Nov. 25th, 2008

Wow...I really use the word "epic" to describe a lot of the stuff that goes on in Japan. But its true! EPIC is the only word needed!

To begin: I got up at 6am to leave my cold cold apartment by 7am to drive up the the ferry and catch the 8:40am boat to run across town and get on the 9:19 train (to Osaka). From there i swtiched trains in Tsuruhashi and got on one headed toward Ise, only for it to stop short about an hour out of the way and I had to wait 40 minutes for a train that continued on. I got into Ise at 2:13pm. Can you say UGH!! So much train!

Ise was beautiful! The sun was shining, the weather wasn't too cold, and it was pretty easy to find my way around. Since things closed at sunset, and it was already 2pm, I went to the main attraction first.

Ise is famous for being the town where the most important Shinto Shrine in Japan is located. Ise-jingu is also one of the oldest shrines. Every twenty years, in traditional shinto fashion, the shrine is dismantled and rebuilt on a seperate plot. Exactly the same. This has made the style some of the most un-influenced Japanese arcitecture.

the main shrine was packed with people, and since they're in the process of dismantling and rebuilding, there was construction work everyone. One thing about the shrine is that you can7t really see it. You get glimpses of the top of it through the tress, but the shrine itself is set behind several meters-tall fences. This is because it is the most holy of shinto shrines, whereas only a few select priests and the emperor are allowed into the actual inner shrine.

I took a bazillion pictures, but have none of myself there. I hate taking pictures of myself, and no one was around to take one for me :( (sad face)

i left the main shrine was walked through a small traditional shopping street. I was hoping to have time to look around, but seeing as it was now 3pm, and the sun was waning, i wanted to get a look at the outer-shrine before it closed. I left behind the marvelous smells of cooking oysters and boarded the bus back to the other shrine.

The outer shrine is built in the exact same form as the inner shrine, but does not house the same holy objects. This allows it to be far more approachable, you can see more, and there are always less crowds. I even got some pictures with no people in them! It was very peaceful and beautiful, but while I was there the sun set, and it got dark and cold.

Here is where I state that Ise's main problem is that there aren't any cheap accomidations. The cheapest was about 150$. So I got back on the train and headed to Nara. Nara was my goal for Sunday, so I figured it would be easy to stay there saturday night and move on early in the morning. WRONG.

I got into Nara about 7:15pm, and headed to the tourist center. Where they told me everywhere was booked out for the weekend. Leaf viewing combined with a three day holiday made Nara the place to be. i looked around just in case, and sure enough everyplace was booked. Sad, sleepy, hungry and cold. I called around and finally was able to reach Will in Osaka.

On the train again, 45 minutes to Osaka. Met up with Will between jobs (he works 4pm-9pm, 11pm-5:30am) Got dinner with him, and he gave me his key. I found his apartment no problem, cleaned it up for him (the terms of letting me crash for free) and passed out.

I got up at 7am, just as Will was coming home, we were like ships passing in the night, I was out teh door and he took my warm spot on the futon to pass out (he had work at 3pm). Back ON the train, back to Nara I went.

In Nara, I wanted to head south of the prefecture and go to Asuka. Asuka is one of the pre-historic locations in Japan, where there are many burial mounds and historical locations. Its about 2 hours south of Nara city. (train switched-twice) Got into Asuka and the Sun came out from the clouds!

A VERY nice man came up and helped me to rent a bicycle and took my bags for storage and off I went. Asuka is probably my most favorite place in all of Japan. Its small, beautiful, traditional, and chock full of history! I can7t even express how happy I was to go around looking at old rocks! Saw several tombs, and made my way up to the big one (Ishibutai kofun) It is a tomb made of monolithic rocks and is quite impressive. When I got there, people were everywhere! They had a picnic-in-the-park series happening right at the tomb! Live bands, food stands, and everyone being very cheery. It was beautiful!

I was the only foriegner THE ENTIRE DAY in Asuka. Apparently not a lot of foriengers like old rocks.

I then biked 3k to the Asuka Historical museum where I looked at artifacts recovered from the tombs.

From there it was around 3pm, so I biked back to the station and turned in my bike and picked up my stuff. Ate lunch at an Udon shop across from the station. Delicious.

Back on the train. Back to Osaka, switch, back to Kobe, switch, back to Akashi, walk, ferry, car, drive. Home at 7pm.

My adventure took me 36 hours. I think I was on the train for 24 of thouse hours.

Loved it!

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