Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Writing about 27th  December, 2013 (Osaka to Arashiyama)

On Friday 27th we were planning to go to Arashiyama with Sarah and Laura. There were a few hiccups… We were leaving fairly early and I was running 5 minutes late (a personal best!) and by the time I got down to our meeting place, only Angela was there. Ange had suggested to Sarah and Laura that they go on ahead and we’d meet up.
Ironically, it was Mankee who was late that morning, because Mankee was on time pretty much every other day, and Mankee had taken my own lateness like an absolute champ.
(As a side note, I have started to realize I become fatigued way too easily, especially when I travel. I’m like the cookie monster, except for cheeseburgers and sleep. I do live in a garbage can though- that one’s for you Ange. Wait… does the cookie monster live in a garbage can?!? Oh dear.)

Anyhow, by the time we left Sarah and Laura were long gone and we didn’t meet up at all that day. We jumped on the subway to Higashi Umeda, trying to work out which train to catch. Here we met more problems- Sarah and Laura had planned the outing the way they wanted and we weren’t sure of the finer details. We were still slightly hopefully of meeting up at this point, and didn’t worry too much. This lead to us being confused when all trains went to Kyoto. Ange asked the station master which platform to Arashiyama,  (9, I think?) and then we sat. 5 trains must have left while we ate (an incredibly strange) breakfast, because we didn’t realize the Kyoto train was to Arashiyama!

[Biding our time until the “Arashiyama” train came, we headed to the cafes for breakfast, which were closed because it was about  7:30 and most of them were lunch/dinner cafes. We then went to the 7-11 type shops and grabbed whatever looked good. As I bit into my singular, boiled egg, the taste of incredible salt flooded my mouth- so incredible that I couldn’t help but think  a) ‘What the fuck?’  b) ‘Did something go wrong? Like, terribly, terribly wrong?’ and c) ‘Do people really eat this? Why so salted?’  …in the end I couldn’t eat it. But my choc-waffle, yoghurt drink and plain chips were pretty okay. Ange bought a solid meal of chocolate, caramel cake and chocolate covered chips which were confusing to the senses- but we ate the chips later.]

We finally just elected to get on the train to Kyoto and chance it. By this time we figured we must have something wrong and guessed we had to get off the Kyoto train and change trains. This assumption was correct (after an hour of watching trains leave!).  The image of the train lines shows one track from Osaka that splits- one to Kyoto and one to Arashiyama. However, that isn’t quite true! The Arashiyama line is just a side line from a station on the Kyoto line, and because they’re all coloured the same on the station map, it’s a little confusing!  Sarah and Laura no doubt knew this, but because we’d split up, we were ignorant!

^^ And here we have the beautiful shots of the day section. First of the winners right here...^^

^^I have real affection for this one. It has character!^^

We finally got on the train successfully (although we weren’t sure we were successful until we actually got off at the middle station- just ‘winging it’) and the Arashiyama railway was so cool! The trains were different – reminded me of our old red hen trams- except working and not rattling so much - and the station had amazing lamp posts that I immediately fell in love with. The other thing we noticed? It was freaking freezing! I’d debated leaving my coat home in Osaka because it was a pretty mild day, but in Arashiyama we immediately started shivering. None of us had gloves and we were sooooo cold. So we headed to a 7-11 and bought gloves, and I bought a cheap 1000 Yen ($10) beanie. I’d like to say I looked dashing, or in popular terminology “Swag” but in truth I looked like a cheap gnome.  (A cheap gnome munching on undelightfully shitty tasting hot chips with ketchup on my chin.)

^^ How cool I thought I was.^^

^^How cool I really was.^^

Then we had to decide where to go. “Old man Kyorai’s Grave” was an instant hit, although sadly not a destination we managed to get to. When we were there, the wind was up and the boats that we were going to go up the river on weren’t in use. (This was particularly annoying because they were operating before and after we were there. In the end, we didn’t go on them, but by the afternoon, this was almost a relief because it was so damn cold.) So we wandered across the bridge and instantly were distracted by the shops. Needing to compete with my mad gnome style, Angela went full “Old Lady” with what I believe to be an extraordinarily unattractive shawl thing. It naturally did not match anything else she owned, but this has never bothered her.

