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Published: October 14th 2012
Back on the train gang...
Three trains with a three minute changeover at Osaka, saw us travelling to the lovely city of Okayama for two nights. Once again, Japanese efficiency saw us arrive at our destination with lots of time to spend in the afternoon sightseeing. Had a look at Korakuen Garden; one of the 'top three landscape gardens in Japan' (Lonely Planet and Japanese tourist info loves to rank things), which were indeed nice. Dean and Eleanor found an iphone and tried to hand it in at the entrance. I think they thought we were giving them one. It was a very confusing exchange.
Later, Dean earned his spot on our tour de South East Asia by finding a bookshop across the road from the hotel. Despite my dislike of the Kindle, I had finished reading the sixth Harry Potter quickly. I then read (in the old fashioned way) the story of Lonely Planet - 'Once while travelling', so I was looking for something to while away the minutes on a bullet train. We had loads of fun browsing the stationery and card section. Japanese stores are into Halloween in a big way and decorations are already on
display. I bought the final Harry Potter for a reasonable price, which should see me to the ferry to Korea in four days.
On the way to dinner, we saw a little procession of some kind with kids banging drums, a float and lanterns. After that little diversion, we stopped at a sushi place for entree. Eleanor was let loose on the conveyer belt, selecting anything that looked deep-fried. We moved on for mains at a bar where we relied on pictures and pointing, as usual. I've always had a set against pictures on menus, but if they didn't have them here, we would have lost 10kgs each, easily. Even though most people don't speak English, it hasn't been that hard to get around or find somewhere to eat. We've certainly had some interesting culinary experiences. We also haven't seen a lot of Western tourists, so we've not been eating in places that rely on them for business. Having said that, the owner of the place in Nikko said that pre-earthquake, 60% of his business was Australian tourists, and now no-one is coming. That was the same at Nara. There are lots of Asian tourists at the sights but
I don't know where they are staying or eating!! Anyway, we had a peaceful evening. Dean found an 'Aussie Bar' to watch the rugby and Eleanor and I ate a Snickers bar on the way home. I have to say, Japanese sweets require a special palate.
We had to make an early start to the day so we could catch a ferry out to Naoshima. A bakery at the train station provided nourishment (why is bread yellow and how does it get that way??), although I'm sure we ate enough sugary treats to see us through to Christmas. With the Love Boat theme song stuck in my head during the 20 minutes on the ferry, we arrived on the 'Art Island' after a seamless transfer from the train to the boat. There's galleries, museums and art installations dotted around the island, so we started at the Art Project ticket booth. We were instructed to make our way to the first installation. Lining up, a guide came to us and spoke a little English (thank goodness!!). He told us we would be led into the space in total darkness, sat down for five minutes or so, and then "something will
A walk in the gardens at Okayama
Dean's comment on the gardens: a bit like my backyard.
change". Oh joy. The only English speakers, I kept close to a girl on my left, so when she moved, I knew what to do. Ten freaking minutes later, our eyes adjusted a bit and you could make out dim shapes. I can't adequately describe it. I think you need to experience it yourselves, so put yourself in a small, pitch black room with 15 strangers who don't speak your language, and then after 10 minutes or so walk towards a rectangular shape which is actually a void...
After that experience, we walked around to a variety of modern art installations and museums, spending quite a cultural day. Google Naoshima if you want to see some interesting works of art. It was quite exhausting, because like most of Japan, it was hilly and you're on your feet most of the time. There is a courtesy bus that leaves various places at certain times and we were lucky enough to catch it a couple of times but at 2:55 we called it a day and caught the return ferry to the train station.
Eleanor was able to convince Dean to eat dinner at the hotel's gyoza restaurant because we
With decor circa 1983, I wouldn't have been surprised if Isaac had appeared alongside Gopher on the Sun Deck.
were too tired to go back out looking for an eating establishment. In the room, unfortunately the TV had decided to stop working, so we couldn't spend an hour or so viewing those wacky prank and game shows so beloved by the Japanese. We were offered to move rooms, however one look around the mess we had created in 15 minutes, we decided to stay put. We tried to convince the guy we were happy without bad TV, but I don't think he quite understood. I still think we'll be moved by stealth in the middle of the night.
Okay, we weren't moved during the night, so life is good. A delicious set breakfast in a bakery down the road provided us with a cheap and cheery meal before checking out...the bread was still yellow.
Medical update: ear okay, although a little crusty. In our haste to board a train, I managed to ram one of my toes with a suitcase on the train and Dean was quick to exclaim: "We've got a bleeder!" So, despite the Japanese revulsion of feet, Dean had to apply a bandaid in public on the train. Sad times for me.
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