Osaka is like any large city. We take some time to get to know it, taking subway trips and marvelling at the state of the large shopping malls. Our first night we laid out a plan to sightsee and relax as much as possible. Our first trip outside the city is at a beach resort. This is just outside Osaka on Osaka Bay, named Nishikinohama Park. The saltwater ocean soothes the muscles and walking on the sand beach is so therapeutic. This is an all-day affair and we have a great time exploring the shops and restaurants along the way, we watch the sunset over Osaka Bay.
Our next day we decide that Mt. Fujiyama will have to be discovered another time; we opt for the much closer Mt. Kongo. We travel by train to the station on the outskirts of Osaka, transfer to a bus that takes us to the base of Mt. Kongo. We walk with a lot of other people, no westerners, and many elderly people to the Mt. Kongo Ropeway. Mt Kongo at 1,125 Meters above sea level is the highest peak in Osaka prefecture it is about 10 degrees C cooler than the city and instant relief from the oppressive heat is felt upon arriving at the platform.
The ropeway is a cable car that transports you up to the peak or at least as close as you can get by rope cable car. The ride to the top takes about fifteen minutes, it seems safe and I enjoyed the swinging motion and it provides an incredible view. The trip to the summit takes about another hour it is a nice walk up one of the numerous paths.
Once we reach the summit we consider placing a flag for Canada but decide against it and instead settle down for a picnic. We have another great day and make the journey back trying out a different path. On the way, we see a Ryokan in the mountains and consider how nice that would be for a future trip. We also visit a small museum and a rest spot dedicated to preserving nature.
At this log cabin site, they explain the history of the cable car the area and the animals that inhabit the forest.
Our last day in Osaka is spent touring the Osaka Castle and the grounds surrounding the castle. The castle is a museum housing many ancient artefacts. The most fascinating of which is the display of priceless swords. The museum has seven floors, most floors are devoted to the life of Toyotomi who built the castle and unified the entire nation. The castle has been reconstructed three times due to loss by fire. The original structure was built in 1583 by Hideyoshi Toyotomi.
After our tour of the castle, we explore the one-acre park surrounding the castle. We spend the day leisurely strolling the grounds. Once again through chance, we come upon a throwback to ancient times, a training hall for young swordsmen. The facility known as the Shudokan is having a seminar or grading.
Over one hundred children of different ages are taking part in different koryu, classical martial arts such as kendo (sword fighting) and kenjutsu exercises. We enjoy the sights of the Osaka castle grounds until dinner time.
We have decided that it is a must for us to check out the famous Osaka Blue Note Club. We catch a train for Osaka City Central and the area of the club scene. As we have heard the club is very expensive we have dinner at a restaurant that specializes in Italian cuisine. It rivals the best Italian food we have sampled. We enjoy dinner a little longer than expected and arrive at the Blue Note with only an hour left in the set. The artist is someone we are not familiar with, an Australian Jazz crooner.
We decide to pass on the Blue Note Club and journey a little further up the road to another club where we hear the sure sound of jazz flowing onto the street. The club is named, Jazz On Top. A very tiny club, no cover charge but they do have a two drink minimum. There is a Japanese quartet on stage, with a female vocalist. The rhythm section made up of piano, bass, drums and an alto saxophone player thrown in for good measure. The players are all young university student-types. They play with passion.
We are the only westerners in the bar and the band seems encouraged by our presence. At the break, the piano player and vocalist join us and inquire as to what part of America we are from; and do we like jazz? We let them know that we are from the very northern part, Canada. It is wonderful chatting with these folks and letting them know about our shared passion and love of jazz.
The group had played some Stan Getz and we let them know we had seen Stan Getz live at a club in Toronto way back in the day. They are thrilled, and in broken English and Japanese, we communicate about jazz in Canada, New York and Japan.
The band returns to the stage to play one final set. Nina and I relax and enjoy the evening. The band joins us after their set and we continue to talk until closing time, we wish them well and promise to keep in touch. One thing about Japan, everyone has a business card, everyone I met gave me a business card. Unfortunately, I misplaced everyone’s card that I was given by my Nihonjin (Japanese) friends. I always wish them well in spirit.
Our plane departs Japan at 2:00 P.M, we have plenty of time and we decide to take it easy on our return trip to Kansei airport, about half an hour away. We meet up with most of the members of our team. Some have travelled on to other destinations; some are remaining in Nobeoka for the rest of the summer to continue training. The airport has a noodle stand and we have lunch with some of the team members, sharing tales of adventures experienced while in Japan, it is unanimous that a great time was had by all.
The plane takes off on schedule; the weather is picture-perfect, ninety degrees F and eighty percent humidity level with clear skies. As we fly over Osaka Bay I get one last look at this incredibly fascinating country.
Sayonara Japan until next time.