In Kanazawa we finally got to see some traditional sites. The weather did not cooperate (Kanazawa is famous for rainy weather, kind of like the Seattle of Japan), but we were troopers and went sightseeing anyway. We saw a geisha neighborhood of two-story wooden houses that used to be??tea houses. Then we walked through??Kenroku-en Garden, which is known as one of the best gardens in the country. The Kanazawa Castle is right next to the garden. Finally we made it to the “Ninja Temple,” a temple which was built with all kinds of defenses in case of attack. We weren’t allowed to take photos there, but on our tour we saw trap doors, hidden stairways, one-way walls to see intruders coming, secret passageways, and even a chamber for ritual suicide.
We only had one day in Kanazawa before we moved on to Osaka. Our guesthouse there was a ways out from the center of the city, but it was in a really cool local neighborhood with many shops and restaurants. We did go see the extravagant castle in Osaka, but the main highlight of our stay was going to the Hanshin Tigers baseball game. They play at Koshien Stadium, the oldest ballpark in Japan. There is a plaque commemorating Babe Ruth’s visit to the stadium in 1934. We went to the game with Katie and Terry, a couple we met through couchsurfing. They were very cool and we all had a great time at the game, even though the Tigers lost. The crowd was just as crazy as the Twins fans in Korea and there are beer girls who walk around with a mini-keg on their back and pour out a fresh draft Asahi for you. During the 7th inning stretch, nearly everyone in the stadium blows up a balloon and then they all let them go flying through the air at the same time. Check out the video of it!
Since Katie and Terry are living in Osaka, they were nice enough to show us around the Dotonbori area.??It is a crazy place! This is one of the main areas to go out in Osaka and it’s filled with people, flashing neon lights, bars, and delicious food. I was super impressed with Katie and Terry’s Japanese, even though they were both modest and said they barely knew anything. The little they did know helped us out a lot.??We went around eating a few different things. First we had skewers of grilled chicken, including chicken heart (really yummy, actually) and a more chewy chicken part that we never identified, but also enjoyed. We also tried takoyaki (octopus balls) that were a million times better than the ones we tried in China. And then we rounded out the eating with a little bit of sushi. It was a really good time!
The next morning we took the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Osaka to Hiroshima. It was expensive, but I really wanted to ride on one while we were here.??It’s officially my favorite mode of transportation. I already loved train travel, but these trains are absolutely amazing. They are really modern, clean, and quiet. We were going so fast and the trees and buildings were just flying by us, but the ride was still smooth and comfortable. We got there in an hour and a half; the bus ride back up took six hours. And everything was so easy, we bought our ticket the day before from a ticket machine. There’s no hassle with having to get there two hours before you leave, like there is with flying. If only we could have something so awesome back home!