Category Archives: 5.1 .. Tempel in Kansai

Mit Ryokans in Osaka und Kyoto ist das Ziel, die Umgebung zu erkunden: Amanohashidate, Wakayama, die alten Tempel von Koyasan, Asuka und Yoshino und die Tempel und Schreine in Kyoto.


It was snowing over night. Not much, but now there is some kind of winter feeling. First stop today is Kanazawa castle. It is not complete and a reproduction too. It is worth a visit. I enter the inner place thru the big and heavy gate. The castle wall is white with black wooden beams and roof tiles. With the snow, everything is black and white, but the sky, that is grey.

Kanazawa Castle

On the outher side of the castle lies the famous japanese garden Kenrokuen. It is one of the famous three. In summer it must be awesome. Even now in winter time the view is stunning. The central garden and the grass field. Like always they represent different landscapes. Even mountain regions with a river. It looks funny. All the branches of the trees are tied to ropes that are connected to a central pole. From distance they look like cones. I don’t know, why the do it. Maybe to influence the growth direction or to pretect the leave against the weigth of the snow.

I stop at the tea house. I order some green tea and rice cake (the fluffy stuff not the cracker) and enjoy the view from the padio into the garden. I could sit here for hours. Every position offers a unique perspective. It is cold and snowing again. This is how a winter holiday should be. Relaxing.

On the way to NishiCchaya I stop at the Noh theatre museum. I admire the mask and kimono. They even have a noh kimono to put on. This is something I love Japan for: They have many things to participate. Lucky that I am used to this type of cloths. Thanks to Kendo and Iaido. I don’t know how they can perform a full play with this stuff. The kimono really is heavy and it is hard to breath with the mask on. No I really have respect for the actors.


Nishi-Chaya is only a short street with a few old houses. They are in good condition. But I expected more. There is no resto, no souvenir shop. The search for Ninjadera is hard to find, but this is not the reason for its name. In this area are many tiny temples. I walk around a little bit. This area is a typical residential area. I walk around a little bit. Next stop is Nagamachi and old samurai houses area. Here you can shoot a samurai movie. The high garden walls are covered with bamboo mats.

I totally forgot about the Oyama shrine until I stood right in front of it. The gates is unique. It was designed in 1599 by a dutch architect. It is a mixture of japanese, chinese and european elements. OK, you don’t have to like it.

Now a brief stop at the famous fish market. Lobster for $160, 40″ long octopus tentacles of deep red color and so many more strange stuff. Surprising what is considered as eatable (and some of this stuff really is tasty). The smell is very faint and fresh. This is how fish should smell. Almost not at all. Here I am the same opinion like Automatix (Asterix). But, for lunch I go for caree in a resto next to the market.

Nishi-Chaya and Higashi-Chaya

Higashi-Chaya is definately worth the walk. It is like a small version of Gion. There are two streets with old tea houses. In ancient time Geishas were bookable all over this places. Two streets are not much, but it is a lot bigger than Nishi. It feels like entering an old part of Japan when I entered a tea house. Pictures are not allowed, but the couldn’t catch the feeling anyway. A guest room always is a set of two rooms: one for the guests and one for the geisha and the equipment.

On the way to the train station (have to take another picture of the wooden skulpture/gate) I discover a small shopping street and a temple with a nice mon. In one of the shops I buy a curtain for my kamidana. But I am not able to find a tanzen (kind of haori for the winter) in my size. Neither at the train station. There is also no evidence of an Oosaka style haramaki, that I am looking for too.

Suddenly snow is falling. No. Arare. Like yesterday the streets are white within a second. This would be a perfect set up for pictures in Higashi-chaya or Nagamachi. But I am too far away. A minute later the sprinkler on the streets wash away the scenery. On the pedestrian the arare is 3cm high. I enjoy this fading view and moment.


Back at the fish market I find a tiny izakaya in the basement. I order kariage, tine wooden sticks with breaded fish, meat, vegetable and other “stuff”. Here this days ends in a comfortable atmosphere. In the Ryokan a short visit to the onsen and then I fall into the futon.

