Sunday, February 18, 2018

Nara Park in Osaka

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Thirty minutes by train from the city center is the suburb of Nara and its massive historical park.  The area is about the size of Central Park in NYC and it was busy on a Sunday.  The park has five major shrines and temples, as well as, thousands of tame deer.  I'm not sure what was the primary interest for most of the folks...the historical aspects or the deer.  There are wild, but tame and certainly don't have a problem getting a free handout of cookies being sold by vendors all over the park.  Their antlers have been removed and the stumped cauterized so there is some control being enforced.  Other than that they were everywhere.






The shrines were beautiful.  You can see I am having fun with my new photo-enhancing program.




 This Buddha statue was easily 30 feet tall.


 The park is also home to the Nara National Treasures Collection.  It is housed in a 19th century western styled building.
 No photos were allowed.  I broke a few rules and got a few more from the web.





In a vault was a collection of bronze vessels from 11 BC to 1 BC.   The door to the vault alone was impressive.  I'm not usually interested with bronze but this collection was magnificent.





Visit to the Hospital

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We've had a pretty busy nine days, averaging 5 to 7 miles of walking daily and seeing a lot of stuff...and we were going to take a bit slower in Osaka; guess weather having improved opened up opportunities to get out more.  Over the last few days I'd been experiencing a bit of pain in my groin.  I thought I had maybe pulled a muscle.  I sort of ignored it expecting it to go away.

After returning from Nara Park yesterday I took a hot bath in hopes of soaking away a bit of the soreness.  It was then that I discovered a lump where lumps aren't supposed to be.  It is bad enough when this happens to a person in their younger years.  Now that I am older these things have a more significant meaning.  My heart sank.  "Not now, not when everything is going so well."  I shared the discovery with Bobbie who was visibly concerned and allowed myself to dwell in the land of dismay for a few more minutes.  Then as I have always lived my life,  spent no more time on the problem and went right on to the solution.  I put on my "nurse face" and set the emotion aside.

I did a bit of research, shared my finding with my sister who is also a nurse, and got a second opinion. With that I started the process of finding a doctor to take a look.  Of course everything is in Japanese and the English sites are fairly useless for things like this.  After a Google search for "an English speaking medical clinic," I came up with a few choices.  Being Sunday I had to let things lay for a day.

In the morning I made a few calls and found a small hospital clinic that took walk-ins.  It was a twenty minute subway/walk and we found the place easily.  Once inside we removed our shoes and filled out a very brief questionnaire.  We forgot to ask about the cost...although we had already decided that it really didn't matter at this point.  Within a minute or two the doctor approached, introduced himself, and we were led upstairs to a diagnostic room.  The place was crowded with all kinds of folks.  Everything was very orderly.  Minutes later I was on a table with a technician doing an ultrasound.  Fifteen minutes later back in the waiting room we waited for the doctor. 

As I had surmised...thankfully...my problem was minor, something that will go away soon, and felt relieved.  The doctor, educated in Seoul, spoke excellent English, was as pleasant as could be, and after rendering his diagnosis and treatment plan, was more interested in talking about our travel life than medicine.  He was amazed at our story, accepted one of our cards, and asked if he could take a picture of us.  When was the last time you had a doctor do that.  After chatting another ten minutes about life and living, he made a few additional notes on his computer database and said goodbye.

At the checkout we were given our bill.  A fifteen minutes ultrasound, several images, physical exam, evaluation, and out the door for about $80.  If I had had a Japanese Health Card, it would have been free.  Wow!


Friday, February 16, 2018

First Few Days in Osaka

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Even though our flight was only 90 minutes from Tokyo, it still took us the whole day to make our way to Osaka...six different train lines, waiting at the boarding gate, and a decent walk from the subway station to the apartment in the rain.  Osaka is a huge city...again...this time the third largest in the WORLD.  Surrounded by mountains and the sea, it is a lot more compact that Tokyo.  Apartment buildings take the place of smaller homers and flats.  There are large green areas and lots more trees.  It is a relatively quiet city considering the 30 million people as our close neighbors.

For our one month residency we chose a more centrally located apartment, this time in the city center.  We paid a lot more than Tokyo...and got a lot less room.  It is going to be a LONG thirty days in a space smaller than our RV was back in the states.  However for its size, it is well designed and we have all the comforts we need.  And being on the ninth floor of an eleven story building means lots of sunlight and more quiet.






