Friday, August 18, 2006   23:24

First Impressions

16.8.2006


It was raining in Helsinki after several weeks of warm Finnish summer when we left, nice traveling weather.


Finnairs Helsinki-Osaka plane was Moomin themed.



We flew over siberia during the night, and saw the flames from the oil wells in the Ural mountains. In the morning we arrived at the Kansai international airport, and were greeted by a tropically humid and warm (+30 celsius) weather.








The Kansai international airport is built on a gigantic man made island, which is slowly sinking into the ocean. The inside of the airport was high-ceilinged and vividly colored.


When we stepped out of the terminal we discovered it had been air conditioned - the outside was humid and hot. The air was filled with the loud noises from the cicada insects in the trees growing among the buildings.



Our first impression of Japanese suburb layout while traveling from the airport to Osaka was chaotic - compared to Finnish land usage planning there seemed to be every kind of structures mixed in haphazard fashion, intersected with narrow quiet local roads, and with train tracks running above on elevated tracks. Fields, golf shooting places, local industry, canals, high rise buildings, and tightly packed private residental houses followed on each other.






A canal crossing the landscape.


After obtaining our Japan rail passes we headed towards Osaka, searching for our hotel. We misread the instructions however, and ended up two stations to far. We were surprised by the helpfulness of the locals, as we were asking for directions, they phoned our hotel, figured out the location, and a man guided us to the railway station to the right track. He forgot to return the paper with the map to our hotel though, so we tried to navigate to it from memory. The hotel receptionist must have seen us walk past though, because she ran up to us before we got too lost.



The Shin-Osaka station - where our hotel was not located.



Lost in Osaka - among strange creatures.

The hotel rooms are nice (western style and small but clean and comfortable), although the stairwell is interesting - it opens right out to open air protected only by metal bars. There's also a coin operated laundromat on our floor.

Laundromat in hotel stairwell.


Top of the stairwell at our hotel - a practical place for drying laundry.


View from the stairwell.



Speaking of coin operated automats, there are drink vending machines almost everywhere, and they are useful too, as people need to drink much in the heat and humidity.


Fire Festival

After relaxing in our rooms, we headed towards the Fire festival in Kyoto.

Girls in kimonos on the way to the fire festival and using their mobile phones.



The watching place was located at the juncture of two rivers. Stepping stones had been laid out across them, creating a fun bridge.



As the darkness started to fall, more and more people gathered to wait for several large fire installations representing different kanji to be lighted.

The first kanji being lit. It is composed of many wooden fires located on a hilltop facing the city.


As the fires were lit the crowd got excited, raising a lighting storm of camera flashes.



On the way back on the stepping stones.

Afterwards we headed home, picking up some hamburgers from Mac Donalds on the way. Shinkansen from Kyoto to our place in Osaka took only 15 minutes.



All in all the prices were very cheap (by Finnish standards), metro tickets are about one to two euros, and we ate a light but nice meal on noodles for three euros. The drinks from the vending machines are about 80 cents. Restaurants are usually advertising their meals with previews outside their shops. In the picture is the noodle place we ate at.

Now we'll try to get some sleep. We'll upload this when we find WLAN. Tomorrow we'll head towards Tokyo.

-- Hans

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Uploaded on Friday 18.8 from our ryokan in Tokyo.

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