Dennis Wright's Blog


Posted in Far East Cruise 2007, General, Japan, Kyoto, Tokyo, Travel by Dennis Wright on April 18, 2008

We spent our last evening in Kyoto wandering the characterful Ponto-Cho area and alongside the Kamogawa river. No shortage of enticing bars and restaurants, but extreme shortage of menus in English. Well, we could still ingest the atmosphere. And we did buy some ice cream and sat by the river to enjoy it.

Next morning it was taxi back to Kyoto station to pick up the Shinkansen bullet train to Tokyo.

No slouch this one. The fastest Shinkansen, the Nozomi.

It still takes around 3 hours. I had hoped to catch a glimpse of Mt Fuji along the way but somehow managed to miss it. Had I been paying attention at the right time, it might have looked like this. Or this. I guess it depends which Shinkansen line you’re on.

The train was fairly empty. I did like the way the guards on the train bowed on entering each carriage. On reaching the far end they would turn to face back into the carriage, bow again and then turn back to the door to exit. There is a brief example about 10 seconds into this clip. Formality and ritual is very important to the Japanese, or at least it has been and we still see the legacy.

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Umeda Sky Building

Posted in Far East Cruise 2007, Japan, Osaka, Travel by Dennis Wright on October 24, 2007


Our cruise came to an end at Osaka. We were sad to be leaving the Statendam, but we still had a few days in Japan to round off our holiday. Our immediate priority was sorting out transport to Kyoto (we had a hotel booked there for that night and the night after) but now we were hampered by our two hulking great blue suitcases and a smaller suitcase. How quickly you forget how convenient it is to be living on a floating hotel as you explore the world, but now we were back to having a different hotel at each location.

We took a taxi ride to Shin-Osaka, the vast railway station from where we would take the Tokaido Shinkansen bullet train to Kyoto. For a Thursdsay morning the city seemed almost deserted. Compared to Beijing gridlock, the traffic was surprisingly light. It dawned on us that the cars in Japan drive on the left, like in England. Should we have known that? I had never heard it mentioned.

The taxi driver was very courteous, gave us a pack of tissues each. All part of the service, well it was a hot day. There were pretty lace antimacassars over the seats. Shin-Osaka was heaving. We found our way to the machines to buy our Shinkansen tickets. There are three “speeds” to choose from. The expressest Shinkansen is the Nozomi, then the Hikari, but we booked on the slower Kodama train, departing lunchtime.

This left us enough time for a little sightseeing in Osaka, but only if we could get rid of the bags for a bit. Nowhere, but nowhere could I find the left luggage department. No English signs I could make sense of, no helpful pictures. Naomi fastened on one sign – “check room”. Could that be it? Maybe an Americanism? Anyway, we followed the signs and it was indeed the left luggage department.

The one attraction I had wanted to visit in Osaka, even before leaving Britain, was the Umeda Sky Building. This is Japan’s answer to the Grande Arche at La Defense in Paris, although very different in style. Still, it is in the nature of two tall buildings joined by a spanning structure, like a lid, at the top, and lots of external glassy lifts. This is a model of it, on display inside the “bridge” at the top.

Umeda Sky Building Osaka

See the blue, red and yellow sculptures at the bottom? They are just as bright in real life:

Umeda Sky Building Osaka

Looking up at the bridge from ground level:

Umeda Sky Building Osaka

There is an external lift that goes part way up, then you take an escalator in the sky.

Umeda Sky Building Osaka

Osaka skyline seen from the outside viewing gallery at the top:

Umeda Sky Building Osaka

Umeda Sky Building Osaka

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