We finally finished up our quarter at the beginning of June and needless to say we were all itching to get out and see some more of Japan. APU usually gives you three days of break and since this year it was tacked onto a weekend, we had a good solid five days of escapism. Everybody was doing different things but most of us were centred around Osaka so we planned to meet up in various places while away. The Sunflower Ferry from Beppu to Osaka is an overnight transport ship that docks near AP4 so we booked tickets to head out in the evening after our exams. The trip takes 11 hours and it is a pretty good deal if you are a student as you can get a cheaper rate and an upgrade to an actual bed through the campus Co-Op. The ship itself has a great all-you-can-eat buffet and even its own onsen onboard. A bunch of us were going at the same time so we met up and spent the night playing cards, over-quoting the Titanic movie and having a few drinks to pass the time.
The sailing gang, our cute cabin & the Sunflower Ferry docked at Osaka
When we arrived in Osaka, we went our seperate ways. Some of the gang were heading to Kyoto, others to Universal Studios and I had managed to wangle my way onto the 1st International Natural Hazards and Disaster Management Conference which was being held at the Hyatt Hotel near the port. Yes, I know, Universal Studios sounds like so much more fun but I was so pumped to do something related to my degree and I had an absolute blast. I was the only non-speaker there so I was a little nervous at first, but everyone was really nice and I made lots of new contacts. The range of speakers was huge and I got to listen to talks about disaster management from a variety of fields and countries which was fantastic.
Some of the conference speakers and I sneaking in a group pic
Representing Aus, some of the fab speakers I met & me (for some reason) with a mic bugging people with questions
The conference lasted three days which meant I also got to stay in the Hyatt for that time as well. As already established earlier in this blog, I’m a little obsessed with good showers. Combine a walk-in power shower with a giant adult sized bed and a panoramic cocktail bar on the fiftieth floor, and I was in heaven.
Digging the kawaii vibe in the Hyatt bathrobe, doing back to school prep work with margaritas and a killer view (the best way to study), taking in the lightning over Osaka
When I initially arrived in Osaka, I had the whole day free before the conference kicked off so I spent it running around on a mad mission to see as much as I could of the sights. It is a beautiful city with so much to do and I wish I could have spent more time there. I spent the morning exploring Osaka Castle and the surrounding walls and shrines. Then I headed the Osaka museum which gave a great account of the history of the city. After that I was on a mission to find the infamous coffee in a cookie-cup that had been doing the rounds on Facebook. It took a little while but (as a severely caffeine obsessed individual) it was worth the trek. That evening I met up with one of the girls for some sushi and got to try sea urchin for the first time which was very cool (and delicious).
The sights & delights of Osaka
The infamous ‘Ecospresso’ Coffee in a Cookie-Cup! #muchjapan #muchdelish
The conference finished early on the Saturday so I jumped the Shinkansen to Kobe for a little afternoon detour before i headed to Kyoto that evening. I only had a few hours so I headed straight to the Disaster Reduction and Human Renovation institute which houses the memorial museum for the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake of 1995. The Kobe Earthquake was the very first natural disaster I was ever taught about (and pretty much the only thing I remember from high school geography!). Back then I did not know the spark of interest I felt would spur a journey of international travel, study and hopefully (gods-of-student-loans willing) a dream career. The centre is fantastic, managing to be both humbling in the face of nature’s terrible power and inspiring through the stories of amazing community resilience and bravery. The staff go out of their way to make it a super fun and interactive experience so I definitely recommend it.
The Kobe Earthquake museum – It also lights up blue at night!
After a few hours getting lost in the museum, I was back on the train and heading up to Kyoto. It was pretty late when I arrived so I checked into my capsule hotel and then went for a wander down the backstreets for something to eat. After grabbing some street food from a random hole-in-the-wall vendor, I (shockingly) happened upon a traditional whisky bar and spent a little while sampling some scarily expensive but very delicious Japanese single malts. Once remembering to remind myself I was not in fact one of the travelling businessman that I was drinking alongside but a student with a slightly less stretchable bank account, I quickly made haste back to my hotel to get a few hours shut eye.
Variety is the spice of life…
The next morning I dragged myself out of bed at 05:30 to head to climb Mount Inari. The infamous Fushimi Inari shrine walk has been on my bucket lists since forever and I wanted to make sure I arrived before the (equally infamous) crowds did. At this stage, it is safe to say I was regretting the drinking choices from the night before but I managed to get to the entrance temple by 0700 and start the climb to the top. Thankfully my efforts were rewarded with a beautiful serene climb in a surreal yet amazing setting. It takes about 60 minutes to get to the very top of the mountain, making time to visit the many of the shrines that line the way. It’s a little bit of a hike when your legs aren’t used the steep steps (or you have been in a whisky bar the night before) but definitely worth the effort. It truly was an amazing experience.
Some of the amazing views from the climb
I started back down from the top about 8:30AM and already the crowds were starting to build. By the time I reached the ground, it was wall to wall with people. If you want photos without hoards of tourists getting in the way, I definitely recommend an early start. I rushed back to my hotel to check out and then made the journey back to Osaka. That afternoon, I met up with the gang, who’d had a different yet equally fab time on their various adventures. We caught the boat back to Beppu and arrived home 0700 on Monday morning, just in time for school. A dumping of bags, a very quick shower, an even quicker downing of coffee and before we knew it, we were already back on the bus up the mountain ready to start the new school quarter.