30 April 2008

Himeji > Osaka

No chance of snow now, since spring has almost brought forth summer weather here in western Japan! After having good intentions of catching the 5:53 am train from Hiroshima, I ended up taking the 9:25 am train (because I woke up at 7:30 after having okonomiyaki the night before).

With 8 days holiday for "Golden Week", it was my best chance to see Osaka, Kyoto and Nara. Thinking I may have only a year in Japan, I went to Kyushu last Christmas holidays, planned for Osaka and Kyoto for "Golden Week" holidays, and then Tokyo, Tohoku, Hokkaido (northern Japan) in Summer holidays (August). Well, I'm (99% sure that I'll be) staying in Hiroshima, Japan another year teaching English at the same SDA school. I enjoy it. So, this coming Christmas, I'll return to Australia for holidays to see family, so that will be good!

I caught JR local trains from Hiroshima, planning to get to Osaka. Other options included shinkansen (bullet train; more expensive), or overnight bus (more tired; more chance of travel sickness; can't stop at places on the way; don't get to see as much of the country side).

So, yesterday, after leaving Hiroshima, we passed through Higashi-Hiroshima, Mihara and Fukuyama. Just before stopping at Okayama for lunch, we passed through Kurashiki. Had lunch a few minutes walk from Okayama station by some stream flowing through the city. It was nice and relaxing. Here in Japan, there seems to be so much water!

Rivers (small streams etc) are plentiful and always flowing, so there is plenty of water for irrigation and other uses. It's nice to see so much water (myself being an Aussie from "dry" Australia).

And, this time of year is when the rice fields are planted. I saw tractors plowing up the small rice fields tucked in between railways and rivers, beside building, next to houses, and at the bottom of hills and moutains. I haven't see large rice fields here. Most fields are no more than 100 m long. This is stark contrast to Australian fields where often the fields are kilometers long and wide. Yet another example of the "compactness" of Japan. Many things are small here. Japan seems to be made up of mountains, cities, and ricefields.

Many rice fields look like they are "flooded" now. They look like little "ponds" or "dams". They thin rice plants are in rows with muddy, but glassy looking water covering the soil with the rice plants sticking up above the water. The water reflects the view well, giving a nice mirror image.

After lunch, caught the next train to Himeji. There's a very famous castle there which I visited. Make sure you have at least an hour to see it. It's large, has many sections, including walls etc. There are nice parks and shrines (among other things) around the castle, and you could easily spend half a day there seeing reasonably good attractions.

Didn't have time to see anything else in Himeji, but had a small meal beside the moat (water around the castle) and stone wall. Nice and relaxing. The sun began to set and gave a nice cool feel during the last lingering moments around the castle. Walked back to the station and headed for Osaka, about 1 hour away using the special rapid service (no extra cost).

On the train yesterday, had time to read some of the Bible (on my mobile phone of course!... this is Japan and technology). Practiced a bit of Japanese with the book I have. Do some praying, relax, look at the window, think about life. Got to meet a few people too. Some high school students filled the train, so I began talking with them. They practice English and I practiced Japanese. We all enjoyed talking. They were quite decent people, offering me a place to sit, some food, and being quite polite.

Met some nice people from Osaka too. From Himeji to Osaka, it's pretty much a continuous strip of built up town/city. Osaka is the second largest city in Japan (after Tokyo), and the 9th largest metropolitan area (including connected cities such as Kyoto, Kobe etc) in the world (!) with about 17 million people!

I saw Osaka from the shinkansen a few months ago, and thought that it did not look that big. So, when I arrived last night in central station, I began to see how large Osaka is, especially after having a salad on the 29th floor overlooking the city! So, yes, Osaka is a big city.

Had some difficulty making my way to the SDA Church in Osaka. There are many train companies, with many train lines, so I asked for some help. The young man with his partner were willing to help. He missed his train (on purpose) so he could help me. Then he said good bye to his partner, caught extra trains and walked me right to where I needed to go! He wouldn't accept anything for helping me. It really showed me something. He's probably not Christian, but he acted just the way I would imagine Christ would want us to act. I was really touched with the kindness of him.

After arriving, met Jermaine and Joseph who are teachers at the SDA English School in Osaka. They English school, church, English church, conference office, and apartments (homes) are all here in the 7 story (SDA) building. I'll be staying here (not far from city centre) for a week or so.

Today I'll probably just cruise around, not doing too much here. Thursday, maybe get out into a remote place, into nature, find an onsen or something like that. Friday, 5 other SDA English teachers will join us! It'll be our last little reunion until we go different ways after we finish our 1 year in July/August this year.

Friday, a bit more around Osaka. Saturday at church etc. Sunday probably Nara. Monday probably Kyoto. Tuesday probably Kobe and then go home.

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