Missing Kita

The doors are shut at most places except for the odd bar, gaming lounge and the kombinis. Soon the trains will stop too, leaving the tracks and trains free for essential maintenance. But still there are crowds on the streets beneath the bright neon signs, cars cruising by and taxis waiting to take drunk salarymen home.

I realised tonight that Japan’s may be plainer than Europe’s classical edifices, but they are also taller and full of modern life.

This is Kita, the north of Osaka city and soon we will be farewelling it too. And I will miss the vibrancy, the multitude of choices for shopping, eating or just walking.

Kita is also our dog and I miss him too. I am torn between wanting to keep travelling, keep exploring on this holiday and a desire to return to home comforts and familiarity.

Looking at the potential cyclone in the gulf, the heavy rain predicted for Cairns and I could easily delay my flight longer. If there was a choice, which there isn’t. So now I feel as sense of fear about what is to come, a sense of sadness about what is to pass.

We were only slightly late this morning to meet Machiko and Satoe, a teacher and student from an English Language School that visits Alex’s school biennially, the last time in August last year. It is a busy time for them, with Satoe having tests and Machiko setting them. So it was nice of them to join us for an early lunch of Japanese style western food.

Though it was later in the day when we said our farewells we decided to travel again using our passes. So we hopped on a train to Kyoto, then changed to a private line up to Demachiyanagi Station.

This is the start of the Eizan Railway who run cute little one and two car trams up into the mountains around Kyoto. The station, which has three tiny platforms is plonked in the middle of nowhere, or so it feels.

After a brief wander around we catch a two car train with panoramic windows and a few outwardly facing seats up to Kurama, the terminus of the line. Despite their size the trams must be pretty powerful as it is a steep gradient up the mountains, which would look much prettier if it was either snowing or a warmer season.

Many trees had fallen over along the hill sides, snapped off at the trunk. Probably the high winds of the previous typhoon season.

Kurama looks to be a quaint little mountain town, but we only glimpsed it as we drove past in a minivan bound for the onsen. There we paid for entry into the outside gender segregated baths and had a most relaxing soak in the sulphurous waters. There was a delicious contrast between the warmth of the onsen and the chill of the air.

Then back down to the station, posing in front of the long-nosed tengu head, before catching the train back to Demachiyanagi.

Even without the pleasure of the onsen soak I would have thought the journey itself was worth it. I loved trundling past up close to local life, suburban scenery so far removed from the hustle and bustle of Umeda where we stay. I just wanted to jump out there and then and find somewhere for dinner, a surprising shop or randomly scenic spot.

Instead we reversed our trip and head back on a very packed Special Rapid Service to Osaka station. There we go hunting for desserts and for a sushi train, ending up at the very same sushi train as on our first day here.

The other two went back to the hotel, but I wanted to find Tower Records to see if they stocked any new limited edition John Williams’ soundtracks. It was quite a walk there and unfortunately they had nothing I really wanted, though I did pick up a couple of really nice looking desserts from a department store basement food court along the way.

Most of the shops were closing, but I took the long way back, bought a model railway necessity at Yodobashi Camera (stays open late) and a couple of snacks (I ate little sushi). Alex was worried and kept calling me on Hangouts, but I wanted to savour our last night here.

I don’t know what we shall do tomorrow, except go to the airport and say goodbye. May it be safe and smooth.

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