^^ The boats we were GOING TO GO ON, but didn't, because they closed in vaguely rough wind, but apparently opened when snowing. Go figure...^^

Then we bought sugar candy. Lots of sugar candy. On the list next was accidental Yukata- I was not planning to buy any, but then all of a sudden I was down $50 and had a Kimono, belt and some shoes. Funny how that happens to me…  Finally, we headed up on the walking trails on the way to find the scenic train and Sagano Bamboo forest. About 2 minutes after we started, we stopped for a hot chocolate & toilet break (separately, I assure you),  and Angela, deciding she was a child of the forest (or at least that her shitty shawl was tribal enough to make an Indian reference), decided to sing the Pocahontas theme song.  Can you paint with all the colours of the wind? Indeed, most of the people walking past preferred to laugh rather than paint.

^^ Mankee! You're rowing the wrong way! ^^

 So… 15 minutes later we wandered up the mountain and took a quick photo break. (Yeah, there’s a theme here…). We met some pretty nice girls who asked to take pictures with us, and headed on. After a while of wandering and hoping we were headed in the right direction up a hill, we happened upon the Bamboo forest. It was… nice but I felt a little underwhelmed. We took some photos but it was very crowded so we did our thing and then left. Then we headed to Tenryuji temple which was quite nice. Again, I managed to throw my coin in the ‘good luck’ sort of bowl/area of the pond (I was surprisingly gifted on this trip, which is odd, because I am awfully ungifted at any sort of movement based thing in general) and was happy with that!

^^ Old cat lady we saw en route.^^

^^ I'm laughing hysterically because Angela told me to move ("Get out of my shot loser!") and I just wouldn't. I just sat there and laughed, and laughed. ^^

^^ Our new friends happily prevented Angela from strangling me.^^

Heading around a corner, we reacted both impartially and maturely when a group of hot guys asked to take photos with us. (We’re now Facebook friends but I don’t think they speak much English?). They were from Nagoya, and we were going to tell them when we headed to Spa Land, except spoiler alert: We never got there! Gah! They were pretty nice- holding their umbrellas for us when it started to rain and Mankee grabbed their Facebook details in a display of bravery that we applauded. Then we headed off, (crowing about Maika being jealous of our TOP meeting… eh, EH?) and after a few false starts, managed to somehow find our way to the Scenic Railway. This proved difficult, due to IRRATIONALLY CONFLICTING SIGNAGE. At least, after much debate, we didn’t accidentally walk through the graveyard trying to get to the train. Alas, this did not seem to be “Old Man Kyorai’s Grave”. (A real regret of the day was missing that one.)

Outside of the Scenic Railway we saw a man dressed as a clown. No idea why, but he seemed to be having a grand old time. We then sat and waited for the next train, eating Angela’s chocolate chips, before heading off down the mountain. The train was slightly odd- it was clearly a couple train and had fairy lights strung up for when it was dark in the many tunnels. I think the scenery would have been even more lovely on a better day- as it was, it was gray, miserable and rain filled. At this point, we saw the boats going again, but it was so cold we couldn’t bring ourselves to care. Instead we spent the trip taking a variety of fun-filled pictures out of the windows (Hint: They’re all of a gray day, wild looking river and blurry green trees… so…. Pretty much 34 vaguely identical shots) and taking stupid selfies that ended up mutatedly blurred due to bad lighting as the train rattled along.

^^ This dude knows what's goin' down! ^^

^^ Chocolate chips... it's a bit like that...^^

^^ There's seriously like 30 shots that are slightly more blurred than this- but nearly identical.^^

^^ Aaaaand about 30 shots of Ange making faces in the dark...^^

^^Oh... and the creepy, creepy little bear things. Coupled with the weird music at the station it was just... well, creepy.^^

Good times eh? Well, it got better because the Sagano Scenic Railway doesn’t quite meet up with any other railway- it’s a reasonably short walk… but of course it started snowing! It was the first falling snow we saw in Japan (I think) and explained why it was SO BLOODY FREEZING. (Made me feel a bit better about being a wuss/gnome). By the time we got on the train, we somewhat halfheartedly decided to try and redo stupid Nijo castle. Naturally… despite the train guy’s advice, when we went to get in a taxi, the driver said it would be closed. After some confusion, we found out that if we got there at 4 we could stay until 5, but if we got there after 4 they didn’t let people in? It was all a bit weird and uncertain. So at that point, we pretty much turned around and headed back, not before indulging in some (admittedly fairly uninspiring) KFC.

^^ You can only really see a tiny bit of snow if you squint at my shoulder area...^^

 The next day, THE FROST. (Not really, but REALLY.)

xx from... not sure about the name of a famous gnome. All I can think of are the seven dwarves. Xx Gnome-face?