Gardens and beef

I’ve got my bag back. More than two hours travel for a transaction that took ten minutes. But it wasn’t just my computer that I was missing. My camera battery charger was in there as well and my battery was down to one bar!

We began the day with a Japanese breakfast of rice cakes, miso soup, pickles and salad at the hotel. I called the Kyoto lost and found office and arranged to pick up my bag at around 3pm. Then we crossed over the railway tracks to the eastern side of the station. First stop was Bic Camera, where I wanted to buy a second battery for my camera. The attendant apologised profusely that the battery didn’t come charged but offered to charge it for me, a process taking two hours.

A fully charged battery would have been nice, but it was not expected.We left them to charge it and caught a tram down to the Koraku-en garden.

Koraku-en is considered one of the top three strolling gardens in all of Japan. We have visited all three previously, but each changes with the season. Once the local lord’s garden, it is situated at a bend of the river and overlooked by his reconstructed black castle. We crossed over the long bridge to the south entrance, looking down at the swan boats waiting for riders.

Photographs cannot capture the atmosphere of crossing that bridge and entering into the gardens. It’s not just the scenery. There was a peacefulness, the sounds of a breeze through trees and reeds, of bird cries and distant aircraft overhead. What was missing was the overwhelming hum of cars that is everpresent in Sydney.

Once inside the park we let Alex loose. He was excited by the giant koi in the first pond, shouting “fish!” “fish!” We sat down under a vine covered shelter and fed him buns, then proceeded to do a circuit of the park. There are ponds and islands, forests of cherry and plum trees. Rows of tea plants, the leaves served up at one garden stall. Waterfalls and beautiful teahouses. It would have been lovely to contemplate the garden from the different tea houses across the site.

We ate a lunch of noodles at one of the restaurants perched high above the riverbank near the south gate. The food may have been ordinary, but the view from the tatami matted platform, was exquisite.

I had an appointment to keep, so we hurried back from the gardens to the train station, detouring to pick up the new, charged, battery.

A shinkansen carried our sleepy selves along to Kyoto. They really are very comfortable modes of transport. After asking the ticket office about the location of the lost and found office we were given a map. The office itself is lost to one side of the enormous Kyoto station building.

We will probably return to Kyoto again later on this trip (maybe next stop?) so rather than wander around at this later hour we decided to travel back to Kobe in search of the famous Kobe beef.

The express train, not a Shinkansen, was packed, though we eventually got seats. Before that happened, just next to us in the “priority for needy passengers” seats were a couple of schoolkids playing with fantasy cards.

We stopped at a number of stations, including Osaka, before arriving an Sannomiya, the main station of Kobe. Then we got out and wandered the streets teeming with youth, looking for a beef restaurant amongst the many bars.

Eventaully, we asked the tourist information centre and they sent us on to Steakhouse, where we were thinking of going anyway.

The steak and vegetables were cooked right in front of us. We ordered a Kobe beef and a Kobe special beef. I have to admit that I found the Hida beef of Takayama better. Maybe we were in a tourist trap restaurant.

A short subway ride to Shin-Kobe station and we were back on a Shinkansen to Okayama. Alex amused himself by prancing up and down the aisles, saying “hewwo”. Then he met a one year old girl and the two of the played until Okayama.

We stopped by a supermarket to by foods for Alex, and dessert for ourselves. Then it was back to the hotel. I still need to plan our next leg… I don’t know…

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