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Hikone and Eihei-ji

Today is the first real tavel day; with two brief stops. And after the Asuka-Yoshino-Day I am not that sure that it was a good idea. An early check shall me buy some time.

Hikone castle was easy to find. After a short walk I am in front of the castle wall. The way leads upstairs, underneath a bridge an the over the bridge into the castle. Inside is empty. The main tower is still there. All the other buildings are gone. Only some stones and the footprints are remaining. The tower is one of the oldest orignal castle towers in Japan. Its structure is completely built from wood. Impressive. But cold. I have to take of my shoes. From the tower I can see Hikone and Lake Biwa.


While I am leaving the tower there is a performance of the castle/town mascot. A white hamster(?) with a samurai helmet. This is too japanese for me. The japanese garden seems to be beautiful in summer time. But now in the winter there are no flowers and half of the garden is a construction side. But I could manage to take some pictures without a digger.

Castle Road is filled with old houses; black wooden beams and white walls. A nice view. Here I stop for breakfast and lunch: coffee and cake. But the prices are … pricy. A whole cake in the size of an small pizza costs 3600yen. If I resize the cake to a german standard size I end up with approx 7000yen ($100). I am in the wrong business. By the way. This place is sooo cheesy: Baroque silverware, chair cushions and art noveau furniture (like in anime). I may be the first male customer.

On my way to Tsuruga I have to change in Nagahama. This was not planned. But the tracks are blocked because of an accident. I am already one hour behind the schedule. Where was the accident? Behind me? In front of me? A train arrives from Hikone. This tracks are free. I am getting nervous. Then the Ltd. Express to Fukui arrives. That is all I need.

In Fukui it is snowing. The next bus to Eihei-ji departures at 3:20pm. And the last one back leaves at 4:20pm at the temple. This means to wait more than one hour to only have 40 minutes to visit on of the biggest and oldest temple in Japan. Shall I take a taxi and kill my finances? $50 at least. I discuss my option with the bus station clerk  and decide for the bus. I can store my complete luaggage at the office.


I use the waiting time for lunch. Karee. After that I am escorted to the bus and introduced to the bus driver. I am the only guest. VIP. The streets are funny. There is a sprinkler system on the centerline to melt and flush the snow from the street. Interesting system. But what do they do if temperatures are below 14°F?

We arrive at the temple in a magic atmosphere: Snow, some fog. A little bit like Koyasan. Inside there are monks everywhere. I pace thru the halls and hallways. The temple is really beautiful and 40 minutes are far to short for a visit. Because of the weather many hallways are covered with pastic planes. It hard to get  clear view into the garden. Monks are praying in big hall. Some of them walking around and carrying things. They walk like robots on rails: high speed straight, then stop and a 90 degree turn. Acceleration. The things they are carry are held above head. Looks funny.

After a last short visit to a chamber with hundred of golden plates a run back to the bus. The bus stops is down the street. It is slippery. I have to buy the ticket in a small shop at the opposite side of the street. The bus drivers is so kind and waits for me. VIP. Again.

On the way back we pass a construction side. Concrete piles. They built a shinkansen track. Soon Kanazawa and Fukui are connected to Tokyo. This will change the location on the map. In the past monks travelled for weeks to get here. I have to spend a day in trains and changing several times. In a few years tourist can visit this place on a daytrip. I am not sure if this is good. Eihei-ji will lose some of its mystic aura.

Another stop for dinner before I enter the next train to Kanazawa. I decide for a cafe where the coffee is boiled in a all glas coffee maker. They have 20 different blends. I decide for the European Blend and watch the waiter preparing it: Hot water in the lower bowl, coffee grain into the upper. Heating the water and it goes up. Looks like I need a more powerful bunsen burner at home.

Kanazawa: On the way to the Ryokan it starts to … it is not rain, neither snow. The Japanse call it Arare. I think we would call it graupel. I am surprised by its sudden intensity combined with heavy wind. Within seconds and without any warning the streets are completely white. No time to take cover. After a few minutes the show is over. I was hoping for snow but it was planned differently.

