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Last Two Days: Kyoto and Osaka

· Japan,Food,City Walks,Museums Etc,Art Exhibits

Tuesday I spent the whole day in Kyoto and was exhausted and freezing afterward. It snowed even a little! But it was a gorgeous city and I enjoyed every minute of it.

First stop of the day: The International Manga Museum. A museum built in a renovated elementary school, it shows both exhibits commemorating the school, and it's larger focus the art of Manga. Almost every inch of wall is covered with book shelves, featuring Manga from all over the world. Most of which is available for you to take out and read. During the warmer days, you can even go to the front lawn and enjoy them there. If you're a fan, you can buy a season pass and spend your afternoons there. They also had exhibits showing Manga from around the world, the process that goes into the making of one, as well as how the business behind the book happens (publishers, artists, etc.) There is currently an exhibit showcasing the work of North American artists and raising the question of "Is it Manga if the artist isn't Japanese?" If you're in Kyoto it's a nice museum to check out, even if your Japanese skills are low.

At this point, it was lunchtime and I returned to the scene of my sushi dinner last night. I couldn't leave town without having it again. This time I was seated closer to the chefs, and I got to watch as they opened fresh packages of fish, scooped rice out of huge containers, and admired how there could be so much wasabi in one place. My favorite was when one of them would go to put more sushi on the line. They would hold the plate down, so that it pushed all the ones behind it closer together again, making room. They never faltered, never feared that a plate would fall off the line, they were magic.

My second stop for the day was to head to Toji temple. There they have Japan's tallest pagoda. There are also enormously sized and beautiful crafted Buddha statues, but unfortunately these I could not photograph them. The freezing temperatures drove me inside for some coffee and re-planning. When I re-surfaced I headed over to the Kiyomizu Temple area. There I walked around the temple, as well as enjoyed the old streets, giving a glimpse into the character of Kyoto, although some of the shops on this street catered to tourists as usual. Including the types of stores where you could pay to dress like a geisha.

I finally wrapped up my evening with dinner. Unfortunately, after a day of excitement that I would be eating gyoza for dinner, there was a sign outside the restaurant I wanted to go to, saying they wouldn't be opening that evening. Heartbreak. Instead, I ended up going to an okay but overpriced Italian restaurant.

Today brought me back to Osaka. After checking into my hostel, a very nicely decorated and thought-out place. There are perks like a massage chair! Will enjoy later, because I was off! First to the Liberty Osaka Museum (also known as the Osaka Human Rights Museum.) The museum focuses on diversity in life, former discrimination and suffering, and how we are working/can work to make it better.) It was very interesting, and there were language headsets available, as well as subtitles for some of the videos.

Unfortunately the signage and some of the videos did not have English, so I missed out. Time to learn a new language I guess!

Next stop was an eating binge. I headed over to the Hankyu Umeda Station, and that's where things started being consumed. First I passed a bakery that was making fresh chocolate crescents, I got sucked in...bought one, a cream pastry, and a coffee. Next stop was another bakery, Vanilla macaroon. Then I went HEP5 to get another bowl of ramen, this one much more satisfying than the first. A creamy pork broth, with a touch of soy. Tender pork, noodles, seaweed, green onions, and sprouts. Satisfaction. I needed a break for a bit.

While at HEP5, I went to the Ferris wheel on the roof, I know what you're thinking. "Karmen? Another tall item, you've already had one Ferris wheel, a castle, and a tower." I'm a sucker for heights I guess! I enjoyed the sunset over the stations and the skyscrapers. Watching the trains roll in and out of the stations with the pink light hitting them...soothing. It was time to wrap up my day, I was exhausted. Final stop gelato. One scoop milk flavor, one black sesame. Perfect balance.

While at the gelato store, I experienced something I had seen at a few stores I had passed while walking around in Osaka and Kyoto but hadn't understood at the time. There was a vending machine inside the restaurant?! It has a picture of the menu in this case 1-3 scoops, bowl or dish. You put your money in and make a selection. Then your change and a ticket come out. You hand the ticket to the person working, and they go from there! What a unique way to cut out the order taking/cashier process!

Tomorrow I head back to Taipei! I have a few days off in February though, so let's see where the next adventure takes me!

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