Day 5: Osaka to Otsu

I began my morning with a cup of coffee and three “Japanese Pecan-Style Nuts CHOCOLATE.” I’m not sure if these sumptuous nuggets qualify as cookies or candy, but they literally melt in your mouth.

Japanese Pecan-Style CHOCOLATE -- these things are so good they should be illegal

Japanese Pecan-Style CHOCOLATE — these things are so good they should be illegal (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

I bought a box of them last night after the proprietor of the hotel gift shop pushed a sample on me and then sweetened the offer with a 5% discount coupon. How could I resist? The woman in front of me bought five boxes, so at least I showed some restraint. The box came with eight packages of three nuggets, and I gave Leo, Luke and John each a package (and hid the remaining packages).

This morning started with Luke adjusting the clutch shaft on the 1928 Plymouth. He did this in the parking garage of our hotel — definitely field conditions!

Luke adjusting the clutch on the 1928 Plymouth

Luke adjusting the clutch on the 1928 Plymouth (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

After Luke finished with the clutch, we caught the Hankyu Railway to the Umeda Station in Osaka. We thought we were getting pretty good at these trains until we got on the “JR Osaka Loop” train going clockwise instead of counterclockwise and were treated to a scenic tour of the city before arriving at our destination. And then found that the Modern Transportation Museum we had planned to visit is permanently closed.

So it was back on the loop train to the Umeda Station, going the correct direction this time (we learn fast) followed by a short walk to the Umeda Sky Building, a two-tower, 40-story architectural gem with an observation tower. We took a glass elevator to the 34th floor of one tower and then rode an escalator across the courtyard for the next five stories. Then a short staircase to the observation deck. Here’s the view:

View from Umeda Sky Building Observation Deck

View from Umeda Sky Building Observation Deck (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

We actually made it back to the hotel a bit early today and started on our 38-mile drive to Otsu, which sits on the southern tip of Lake Biwa, the largest lake in Japan. Tomorrow we spend some time in Otsu and then drive to Tsurugu, where we begin preparations for our ferry ride to Vladivostok. I’m especially looking forward to doing some laundry!

Day 4: Kobe to Osaka

I had planned to blog about the fabulous dinner we had at an Italian restaurant in Osaka, but alas, the restaurant we wanted to visit is closed on Mondays.

We had a busy day in Kobe before our short drive to Osaka, once again proving that the four of us are sorely lacking in anything that resembles Japanese navigation skills. Our plan was to assault a short trail leading from the Shin-Kobe train station to a waterfall, but we abandoned our idea when we reached an incomprehensible fork in the trail a few hundred yards into the hike.

We headed back to the train station and, over my objections of cheating, took a tram (called a ropeway here) to the top of a hill above Kobe, which took us past said waterfall. Luke agreed to walk back down the hill with me, and we passed the fabulous sight in the picture below:

Nunobiki Falls in Kobe

Nunobiki Falls in Kobe (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Now knowing the route, we dashed back to the train station and found John and Leo sipping beers in a café. Leo wouldn’t budge, but I pulled John away and we ran up to the falls and back again, just in time for John to finish his beer and for us to catch the shuttle back to the hotel for our 2pm departure.

I rode with John to Osaka in his 1928 Plymouth Roadster. The Roadster by definition has no windows, so he installed some coverings made from clear plastic and cloth to keep at bay the rain that started to fall just before we left. This worked fine until I had to pay a toll; the makeshift windows don’t roll down, and opening and closing the doors on the Roadster requires about three hands — not something I wanted to try with impatient drivers piling up behind me. I managed to give the toll taker our money by pushing my hand and a 1000 yen bill through a crack between the window and the door. Here’s a picture of the wet drive to Osaka:

View from the 1928 Plymouth Roadster: Kobe to Osaka

View from the 1928 Plymouth Roadster: Kobe to Osaka (Eileen Bjorkman photo)

Tomorrow we’re planning to visit a transportation museum in Osaka (if we can find it, of course) and then we’ll head to Otsu.