Kanazawa at Arrival

Where is the Ryokan? That shall be the right street. Even the guy I ask doesn’t know anything. Nice. But a colleage is helping. The Ryokan is somewhere close. Idead. A closer look shows it 30m away on the left. What a benefit if you can read Kanji.

After check-in I visit a izakaya around the corner, the was recommended by the staff. The place is part of the fish market. Here even for Japan the fish is really fresh. I order the sashimi plate: squid, shrimps, tuna, salmon, octopus, sea urchin. All fresh, all raw, all yummy. It is a fine, distinguished taste. Hot Nihonshu (sake) makes the evening perfect. I heard that sushi and sake doesn’t match. But the waiter says, that it is ok for sashima, because there is no soured rice. Back in the ryokan some onsen. Why? Because I can.

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Today ist Xmas eve and I visit Kyoto. I start at the train station. Maybe that Tokyo Eki is bigger and has more people running around, but Kyoto Eki is just one big building. It is nearly a quarter mile long and provides more than 15 levels above ground (plus several basement levels). The building is like a big hole with a roof. The broad stairway over 15 floor is just impressive architecture. Upstairs is the Skywalk. A small pathway right underneath the roof.

Inari Shrine

The next stop is everything but modern: The Fushimi-Inari-Shrine in South Kyoto (the train tracks mark the border between Kita and Minami / North and South Kyoto). Arriving by train I can spot the orange-red big gate from the platform. The buildungs are a sightseeing spot. It was a mistake to skip this shrine in my 2004 trip.

A good idea (to make some money) are Ema. Small wooden plates you can write your wishes on, like a letter the the deity. In this case the plate has the shape of a fox head. They are empty except for two lines that mark the eyes. It it impressive what people draw on this empty plates.

But the real attraction is behind the buildings: Torii. There are more than 1000 of them. It starts with 50 big ones in dark red. Then I arrive at the famous double row. Small Torii close-packed. What a view. What a view if you are standing inside. I stop counting after 200 Torii (in one row). It really is an experience to walk thru this tunnel of gates. The pictures do not capture this moment.

Behind the double row starts a 2,3km pilgrimage uphill with more gates. The guide says, that I need 2-3 hours. Shall I? But it will waste time. But I am already this far. What can I do? Damned. I’ll do it, but speed up. If there is no snow, I can run (this saying loses in the translation) …


Uphill. Stairs. The width of one step is to short to walk it with two footsteps. The next time the stars are two small for one european footstep. I try to take two steps at once. This is hard stuff. I need more training. Downhill it shouldn’t do that. On the way up I have a nice view on Kyoto. The train station is easy to find. Now I can see how big this building really is. At the summit is an old shrine, meaning many old stones with ingravings. I do not understand the purpose.

Next stop is the Tofuku-ji. I walk. I pass a residential area with narrow streets. I recognize many red buckets. They are filled with water. Like in many anime. These buckets are for fire figthing. In front of every house are 10 litre of water. In Germany impossible. After the first night on a weekend these buckets would be empty and smashed.

The temple garden must be impressive during autumn color. I am too late. All the leaves are gone. The stone garden is bigger than the one in Ryoanji. It is worth the entrance fee. And there are three different stone gardens.

The subway brings me close to Kiyokizudera. I got myself lost in the maze of narrow, tiny streets of Higashiyama. Back on track I find myself in a shopping street that leads steep uphill to the temple. Or Shrine? I am not sure. In Kyoto you cannot seperate temple and shrines by building shape or the color of the torii.

Higashi-yama und Gion

I enter an unspectacular hall. From the padio I have a nice view on Kyoto. Behind the  handrail it goes straight down. There is a path along the rock wall. The gallery on the other side is construction site. Bad timing. But now I have a good view at the padio and its wooden construction. This is the famous one. Wow. The path leads down to a tiny water fall. Also famous. It is the Ootwa-no-taki.

I spot a small shrine on the temple area that is filled with tourists. The attraction seems to be two stones. The shrine is the Jishu-Jinja and is dedicated to the deity of love. That explains a lot.

