Tea and a garden

For a trip that was supposed to de-stress me, it isn’t working. There are still many train lines to catch, too many, but I need to stop and do something different.

I leave my backpack at the hotel and go for a walk down to Koraku-en, one of the top three strolling gardens in Japan. On the way I stop at the black keep of Okayama Castle, which overlooks the river and the gardens.

It’s a modern reconstruction, the interior a museum devoted to the lords that ruled the area and the Battle of Sekigahara where they fought and (I think) were defeated.

There’s a lift to the top, so no scary ladders, but it really lacks the atmosphere of a traditional castle interior and I’m not very impressed.

There are anglers casting lines and people laughing in peddle boats on the river as I cross the bridge and enter through the southern gate.

I’ve been to Koraku-en at least a couple of times before, but never in Autumn. I take it slowly wandering around, admiring the koi in the ponds, the placement of plants, stones, lanterns, the rest areas and shrines.

There is a small tea plantation within the gardens. As I have done before, I order a bowl of hot matcha tea and wagashi sweet and sit down to savour the bitter drink.The action of drinking it is as important as the drink itself.

I continue exploring the gardens until I have returned to the southern gate.

I could wait a few minutes and take a meal in one of the restaurants overlooking the river. I’ve always wanted to. But my stomach feels queasy.

I am planning to catch a tram a couple of stops back to the hotel because, what the heck, it’s a tram. But then I see that there’s an “Okaden” (Okayama tram) museum at the other end, so I go that way instead.

It turns out to be the Okaden-Chugginton Museum devoted to the British television show and designed for kids. I’m a decade late and Alex isn’t here with me.

Oh well, I ride the clanking old tram back.

Opposite the hotel is a new building containing a Tam Tam model store. I head inside to see what model train goods they have.

A lot, but I really need to use what I already have, so I buy nothing.

I collect my bag and walk towards the station. Opposite the station is an Animate manga and anime store. I go inside to look for Haikyuu!! goods for Alex. I find some gifts for his upcoming birthday.

I can’t tell if I’m feeling hungry or sick. I just had juice and a small cake for breakfast, but I can’t imagine eating strongly flavoured savoury foods right now.

I just by some buns and a small bento.

One of the nice features of the JR Pass now is that you can use ticket machines to obtain seat reservations. I’ve decided to be boring and catch the Shinkansen to Shin-Osaka and go straight to Rinkutown. I wanted to take a slow Shinkansen in the hope of getting a 500 series on the Kodama run, but the timings are bad.

After I pass the Shinkansen ticket gates I notice a vending machine selling Gokuri juice. I take it as a sign I am on the right track!

The Shinkansen is so comfortable compared with the other trains I’ve been catching and so fast. I start drifting off.

Outside are huge storm clouds boiling over the landscape. Impressive so long as I don’t have to fly through them.

At Shin-Osaka I change to the Hello Kitty decorated Haruka to Kansai Airport. I’ve done this route so often between Osaka and the airport. I am impatient for it to be over. I really just want to get to the hotel right now.

I have to backtrack on a local train to return one stop to Rinkutown, then take a long walk through the park to get to the Henn na Hotel. There I am greeted by robot dinosaur desk staff and do my own check in. It’s pretty fun.

My room overlooks the bay. It’s nice!

After a chat with the family, whom I am missing greatly, I head out to find some dinner. This involves a long walk in the dark along the seawall. On the other side are the odd fisherman casting a line. I see and hear the odd fish jumping.

There’s a big collection of premium outlet stores at Rinkutown. I have no interest in them.

I go though a few different food areas, eventually settle on oyakodon at Seacle. I can’t finish it.

I remember the Seacle shops from when Alex was a toddler. He’s a bit old for them now.

I find a slightly shorter route back as lightning flashes in the distance. A group of senior citizens are playing a ball and block game inside the station building.

Maybe a hot bath will help me think. Hotel guests can use the Aquignis Senshu Spa for free.

There’s an internal bath and an external one that overlooks the bay, the giant bridge with the trains rattling over it, the aircraft rising into the skies from Kansai Airport. It’s nice, but I think I prefer rotemburo with a more natural look and rock bases than this modern rectangular tub.

I do feel better after the bath.

Tomorrow, on my last day in Japan, I should catch a train somewhere, but I should also relax in the hotel. I can feel the flight anxiety. I just want to be home.

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