Kyoto or Koya-San? They both begin with the letter K. They both have magnificent Buddhist architecture. But Koya-San has a pretty train ride and the station is very close to the hotel. So Koya-San it was.

We rode the Nankai line to Hashimoto and then changed trains for the ride up to Gokurabashi. It was one of the most beautiful train journeys that I have taken. The line winds its way up into the mountains above a steep gorge past forests of cyprus pine and bamboo.

From Gokurabashi there is a cable car up to the top of Koya-San. Actually, it’s more of a funicular than a suspended cable car. The track looks incredibly steep but doesn’t feel as scary as Hong Kong’s Peak Tram.

From the cable car’s summit station we caught the bus all the way to the Daimon gate, a massive red structure flanked by guardian demons and tall cyprus pines. From there we walked along the road, stopping by at the many Buddhist temples, including the magnificent Garan complex. We had thought that we were sick of temples, but the architecture and the forest settings were so magnificent that we enjoyed wandering around them immensely.

Lunch was soba noodles and donburi at small restaurant, along with the local speciality of kaki no ha sushi, a slice of cooked fish on rice wrapped in leaf and tasting delicious. The we continued on to Okunoin, a massive cemetery. The moss covered granite gravestones set amongst towering cyprus pines lent a magical air to the place.

We made it as far as the memorial to those fallen in Malaysia during the Second World War, pausing at the Australian, Japanese and Malaysian flags before the mosquitoes drove us away. On the way back we passed a monument in the form of a space rocket. I’m guessing it commemorates those workers killed in an accident at the Kagoshima launch site.

The return to Osaka was by the same route as the way out. I dragged B back to Super Kids Land for some additional railway parts and then I waited as she had a haircut in the underground shopping strip of Namba Walks. These subterranean shopping malls are well worth exploring.

We wanted okonomiyaki for dinner and the Lonely Planet recommended Chibo on Dotombori. So did another customer at the hairdressers. We found the shop and ate an expensive, but good, okonomiyaki in the rather posh looking restaurant. Meanwhile a street stall sold okonomiyaki for about $5 just a few metres away.

Tomorrow night we leave for Australia. As always I’m not ready to go. I feel so comfortable in Japan and there always seem to be another interesting place to see not too far away. I like the politeness shown in all our interactions with the Japanese, the manners, the sense of relative safety.

There are plenty of rough looking you Japanese males, but as a gaijin tourist they want nothing to do with us. I know that I’m not welcome in those bars and clubs that they tout on the night streets and I know that many westerners would complain about being excluded from Japanese society, of being segregated. The fact is that I don’t want to visit those places and I like that sense of distance, the fact that I’m not expected to understand all the cultural nuances.

I don’t know what we’ll do tomorrow, except that I won’t be sleeping on that plane. If only we could stay longer…


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