It is 3:30pm. I have to increase my speed. Back at the shopping street I almost miss the entrance to street with the old houses of Higashiyama. A nice place. A narrow street with stairs (and no cars). There are many shops inside the old houses to the left and right. Why I missed this place in 2004 … Maybe the same reason I missed the Kiyomizedera. I was stupid. Then I spot the first Geisha. Right. Gion is not that far away and the Chaya will open soon.

On the way Gio I get lost again; despite a map and a police box. What use is a map without the red “You are here” dot? Argghh. I try the street on the left. It should end in a right turn. Yes. It does. This is Gion Corner. This area is filled with old tiny wooden houses and narrow alleys.


It starts to snow (a little bit) and dawn is beginning too. Last stop for today is Pontocho. Not an attraction like the usual ones. It is a narrow street with many Izakayas. Too small for a car but filled with tourists.

It is almost dark, when I am back at Higashiyama to take some night pictures (without a tripod). After that I walk home to the hotel. A long walk. Next time I’ll use the subway. Half way I decide for some snacks. I skipped lunch. The streets of Kyoto can be pretty dark. A brief stop at the train station for some Xmas feeling. Changing into something more stylish, abandon the camera and get into the next cab. Next stop: a Chaya.

I celebrate Xmas eve in compony of a meiko (Geshia still in training). She is speaking perfect english and serves all food and every single drink. There are some performances and drinking games. They know how to entertain. It is not cheap. Oh no. But it is awesome. I enjoy every single second (and the blog of today will end right here … *evil grin*).

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Amanohashidateis one of the three famous sceneries. And today I move to a hotel in Kyoto. But how? With the loop line to Oosaka Eki.  And then? I view on the board. Platform 4 in two minutes. I ask the conductor if this is the correct train. It is. Lucky. Then the next question: I only have 1 minute to change the train. Is this possible? The conductor says yes. The other train is wainting at the same platform (and is waiting for us). Wow. In Germany this would be unthinkable.

I arrive in Amanohashidate at 11:25 and no coin locker left. The tourist information suggests a souvenir shop. Practical. I can store my luggage (even the big bag) and have breakfast. Prefect Timing. It starts to rain. I order Asari-Don, a local specialty. Don is always rice plus egg plus X. And in this case X are clams. Delicious. No comparsion to Germany. And a beer from a local micro brew: Kölsch, yes with a “ö”.

Southern side

I visit the small temple. Nothing fancy but really worth a visit. The ropeway brings me up to a viewing platform. The sandbank is not looking that long. I don’t know what I had expected. Because of the strong wind I cannot use the full zoom of the camera. There is also a small amusement park here for kinds. Really small.

I start the walk to the northern side. The travel guide says that there are more than 8000 pine trees. The sand bank is 200m wide and has a nice beack on the right side. The view reminds me a little bit of the baltic sea. On the left side the pines are close the the water line. The wind is coming from this side. Here it is stormy. On the right side is now wind at all.  Both within 200m.

First sum up: Amanohashidate is nothing special. Of you are in this area, you can take a stop but it is not worth a 3 hour train ride. The sand bank may be unique but that is all.

On the northern side is a nice shrine. Behind it is a ropeway. At the top there is a viewing platform (again).  There are some strange poles with a ring on top. A saw them on the other side too. Looks like you can buy some wooden plates and try to throw them thru the ring.  I don’t know why. I book this thing in the category “fathomless Japan”.

sand bank

There is a bus to temple. Shall I? Another 1100yen? Japense are the Ferengi of the planet earth. And the are successful. It would be stupid to go back without going the last mile. The bus is going uphill on a extremly winding and extremly narrow road. Koyasan flashback.

The temple was worth the money. Here at the top it is anowing a little bit. At the ropeway it was rain. This is snow line live. The temple is old and weathered. But this is its charme. Hundreds of lantern are hanging from the ceiling. Beautiful and impressiv. I only have a few minutes until the last bus is going back to the ropeway. I run. The driver is waiting for me. He stops. Because there is reason why this temple is mentioned in the guide. The pagode. I nearly missed it. I take some pictures. Next stop at the daimon. Just for me and a second tourist.

