Enjoying the sights and sounds of Osaka-Kyoto

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila - The Philippine Star

OSAKA, Japan: I submit that I’m one of the many Filipinos who left the country to get away from the hassle and bustle of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit, which is why NAIA was jam-packed last Sunday when we flew to Kansai International Airport (KIK) on board PAL PR-408 for a nearly four-hour trip to Japan.

It is not my first time to Osaka. Way back 45 years ago I visited Osaka and Kyoto to see the Philippine Pavilion of the World Expo 70 with my father. But it was the first time I flew in to the fabulous Kansai International Airport serving the major cities of Osaka, Kyoto and Kobe. KIK is a man-made island completed in 1994 (and tested during the Kobe earthquake of that year) and when they learned that the island was sinking, they constructed another island for its second runway. KIK made Osaka a major airline hub in Japan next to Narita International Airport.

So here we are in a 1st world country where everything works, thanks to their infrastructure development and planning agencies. We took the Airport Express train to the subway station and from there took a 40-minute train ride to Namba Station then another subway ride to downtown Osaka at the Shinsaibashi Station right below our hotel, the Hotel Nikko Osaka 50 kilometers away. That was a short train ride into the heart of Osaka, the second largest metropolis in Japan next to Metropolitan Tokyo with over 19 million people. But their efficient rail systems make things work for Japan.

What is it with first world nations that differ from us who are still stuck as a 3rd world country? I think the difference is in speed. As I pointed out, the train ride from the airport to downtown Osaka took all but 40 minutes. If you drive 50 km from Metro Cebu say to the City of Carcar 40 km away, it would take you at least two hours from Mactan. That’s because we have a serious infrastructure deficiency problem.

Speaking of speeds one cannot but be amazed that the Internet speed in our hotel which I collated from my Okla App was a high of 30.97 Mbps for downloads (by mid-morning it was down to 10.63 Mbps) and uploads of 15.44 Mbps (later in the morning it was down to 4.47), which meant that getting your email and news via the Internet is super fast. Again the difference between a 1st world nation and a 3rd world nation is speed!

Everyday life in Japan is a frenzy of train rides, getting into ticket vending machines for your fares, vending machines for your drinks and food. This is their way of life as everyone is on a mad rush to work. In contrast, the major transportation in the Philippines is still the jeepney 70 years after the end of World War II. Cebu before World War II did better because we had a rail service from Argao to Danao.

We didn’t join any tour groups and last Monday, we went by railway to the Toei Kyoto Studio Park. This is a huge back lot (just like Universal Studios in Los Angeles) complete with soundproof studios which they now included into their tourism destination in Kyoto because many Japanese children love their Ninja warriors. They have a small ancient village in the days of the Samurai warrior that they use for filming these movies.

We also saw a 30-minute live drama stage presentation of a Samurai warrior and their Ninja enemies in a theater setting, which was packed with tourists. Outside they also showed demonstrations on their martial arts skills. It was quite an interesting but unexpected place to visit.

After our visit to the Toei Kyoto Studio Park, we took a taxicab to the Kinkakui Temple a.k.a. The Golden Pavilion or the “Temple of the Golden Pavilion. It is officially called Rokuon-ji and is a Zen Buddhist temple and designated a National Special Historic Site. We arrived there just as the sun was setting and reflecting its rays into the golden walled temple reflecting into the Garden Lake filled with carp and koi fish and wild ducks.

While American bombers during World War II spared this historic edifice from destruction, however on July 1950, a young novice monk attempted to commit suicide and burned the building. He was arrested and sentenced to prison, but was released due to mental illness. Nearly all the temple was burned, except its basic but petrified wooden structure.

It has since been rebuilt and has become one of Japan’s national treasures. You can actually see the whole temple area in one hour, except that it is difficult to take selfies because of the huge crowd of tourists elbowing their way to get a better picture. What amazed me about Osaka was the Shinsaibashi Suji Covered Shopping Arcade where high-end and low end shops can be found and yes… great food from ritzy Japanese restaurants to plain simple stalls that look more like sari-sari stores. In my book, I am now convinced that Osaka is better in everything than Singapore, including price!

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Email: vsbobita@mozcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com

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