Friday, October 11, 2013

Trip to Osaka - part I (exploring)

The Lamb family took a much needed trip to Osaka, Japan for a week.  The first day, we took a train to Nara, and visited Todaiji Buddhist Temple.  The Temple is originally made of wood, but over the years has been re-enforced with modern building materials.

Todaiji Temple

steep stairs
The Temple is located in Nara Park.  Deers roam freely here and are protected by the government as a national treasure.  There is an ancient legend that Buddha entered the Temple riding a white deer.  At one time, the penalty for killing a deer was death.  The deer are very gentle and allow you to pet them.  It's like petting a big dog.  But they can be aggressive when you feed them snacks, and will try to eat the crackers out of your pockets.  I was nibbled in the rear.  Very shocking.

Love the sign - look-out Grandma, deer comin' through!
 We also visited Kasuga Shinto Shrine.  Really beautiful and old.  We walked up a long walkway, and it was lined with stone statues.  People sponsor a statue, and can place a paper wish inside.  Then the candle is lit, and the wish will be honored.  There is a young women who is called the "shrine maiden".  In ancient times she was a virgin, who devoted herself to the shrine and to recording all the events.  Like a secretary/nun.  Now it's a paid position, but she still wears traditional clothing and headdress while she works.

Our hotel in Osaka was in the Namba area.  Near lots of night-life, shopping and dining.  The main attraction is the Dotombori - a pedestrian area full of neon - like Times Square.  We went to one of the many Pachinko parlors.  Really popular, but I didn't really see the point in just watching all the metal balls dropping.  But the kids loved the games where you control a claw that drops down to grab a toy.  Being Japan, the prizes in these games were not just stuffed toys.  They were also snacks, key chains that looked like food, and appliances.  Weird but interesting.

in Dotonbori
I don't know why....

game prize: kushiyaki key chains
game prize: fake fish and mushrooms
game prize: carpet/floor sweeper

game prize: sushi keychains

game prize: bucket of shrimp and veg crackers
 Our last day in Osaka, we went to Ragdoll Cat Cafe near our hotel.  I guess these places are very popular in Japan, especially among young girls.  For about $10 per person, we each had a choice of beverage and a small container of cat treats.  There were about 20 cats of all breeds and sizes.  There was also a bin of cat toys to play with too.  It was oddly fun and relaxing.

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