My rule to be always nice to the UPS guy, is also applicable for japanese bus driver and conductors. I talked to the driver at the ropeway station. Asked him, if the temple is worth the trip and if the remaining time of 20 minutes is enough. He said, that this is ok. He recognized me while I was running to the bus and also saw that I missed the pagoda.

To save some money I walk back to the southern side. Dinner at the souvenir shop. Udon. I don’t have to pay for storing my luaggage. Maybe because I visit the resto twice. The concept is working: You store your luaggage and maybe you visit the resto or buy some souvenirs. It is working for me. I saved 600yen for the coin locker *).


The express ends in Kyoto. The famous central hall is 10 stories high. At the bottom of the big stairway is a Xmas tree. I takes some time to find the north-south-passage. It is not easy to find the south exit. After that it is also not easy to find the hotel. Where is it? I check all streets and side alleys. Then I see the entrance. A small door and two elevators. That is all. The reception desk is in 3F.

Btw.. Internet! I am back online after three days without network. Sorry for this break. Pictures will follow within the next days.

*) If you are in Japan and cannot find a coin locker – this happened to me several times before – ask the tourist information or the station staff. Before the rise of the coin lockers many shops close to the station offered storage space for a small fee. For the shops this was an additional customer and some money. This old tradition is still existing today in some places. My advice: In a small town ask for a store with a storage service. In the worst case you spend the same money than on a coin locker. But usually you get some additional information that are not mentioned in the guide. Only disadvantage: The closing time of the shop. — On this trip I did this three more times. In Inuyama, Kisofukushima and Fukui. In Inuyama I placed my bag in the office of the train station because there was no locker of the right size. In Kisofukushima were no locker at all. In Fukui I could store my stuff in in the bus station office for my short trip to Eihei-ji.]

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With breakfast from a 7evelen I start the ride with the Loop Line. After two stations I change into the Koya-Nankai-Line. This time the gates are clearly seperated. Even with Kansai Pass I have to pay a Ltd. Express fee. From the second last station Koyashita the train tracks are winding uphill; rock on the left, abyss to the right. It is a mystic atmosphere, fog is hanging in the trees.

For the last mile I have to use a cable car. The thermometer is showing 46°F. Upstairs it is fallen to 39°F. The next half mile is a compilation of curves and pedestrians are not allowed. Fog everywhere. To be precisely: clouds. And I am inside. Drizzle. It is cold.

Koyasan 1

I take the bus and get off at the Tokugawa Mausoleum. Looks good. A nice beginning. It starts to rain. I walk to the city center, passing several temples. There are more than 100.  In ancient times there were over 1000. Koyasan is looking like a cozy little town.

I reach the beginning of the forest track Sando. It leads to the most important temple, Torodo. The whole forest is a graveyard with thousand of tombs, stone columns and Stupa. The are weathered; covered with moss. High cedar trees, drizzle and a little bit of fog. The perfect atmosphere for this place. Here the time has stopped.

Behind the bridge no cameras are allowed. A monk is giving me some powder that I have to rub into my hands. An incense. He also gives me a small package to take it home. Here are only monks, pilgrims and I. This is like the end of the modern world and the beginning of the spiritual.

The main hall is impressive. I would like to take some pictures but I respect the rules. I embrance the moment. I hear chanting. Next to the main hall a smaller one with hundreds of iron lantern hanging from the ceiling. Where is the Okunoin? I ask a monk. I have to enter the temple, turn right. It is behind the sliding door.

Koyasan 2

I take a taxi back. Next stop Kongobu-ji. No shoes. At 39°F. That is mean. There are many rooms with sliding doors with zen-paintings on them. The corridor is a leading to a big hall with tatami floor. There is a small stone garden between the buildings. Tea is served. Behind the hall is another bigger stone garden.

The next point in my list is the Jakai. This is no temple. It is a buddhism ritual at the Daishi Kyokai temple. There is some time left before it starts, so I go to the museum around the corner. Acient scrolls and pictures. No I have to hurry. I forgot my umbrella. Back to the museuem. I am back on time but I am the only one. Ups.

