about $6.67 apiece. This is a special deal for “No-My-Car-Day.” It says so right there on the ticket vending machine. It takes about 45 minutes to reach the Shinkansen train station with one subway line change.

The subways are easy to use except for changing lines. Those are not well marked in anything but Japanese and we have to ask for help both times we do it.

We buy round trip Shinkansen tickets to Kyoto and head up to the platform. It is amazing just how often these trains run; about every 15 minutes. We find the platform with the track heading our way and only wait a few minutes for our train. The ride into Kyoto Station only takes 15 minutes to go the 50 miles (200mph) and smooth as glass!

Our plan is to see one or two of the major temples we did not see in our five day visit in 2005. It is still raining when we get to Kyoto so we catch a taxi to go to our first destination, the Sanjusangen-do Temple.

The temple was established in 1164 by a powerful warrior–politican Taira-no-Kiyomoti. The current building was built in 1266 after the first burned. The ride costs us ¥950 ($10.55). We rent a locker for ¥100, store our umbrellas, and backpack, place our shoes in a cubbyhole, put on slippers and enter the temple. We have an interesting 30 minutes or so of walking through the building. It is the longest wooden structure in Japan (120 meters) and home to 1001 statues of the Buddhist deities or Kanzeon, made from Japanese cypress, that date from the 12th and 13th centuries.

Then we brave the rain and walk around the grounds. The cherry trees are just beginning to open. In a week or two the grounds should be very colorful.We hail another cab to go to the Kyoto Handicraft Center. This ride is further and costs ¥1,370 ($15.22). The cabs start with a base fare of ¥660 for the first mile or so and then it adds on in ¥90 increments every quarter mile or so. I am sure time is figured in there also but you get the idea.

The Kyoto Handicraft Center is seven floors of little treasures. On the ground floor, they are demonstrating the making of damascene, the art of inlaying gold and silver into steel. There were some very pretty boxes and jewelry on display and there was one exquisite two-panel screen for ¥2,475,000 or $27,000US. It is, by the way, still there. The various floors have different shops and some other demonstrations taking place.

Dick has wanted one of the Japanese edged weapons since his first trip to Japan in 2004. He finally buys a dagger with a lacquered wooded sheath and stingray skin wrapped handle. It also has a display stand and makes a nice addition to his collection. We have this and an antique Obi Sash for Carolyn shipped home to the states.

It is still raining so we give up on history and go for shopping. We catch another cab for the trip to a Shopping Arcade whose entrance is across the street from the Okura Hotel where we stayed in 2005. We start walking through the arcade and with all the cafés showing plastic samples of their food we realize we are hungry. The pictures of sandwiches in a coffee house window tempt us so we have a nice interesting cheese and ham grilled sandwich for lunch. We then walk another block to the entrance of the Teramachi Shopping Arcade, a very interesting shopping area with neat shops and Templesand walk all the way to Shijo-dori.

By the time we emerge from the covered shopping arcades, it has stopped raining, mostly. We walk for quite some distance through the back streets of private homes with tiny gardens and even tinier garages and small active temples to the Bukkoji Temple and then catch a taxi back to the Kyoto station and another 15 minute, 200MPH trip back to Osaka. For the next 45 minutes, we negotiate the Osaka subway system and finally return to the ship a little after 5:00PM. We are tired and foot sore but it has been an interesting and fun day. We figure we spent $120US doing more than the ship’s tour offered and that would have cost $189US each.

Fortunately, it is open seating tonight in the dining room so we get cleaned up and head down stairs. After a nice meal of chilled fruit soup, the house salad plus lemon grass shrimp, sweet and sour pork, and chocolate ginger cake, we go back to the cabin and watch sailaway from our wonderful aft veranda. The gaint ferris wheel at the terminal puts on a great light show as we leave. Then it is off to bed!

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