Using one of our favorite touring sites - www.visitacity.com - we sketched out a very packed four day itinerary of the "must see" sights, then broke those into two weeks worth by taking one or two elements a day, alternating tourist activity days with casual wandering days, and it looks like we will be kept busy.  Osaka and Kyoto (next door) have plenty to do.  Since Kyoto is in the moutains north of the city, we are opting to visit is in our last two weeks, hoping for warmer weather.

For our first day out we visited Osaka Castle.  The old Shogun site was home to many emperiors since the early 500's.  Today it is a huge tourist park full of antiquities, a pretty amazing castle that has been restored maybe a few times too many, and lovely gardens.  The moat, as in Tokyo, is pretty impressive.


There were lots of folks in costumes today, only instead of traditional kimonos, they were cosplaying in characters such as this blue ninja.
The castle itself sits high upon a hill in the middle of the island, is seven stories tall, and houses lots of museum prints.  The views from the top were great as we opted to climb the stairs instead of using the packed elevators with long lines.



Across from the park we spotted this building and decided it was worth a closer look.  Here we found the Osaka Museum of History.  This magnificant buidling is nine floors high an contains the museum, linked to the adjoining office tower with the glass dome.
One the top floors is a reproduction of hte ancient and now gone royal palace.  It is beautifully done according to drawings and paintings.  They tell a digital story on the walls.  At the end of the produciton, the walls rise and large windows let in lots of light and you get a grand view of the site...now a large open park where excavations are still happening.



Views from the city are outstanding from the large windows on each side of the oval building, and from each floor.
There was one section of massive models...so lifelike you might think you were a giant looking down upon actual living people.
This was the Osaka theater in the 1700's. 
The interior detail was stunning.
Queen....and we thought he band was original.  This is a mask from a kibuki production from othe 1800's.
Royal puppets and dolls.


These stain glass portholes are from a building designed by Frank Lloyed Wright...now demolished.
Our next day was a day to wander all of the covered markets.  We visited five starting with this one just a few block from our home...it runs in a straight line for over two miles...yes, TWO MILES.
Next we visit the upscale "Ginza" section with all of the high end stores.  The river runs through he middle and is lined with all kinds of seafood restaurants.

They have a cosplay section with shops selling costumes, wigs, makeup and props./
Then the food market that went one for blocks and blocks.




Sea Urchins only $27 each....yikes!  No wonder they are favored by otters worldwide.
From there we wandered into the design area were we found these lovely leopards.
Thousands of bowls...again...just not fair.
We ended our day at the Nambu Gardens Shopping center, a huge eight story moderistic mall with both handing gardens and a rooftop park full of trees and fountains.
The fake food displays were grand.
We took a day off and vegged out at home, caught up on some banking issues...ugh...living abroad and maintaining a banking pressence back home is becoming problematic.

Our next outing was a bit out of the way to visit to ancient temples.  We took several subway and tram lines to get to the far south side of the city.
On the way we discovered another peaceful cemetery and shrine.



We reached Shitoke Temple, the oldest in all of Japan and its amazing pagoda.


We were allowed to climb the to the top.

These fellas guard the entrance to the grounds.

Peaceful statues look over the memorial gardens.

Another series of transfers and another hour took us further outside of the city to this temple.  The grounds and teh buildings date back to 547 AD.  The bridge is original...hard to beleive...and in such great shape...with a bit of help over the years for certain.


We spend a peaceful hour or more wandering the ground and the buildings.









Toward the end of our first week we spent two days working on getting our China Visa paperwork together and taking a few long walks around the neighborhood.  We discovered the Japan Mint and it was open and free to visit.  It was all in Japanese but the displays were interesting.  It is only a few block from our apartment.





Yesterday we ventured even further on a six mile walk north of home.  We found an international school walking their ducklings...all speaking English.
Passed by dozens of casinos...they are everywhere...noisy and smoky.
 More covered arcades. This one was a bit shorter...only one mile long.

McDonald's home delivery scooters.
Some great architecture.  This one struck my eye...I know not why now.
Cosplay and fantasy murals in a subway underpass.
A great triangle building at an intersection.