I monk is asking my name. I follow him into the main hall. We are passing the golden Buddha statue and enter the “off limits” area into a hall. It is dark. No light but two candles at the altar. I sit down at the tatami mat. A monk is closing the sliding doors. The priest is entering and sitting down in front of me. I only see his silhouette. Drums. Chanting. Chimes. The Jukai starts with a Mantra. Then I have to repeat his works. Aiyee. Now my japanese knowledge is needed. A monk is repeating with me. That is a lot of help. I syncronize with him. Then I have to step forward. The priest is giving me a envelope. Another mantra and it is over. Impressive ritual. Nothing special but powerful.  A special holiday experience. The Jukai vow!

Koyasan 3

The fog is vanising. Koysan is loosing some of its mysticism; I need more fog. Sadly enough that there is no snow. It was a good idea to do the Sando first. Without the fog it would only be a pathway in the forest. The last stop on my list is the Danjo Garan; a pagoda (Konpon Daito); Huge. 157ft. There are three “smaller” one. Also the Kondo, the big hall, is really big. The entrance is closed. A warning sign. Snowslides from the roof. Damned. Looks like the had plenty of snow a few days ago. I visit the inside of the pagode before the close. Dawn is starting. The fog is back. A lot of fog. Hard to take pictures. My tripod is still in Tokyo.

There is time left to visit the daimon, the big entrance gate to Koyasan. It really is dai = big. The roof ridge is hidden in the fog. The exposure time is on its limit. No more pictures without a tripod. Now it is dinner time an the then the ride back to Oosaka. The last open resto is next to the bus station; Tendon; Sake; Souvenirs.

Bus, ropeway and train are coordinated perfectly. This is Japan. I leave Koyasan behind me in the mystic fog. 2 hours later Namba, Oosaka. What a contrast. Neon lights. People everywhere. Sky scrapers. Loud and hectic. Amusement. The combination of food, drinks and women (optional). I discover a small booth on the street with Takoyaki. Looks like a gaijin like me was not expected. The is not the typical tourist street and food supply.

On the way back to the ryokan I do a small diversion to the radio tower, the landmark of Oosaka. No anime in Oosaka without a reference to this tower. Green illuminated. They want to tear it down but the people of Oosaka stopped the project. On the way back I have a feeling of dejavu. Maybe I walked this way in  2004.

[P.S.:i took a picture at the train station in Oosaka. A departure every 4 minutes. This is only possible if trains are on time. Not possible in Germany. For the Deutsche Bahn a delay of 15 miuntes is still “on time”. In comparsion the japanese rail network is a swiss clock. The time table for the train driver is listing seconds for the departure time. No kidding.]

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Asuka and Yoshino

Today I have a double header: Asuka (Hasedera and Tanzan shirne outside the city) and Yoshino. I start early (for me). At 8:45am I arrive at the Kintetsu Station „Osakaabenobashi“. But I am wrong. I have to go to Tsuruhashi and from there to Asuka.

With a lot of routine I am moving forward, not impressed by all these Japanese. I am used to this chaos. I am stopped by the exit gate. Wrong ticket? No, just the wrong exit. The Loop Line is JR. But I tried to use the exit that is also the entrance to Kintetsu (Kintetsu is also running the subway in Oosaka). I show my Kansai Thru pass and everthing is fine. The next train is a  Sub-Semi-Express.

Hasedera 1

Half way I nearly got undocked. Only the first 6 cars go further. A nice conducter warns me before this happens. At Hasedera Eki is a small stairway downhill. The street and the old houses look cozy. The weather is sunny. A right turn, passing the city and uphill to the temple Hasedera, founded in 686.

I am walking thru the Mon and climb up the corridor with its more than 300 steps. This is the first time I see somthing like this. It is like walking into ancient times. At the top there is a big hall with a nice view into the valley. A patio is errected on several feet high piles. This is how the Kiyomizudera may look like. In three days I know the answer.

The big hall contains the second greatest Kannon in Japan. 12m high. Impressive. The legend says that the tree trunk was big enough to carve two statues. The second one was thrown into the see and was washed up in Kamakura. This is the Kannon at the Hasedera temple there. Now I have seen both and a picture of neither. I respect the ban of taking pictures. Monks are praying and I record a 20min audio track. [It is silent and overlayed by wind noise.]

