Oniko's Travel Diary:|
The Saigoku Pilgrimage
(July 20-August 16, 1999)
Tuesday & Wednesday July 20-21st, 1999
The ten hour flight in was exhausting, per usual... the only interesting bit was discovering that where I landed, Kansai Airport near Osaka, was built on a man-made island. But I didn't spend much time looking it over; I needed to find someplace to sleep. From Kansai, I took a train to Osaka, but there I found nothing but "International" hotels -- which means "Expensive" -- so I decided to head for someplace less well-traveled; and I choose a place called Omiya because a poster on the wall showed that it has a Ninja House, and, I reasoned, if it wasn't downtown Osaka it had to be cheaper.
Waiting for the train to pull out, I got thanked by a very drunk man for being an American. He had apparently come to think a lot of Americans due to some experience he had during a war; it was hard to follow, because I'm nowhere near fluent in Japanese, and he wasn't speaking very clearly due to his inebriated state. Just as I was thinking I was going to have to endure his kind words and bad breath all the way to Omiya, I was saved... he realized he was on the wrong train. So, doors shutting and schoolgirls giggling, he lurched off the train at the very last minute, leaving me a bit perplexed, but relieved. I don't drink myself, and I rarely know what to do with a drunk person that has latched onto me (but it seems to happen a lot).
When the train arrived at Omiya, I climbed up two flights of stairs to the street. The sun had gone down, and the lights had gone on... I was in a pretty typical downtown area, with a few tall commercial buildings just hiding the residential area behind them. The train station itself was under a department store which looked closed for the night. So I wandered around, looking for signs of a hotel or ryokan, and just eyeing up the area.
Last year, I had noticed that vending machines with pornographic content had started to appear in one or two out of the way places. This year, in this area at least, the machines had gone legit. There were several out on the sides of the biggest street in the area, and several small alcoves full of machines offering videos, magazines, and "toys". And, NO, I don't go looking for this stuff... I only mention it because it strikes me as new and unusual. If you can imagine, Japan has always had unguarded vending machines on streets selling cigarettes and alchohol (including the notorious Asahi half-gallon mug, complete with easy grip handle); in theory, teenagers wouldn't abuse these machines simply because they know they shouldn't. How's that strike you? [For more on Japanese vending machines, Click Here!]
But back to business. From where I could see the vending machines, I could also see one other thing of interest... a sign peeking above the buildings near me, pointing out the presense of a Toyoko Inn Hotel. Last year, I stayed in a Toyoko Inn in Tokyo (how's that for a tongue-twister?); they have wonderful rooms at a good price, and I knew immediately that this was the place to rest up. It took a little doing to weave my way to the hotel through the fairly complicated hub of streets I was on, but I kept my eye on the sign and was soon there. I got a three night stay to give me time to rest up, re-adjust to speaking in Japanese, and plan my itinerary. And now I'm going to get food, maps, and clean up. Sorry this was short, but the first day of the trip is always the worst to find time to write!
|All illustrations in these pages are copyright (c)2002 Garth Haslam, and shouldn't be used without his permission. Contact him by Clicking Here!|