It’s a shock how much a Shinkansen ticket costs when you don’t have a rail pass. But it did mean that we could catch a Nozomi and race along at 300 km/h. But I am getting ahead of myself at very high speed.

We caught a Rail Star Hikari bullet train to Okayama, home of the beautiful Koraku-en garden. Today’s destination was a little further on, the city of Kurashiki. The name means warehouse village and the Bikan area of the the town retains the old wood and black-tile warehouses, now converted to shops and restaurants. A willow lined canal runs through the area, swans and a punt cruise the waters above giant carp, while a heron searches for smaller fish to eat.

Many of the shops sell Japanese sweets, usually featuring the white peaches and muscat grapes of the region. We were overcome by temptation several time, helped along by samples of the wares. The iron glazed Bizen pottery also features prominently.

Despite the heat, it was a very pleasant stroll along the canal, an antidote to crazy urban Osaka. We lunched on light, crispy tempura and rice inside a quiet and historic building of dark brown woods. On our way back we stopped by the Ohara Art Gallery which contains a number of Impressionist works. Most seemed like lesser works, especially in comparison to the holdings of the great European galleries. The air conditioning was nice, though!

Another local train to Okayama and then we caught the Super Nozomi back to Osaka. You could really sense the high speed, even without the display briefly showing 300km/h. The rice paddies were bright green, water filled canals running throughout the landscape in between grey concrete houses and factories.

Back in Osaka we travelled by subway to the suburb of Umeda, the exit tunnel leading us straight to Yodobashi, an electronics shop. They still sold the Sharp Zaurus, but I was disappointed that I couldn’t find a WiFi compact flash card for mine. B haggled down the price of the Panasonic DMC-TZ3 digital camera that her brother and I had both set our sights on (Panasonic is an Osakan company, so it’s a souvenir). If only the mobile phones worked on Australian networks we might not have been able to resist either. They look so good and some convert to widescreen televisions!

Dinner was okonomiyaki cooked right at our table at the food court above Yodobashi. The next level down was devoted to sweets and desserts. After such a hot day the crushed ice, mango and cream was just irresistible!

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