Hasedera 2

On tThe way back I pass a pagoda and then I need to hurry. I only have 20min. left. The stairway up to the station is harder to take than it looks. We are talking about a heigth difference of about 100m. I am finished but I get the train.

From Sakurai it is a 7km walk and there are only 4 busses a day. I jump into taxi to get stuck in traffic. Arghh. Then it goes uphill. Switchback. The drivers tells me that in winter the street is sometimes closed if snow and ice cover the road. To steep for driving. I believe that. We are going up and the taximeter too. This will be an expensive ride.

The shrine is old and not in a good shape. The dark red colour is weatherd. The honden and the 13-level (!) pagoda are still worth a visit. The were errected in 1532. Here the kami of Fujiware Kamatari, founder of the Fujiwara Clan (Heian period) is enshrined. In the honden some exhibits from this area can be visited. During autumn color the view from the patio into the forest must be amazing. But now, without the leaves, everything is grey. All the iron lantern are a nice motif for a picture.

The taxi driver is waiting. He drives me to Asuka Station. Expensive ride. $100. But without the taxi is wasn’t possible to catch a train to Yoshino in time. The driver stops at Ishibutai, a megalithic tomb from the Asuka period (and the reason for the name).

Tanzan Shrine

The Local to Yoshino passes buildings, forests and bamboo groves. The houses are very close to the tracks. 5m or less. A bridge, narrower that the train cars. Just even wide enough for the tracks. For the last meter up to Yoshino I have to use a cable car. Made in Germany! It looks old, very old.

Yoshino: The Kuromon above the street builts the entrance. Behing  small road with old houses; shops and restos, but all closed. Zombieland feeling. During Sakura this place must be awesome and crowded. At the moment I prefer the Zombieland. It is peaceful and quiet.

Next Stop: Kinpusei-ji. The temple is a construction site. Mon and Main hall are big. Here the second biggest Buddha statue can be found. It is to dark for pictures. I walk to the Yoshimuzu shrine. It is small and compact but worth a visit. It has a small courtyard with honden, stone garden and a pond.

At Chikurin I forgot to visit the temple garden. Damned. If I can walk to the Mikurimari shrine before dawn? The last cable car leaves at 5:40pm. The way goes uphill. A junction. I walk back. Am I wrong? No. This is the way. Uphill. The town ends. A small sign (“Less than 1 mile”) is directing into a forest. A tiny trail. Uphill. Exhausting.


Dawn is beginning. The latest time for my return is 4:40pm. 20 minutes until then. I see some houses. The incline is unbelieveable. Close to 50%. Every single step is hard work. Again a trail; with stairs. 650m. I am finished and at the finish. It really is getting dark. I am back on tarmac. A car passes. The smell of hot brakes is in the air. No surprise if I remember the incline. The shrine is closed. Arghhh. Winter Time. 4pm was closing time.

And now: Downhill. In the dark. It starts to rain. The trail is slippery. 40 minutes until the last cable car. A mixture of hurry and caution. I am back in time and I am exhausted. On the train ride back I fall asleep. I get up a few minutes before I arrive at Abenobashi. It is raining. Dinner is an intersting combination for 890yen: salad with japense dressing, miso, rice, chicken nuggets, sausages and meatballs. Unusual but tasty.

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9:50am. I have japanese soil under my feet. The entry formalities are routine but this KIX is new for me. I have no orientation. I don’t find a shop with Atarime, so a Teriyaki burger it is; plus the traditional can of Asahi beer (picture of the beer at top of my duffel bag). Me has arrived!

First stop is a ATM, then I buy the Kansai Thru Pass. Hm … Wakayama or Kobe. The decision has to be made now. It decides if a 2-day or 3-day pass is necassary. And Kobe it is.

Kobe Gallery 1

At 11:50am a bus brings me to the ferry terminal. The “High Speed Ferry” (a catamaran) is connecting KIX and Kobe Airport with a speed of 30 knots. This connection wasn’t mentioned in any guides. There is no outer deck, therefore the view is limited. Another shuttle bus brings me from the ferry to the monorail that is connecting the artificial islands with Sannomiya Eki. All together it is a 90-min ride. I get the last coin locker that my bag is fitting into.

