"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Saturday, October 18, 2008

"By trying we can easily learn to endure adversity. Another man's, I mean." - Mark Twain


Japan trip
Day 10 - 15th June - Okunoin, Koyasan; Osaka
(Part 5)

It was 4+ and I was feeling hungry, so once in the centre of town again I went to Hanabishi, a restaurant serving Shojin Ryori (I saw meat-looking plastic displays in the window) recommended to me by someone in Tourist information.

Now, my first encounter with Shojin Ryori (Japanese Buddhist Food) had not exactly been a joyous one, but it was a speciality in the town so I decided to give it a second chance. It didn't hurt that I wanted to wait the rain out.

Shojin Ryori part of the Menu. There were Y2100, Y5250 and Y6300 sets. Since this was 4pm and I wanted to have dinner (not to mention not break my budget by paying S$83 for vegetarian food), I had the first, hoping it'd be twice as good as what I had in Kyoto.

The 2 waiters I saw were both in robes, and one had shaved his head. Perhaps a monk and a lay brother?

Pre-meal tea and sweet.

Very sweet sweet (green bean?)

My set

From the bottom right and moving counterclockwise:
- A strong and flavourful soup. There was no dashi stock but you wouldn't know it.
- Eggplant in hoisin-like sauce (normally I don't like eggplant as it's mushy but this was firm and tender), a very bitter green thing (light green Lady's Finger?), a sweet and sour crunchy thing in a purple leaf
- Sesame tofu - the best tofu I've ever had; very smooth and very rich
- Exquisite delights (liberal sweet sauce helped): tofu, gluten, water chestnut, sweet pea, mushroom, winter melon (or some gourd), pumpkin
- Enoki mushrooms in red vinegar: delicate and tender
- Rice
- Pickles
- Plum wine

This was definitely the best meal I had in Japan (even if it was also one of the more expensive). This is what you get in a monk town.

The Y5250 set. It probably looked more impressive than the Y6300 one, which was why I didn't snap that. I don't know how anyone can finish so much food - maybe this is proof that vegetarian food doesn't make you feel full.

After my meal, I walked towards Okunoin, an ancient cemetery. The buildings inside would be closed by the time I arrived, but it would still be nice to walk through it. It was very atmospheric, because IIRC I only met one person - a caretaker.

The first condom dispenser I saw in Japan. Naturally, not only did it have to be in a sacred village, it was beside a sign about a primary school and youths. Damn Japs.

More picturesque monastery entrances

Koyasan map at entrance to Okunoin

Entrance to Okunoin: ichi no hashi bridge


There was supposed to be a White Ant memorial, but unfortunately I couldn't find it. Or recognise it, at any rate.

Helluva lotta bibs. One site says about Okunoin: "You'll see a lot of red clothes on statues or figurines which symbolizes a prayer for a miscarried or aborted fetus." If true, this would explain why Japan's birth rate is so low, but I think he misinterpreted the symbolism.

Another bridge


This memorial has an English plaque. Why? Because it commemorates soldiers from both Japan and Australia who fought in Borneo during WWII, as well as "the natives who cooperated with the Japanese army and were killed" (??? - by the Japanese? By the Australians? By headhunters? Who?!)

Pyramid of statuettes

Something seems missing here

Then it was the most sacred part of the cemetery (presumably), with all the (closed) sacred buildings.

The wooden plaques in the river are in memory of aborted babies or drowned souls

In one of the buildings here I saw again the 2008 Summer collection of anti-cigarette sketches. I wonder who writes them.

Closed hall. I think this was the lantern hall. If it'd been open I would've seen a 1000-year-old flame.


The way back - near the start of the cemetery. Considerably less gloomy.

I got the bus back because I was tired from walking the whole day (and more importantly, the timing was perfect) and met 2 Applied Linguistics Professors from Australia . They said it was a nightmare getting vegetarian food outside the temples.

On the buses in Koyasan, some in Kyoto and in places elsewhere in Japan, you take a ticket with a number marking your fare stage when getting on the bus and you pay on exit, according to the fare displayed on the signboard above the driver (when you advance a fare stage, the displayed fares all increase). What stops people from taking a new number?

When I got back to the cable car station, I ran through the fare gate in my enthusiasm. I wanted to go back to use the vending machine, and found out what happens when you run through a Japanese fare gate without a ticket - it closes on you and the conductor comes.

While waiting for the cable car, I saw 2 schoolgirls coming out of the cable car coming up the mountain. This made me go "wth" for 2 reasons:

1) It was a Sunday
2) At about 6.30pm
3) They have to take a bus, then a cable car, then a train (and maybe another bus) to school

While waiting for the train back to Osaka I took in the view behind the station.

Tourist information: "Koyasan Nakanohashi Reien Cemeteries. The park/cemetery grounds of Kongobuji temple at the base of Mt. Tenjiku... Families relax in the forest park (with flower garden, picnic garden, ski area, etc.); the perfect setting for communicating with one's ancestors"
Damn Japs.

When I got back to Osaka what looked like branded paos on sale at the train station. Since my room had a fridge, I bought some for breakfast:

"Hokuo. Scandinavia Natural Roman. Best Bread Message" - ???

When I got back to my hotel I decided to wander the streets of Shinsekai a while. Unfortunately it was raining.

Rainy streets

The place felt tired - and not just because of the rain; many shops were closed - even at 9pm, and some might even have been unoccupied.

After some wandering, I found a dodgy sex theatre:

Sex theatre. Well, there was also a poster for Blades of Glory and one for "Mongol" (?), but still.


Tsk tsk (Gaijin-in-Kimono Porn - it looks like a Jap guy doing a blonde angmoh HURR HURR)

Of course, the cinema practised price discrimination. Old people got cheaper tickets (Chinatown cinemas should do the same), and so did the disabled (probably because they find it hard to get action).
However, students and children also appeared to get discounted tickets as well - to both cinemas (as far as I can tell from the movie selection [banners, movie listings etc], the one on the right only screened sex movies). Wth.

There was a Y100 shop - except that their stuff was Y105 - because of taxes. Gah.

I was hungry so I scouted out a restaurant for dinner.

I had the third from the left on the top right menu.

Dinner: Fried noodles, fries with ketchup, fried chicken, MSG water salty egg drop soup and omelette-wrapped rice drenched with brown sauce. I have no idea why they thought serving noodles with rice was a good idea, but anyhow the food was good. Both the omelette and noodles had wok hei. The only letdown was the "soup". Unfortunately I couldn't finish everything - I left a bit of rice. I still could've had some chashu ramen (from the previous night) though. Or tried to, anyway.

The joint

I would've taken a picture of the Hitachi tower at the centre of the area, but it ws still raining.

Multi-mineral, multi-vitamin, fiber , protein, Vitamin Collagen and Diet Jelly drinks from the Japs - the masters of snake oil. I call this the "Con Women Drink Shelf".

My hotel has a lot of warning signs warning guests in the cheaper half to stay out of the more expensive half. Hah. The women's floor was also funny:

Sign in lift: "It is prohibition to enter besides a subscriber of this floor... A visit of a man from other floors is not possible. The foolish act is a breach of privacy of an other woman visitor"

The women's floor, with a hotline to call the front desk in case of chikan incidents.
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