Day 0, also known as the Morning After I lost my key because I'm just so incredibly stupid.
It's Happy Friday, so we had a wee bit of time to
Day 1 Murphy Day
We arrived in Osaka around 7. First order of the day: look for a restroom to freshen up and... do other things. Surprise surprise, after ten years of roaming the train station, no restrooms in sight. So we trudged of to the nearest McD's and ordered McGriddles just so we can use the comfort rooms, which were incredibly tiny, and when we arrived there were two girls hogging the lone bathroom sink to curl their hair (Marci: "Oh no, kalahati pa lang ng buhok niya yung kulot!!!").
Afterwards we looked for lockers to deposit our stuff. Usually when people travel they leave their stuff in lockers near the train stations so they aren't burdened with too much stuff while sightseeing. Nifty, eh? Wouldn't work in the Philippines, though - would you seriously leave your bag in a locker near Araneta-Center Cubao terminal station? Didn't think so. Anyway, lockers are one-time use only, meaning you can open them only once, so remember to make sure you have all you need with you, and have all you don't need in the locker before you close the door. Otherwise you have to pay for it again (it's around 200 - 600 JPY per locker; all our stuff easily fit into 2 600-yen lockers, and there were 9 of us).
First stop: Kinkakuji, or Golden Pavillion, so named because it's, well, covered in gold (leaf).
Next stop: Fushimi Inari, for "the ultimate Torii experience". Torii is a traditional Japanese gates, usually found in shrines. Usually there are a couple of Torii, but in this case there are well over a thousand - they make up a 4-km tunnel through the woods to the top of a hill. We didn't take the whole course; after a couple hundred Torii gates it just felt too orange. And at this point it was drizzling already, damn weather.
During the course of the afternoon we visited several parks, which must've been gorgeous had the weather been more cooperative. But it just had to rain, so all the pictures I had were of drenched cherry blossoms.
We had dinner at the Kyoto station, which I have to say leaves every other station I've been to in Tokyo in the dust. It's just so gorgeous and *insert superlatives here*
So we rushed to Nijo castle (via Nijojo-mae which is the winner of the best station name award) for cherry blossom night-viewing. We ignorantly thought we can do the whole night-viewing thing in 20 minutes, but it turned out to be waaaay more vast than we thought. It was really pretty, though, and it's such a pity I didn't get to watch the traditional show thing. At any rate, we had no choice really because we barely made it to the hotel on time (in fact David went ahead of us while we retrieved our stuff from the lockers just so we can keep the reservation).
We got to the hotel past 11, and it was actually pretty nice, for a dirt-cheap hotel.
But then, I'm quite easy to please. Give me comforters and a nice bathroom and I'm good to go. The bathroom is just a tad bit bigger than the usual Japanese hotel bathroom (all hotels I've been to have like a "template" bathroom). The bed is not so soft, though, but I was dead tired so I could be sleeping on concrete and it would've been fine.
Day 2 Death by Hanami
The weather forecast was "cloudy turning to fine", so we headed off to Osaka castle to see the cherry blossoms dry, for a change. We headed to Osaka Castle park, and there was certainly no shortage of cherry blossoms here. It's interesting how they can have shrines and castles in the middle of the metropolis without them looking out of place.
Now the original plan was to go to Universal Studios Japan, but, well, I'm not really a big fan of rides and amusement parks and all that shiz. See, I've never even been to Tokyo Disneyland, and I'm not raring to go either. So I opted to visit the Osaka aquarium instead, because I'm a geek like that.
Since it's still early, we decided to visit a couple more Hanami sites until I was sick of it. Hanami is really a big thing here - it's like a cross between fiesta and undas in the Philippines. Picnic mats are spread on every inch of grassy space, and they have barbeque and booze. And in one park there was even a marching band.
We also dropped by the Museum of Death, Depression, and Suicidal Tendencies, otherwise known as the Osaka Peace Museum. From what I could understand, the purpose is to remind people how destructive war can be. Osaka is one of the cities pummeled to the ground by war - it was a target of air raids, and in eight months the population was halved. Now anything related to war really depresses me - books, movies, museums, documentaries. Sure, there are the "heroics" but for me it doesn't overshadow the death and gloom. Everything is just so... heavy. I heard there's also a similar museum in Hiroshima, and my advice is, if it's ever in your itinerary, never go there last - that's all you would ever remember, and you don't want that.
Anyway, so finally we went to the Osaka aquarium. No pics, though. I thought I'd take videos this time. The boss was nice enough to lend me his 16Gb memory card so there was plenty of space (I can't, for the life of me, quite fathom how I would ever use up that much memory). And Osaka, like every other city here, has a giant Ferris Wheel. They just had to have one.
Thankfully, the aquarium didn't disappoint. They had two whale sharks, although they were pretty young, I guess, because they're (relatively) small. At least I don't have to go diving in Bohol anymore just to see one up close and personal. And they had a huge huge manta ray and several hammerheads. And they had a sloth which was so incredibly cute (David thought it was a stuffed toy hehehehehehe).
We met up at around 7 in the same McD's where we had dinner. The Shinkansen station was a train ride away, and when we got there, we only had a few minutes to buy dinner. We didn't have reserved seats because we were boarding from the first station anyways. When we got up to the platform the train was already arriving. Now, we can only board cars 1-3, and at the time of boarding we were in front of car 9, so we made a mad dash towards car 3, only to find rows and rows of empty seats. And then just as we were about to settle down, we found out it's a smoking car, so we transferred to car 2 lest we reek of cigarette smoke the entire ride home, which was only around 2-3 hours.
And there you go.
I'll post more pictures when the people start uploading theirs.