First stop in 2012 is the Ikuta shrine. The way to the shrine is a typical japanese amusement street; bars, cafes, restos and shops everywhere. I am in Kobe the first time but everything is looking so familiar. I don’t feel like a tourist, it is more like I am dreaming. A strange feeling.

The shrine is a perfect start, and the weather is too. 50 degrees and sunshine. It doesn’t feel like December, more like late September in North Germany. The vermillion shrine buildings are glowing in the sun surrounded by a blue sky.

Next stop is Kitano (kita-no = northern field). Here are many old european houses, that were built during the Meiji restauration. The streets are small, steep and charming. Kobe was the correct decission. There is a place in front of an old english house where I forget, that I am in Japan. Here in Kitano is a shrine with a nice view over the harbour area and a statue of a cow. I am not sure if this has something to do with the Kobe-beef.

Observation: Kobe seems to be “wedding village”. I never saw that many shops and restaurants concentrated that are specialized on weddingsin one place.

Kobe Gallery 2

On the way down to old harbour aera I stop for some ramen. From the harbour I have a good view to the city and the express way in front of it. It is located at the 7th floor level. Nothing unusual in Japan. Here is a part of the old pier that was destroyed during the Hanshin earthquake in 1995. The rusty lamps and the tilted and broken concrete reminds me of Toya.

Here at the harbour is Merikan Park with the Kobe Port Tower, the TV tower. One of the few, that doesn’t look like the Eiffel Tower. On the next pier is Mosaic, an old warehouse that now contains restaurants. Passing Kobe Eki I walk up to Minatogawa Jinja. The way is not easy to find. The train tracks and a express way is to pass. And the entrance to the train station is not easy to find either.

When I arrive at the shrine, dawn is in progress. Two big lantern on both sides of the torii show the way. The main hall is illuminated. I spot a tiny Inari Shrine on my right with tiny Torii. A moment later it is dark. Wow. I am still surprised about how fast it turns dark in Japan.

At Mosaic Garden the trees are illuminated. Xmas is close but we are in Japan. This may be an all-year illumination. In a side street I find a nice dutch draw bridge. Back at the pier I have a nice view to the Port Tower, completely illuminated in orange, and the Marine museum, whose roof construction is illuminated in white.

I spot Xmas booths with hot win, German Hefeweizen and fried squid. Why is the later not available on German Xmas markets? The guy in charge is from France (no joke). I learn: The same agency is also running the Oktoberfest, But this Xmas market fails. He says Mosaic is the wrong place for it. Not for me, but the Japanese may thing different. Lucky for me. Because they have so much squid in the freezer that they give it away for free before it turns bad. Last stop is China Town. Small, but I was here.

Kobe Gallery 3

I pick up my bag and get on the next Local to Oosaka Eki where I change to the Loop Line, the Yamanote of Oosaka. Exit North in Tennoji. There should be a narrow street on the other side of the pedestrian light. Oh boy. Not this really tiny thing. It is only 1,5m wide and surrounded by third class Izakaya. But, yes it is. The ryokan is in second row in the third side streets. All I can see from the street is a big sign and the typical entrance with the curtain.

The owner of the ryokan is about my age and his daugther (2 years old) is keeping staff and guests busy. The breakfast room shows an interesting roof contruction. There is a gallery with hundreds of Mangas on the second floor. Next to it is my room. Tatami. The bath room is on the first floor. That is what I really need now. A hot tub. It is not an onsen but it does the trick. Relaxing.

There are only two problems. (a) My AC is batteling with the ventilation of the neighbour bar. I should start it after the bar is closed.  (b) Like typical for Japan, the floorway has no heating. It is chilly if you are only wearing a Yukata.

After a relaxing time in the tub I ask the owner for a good Izakaya close by. He suggest one of the bars I mentioned earlier. Benefit: No tourists but me. No gaijin would enter this place by accident. The first day is ending.

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