Today brought a lesson that a week and a half's worth of train journeys should have spelled out pretty comfortably - don't rely on train timetables that were out of a book rather than those from a station. Doing so might make you a bit late.
So it was that my train out of Nagoya to Taki was at 8:08 rather than 8.15 as I had presumed, and consequently at the point I was heaving myself through the labyrinthine maze that was Nagoya station said train was leaving. The next train along would not be until 9.30.
I spent the intervening hour or so making up new swear words and trying them out in the hidden flower garden that I had accidentally come across (up the escalators located in what appeared to be the central station plaza). It was quite nice there, in fact; the insane bustle of a thousand hurrying feet blended into the background and was replaced by the cool morning air of the outside. The beds themselves shielding the smattering of other fellow commuters from the hubbub going on outside the station too. A small tranquil oasis in the middle of the insanity of a busy Japanese arterial node.
As I sat there munching a sandwich and swigging a drink, I reviewed my decision made whilst in bed - instead of staying in Nagoya (of which by now I had had my fill), I would use the time today more wisely and visit Ise, and the great Ise-shi, what is perhaps the most popular of all the shrines in Japan, and one of over a hundred in Ise alone. Hugely frequented year round by many Japanese, who if were going to visit one shrine per year, would make it that one, Ise-shi represents a spiritual pilgrimage for six or so million Shinto-worshiping visitors per year that has survived in a society which increasingly has not had the time to fritter away on such things. The train journey times suggested there would be plenty of time to get there, look around and head back to Nagoya, then take the bullet train direct to Kyoto.
The journey to Ise-shi involved travelling into Kansai round the Ise Bay to Taki, then a change to the Ise-Shi train that would take me to the outer gate. Fortunately, now and again a Mie train departs and this goes direct to Ise without having to change. A slight pain on the journey is the stretch of track between Suzuka and Tsu, which is privately owned by the Ise Railway and anyone who travels on it has to pay an extra surcharge of 800 yen (about £4). The train inspector was pretty uncompromising as he went down the carriage and made sure no-one was hiding in the crapper at the time, so there was nowhere around it.
Once past Tsu, the landscape once again started to improve as the high-rise residences and industrial buildings petered out and the hills and valleys and the Ise bay showed itself now and again. Once at Ise, I put up my large pack in one of the station lockers and walked down the main street. Even though there weren't many signs, it was quite obvious which direction Geku (the outer gate) was, given the paved roads lined with faux-traditional lanterns.
Geku outer gate was more of a woodland walk punctuated by shinto shrines than a gate in itself, and once past the gravelled car park area, became a relaxed pleasant walk along dappled dirt paths. Every so often there would be a building or shrine, often accompanied by 'no camera' signs and an ever-alert guards, but I did manage to get the odd pic, so a few souls stolen there and squeezed onto my SD card.
After following all the paths around that I could find, (including an overlooked one that ended abruptly at an ancient tree with a miniature shrine at its base) I exited at the other side and joined the increasingly large bus queue to Naiku, the inner shrine. Buses arrived every few minutes and had as many people squeezed onto them as was physically possible. Quite aware of how my clothes had become well worn in by now, I was not enjoying the claustrophobic ride there hanging onto the straps above me whilst keeping my backpack between my feet. Mercifully, there were not many tight corners and the journey was not long.
Alighting at the other side, the amassed rabble of worhippers carried me along to the entrance, which was surrounded by row upon row of motorbikes, some of which still had leathered-up hairy Japanese bikers on them. Working my way through those I arrived at the entrance gate, a large wooden Torii guarding a large, ornate Uji bridge that spanned the Isuzu river.
Between the gate and the shrine area itself was an open stroll garden made up of a wide central path with grassed areas either side containing trees, shrubs and typically well-maintained hedges. Here and there were cockerels scratching about for food, ignoring completely the steady influx of people. Fortunately there were also plenty of seats, and still craving a sit down from the bus ride I took advantage of the nearest one for a quick breather.
No sooner had I sat myself down was I approached by an eldely gent whose self-imposed job it seemed was to show random people around the area; he wore no uniform, so I guessed he did it to get out and about and enjoy the company, and given that I was the only westerner around for probably 20 miles, I might have stood out a bit. Though my feet were complaining, I felt I couldn't refuse the opportunity for a personalised tour and so we set off at a gentle pace towards the inner area.
Toshiro could speak a little bit of broken English, and me a little broken Japanese, and as was becoming the norm, a combination of that and some exaggerated hand movements meant we were able to have a conversation of sorts. The first place he took me to see crossed the river once more (the river wound itself around the pathways of the shrine area, or perhaps the other way around) and he explained that the water of the Isuzu River is the purest in the world, that it goes by his house, and that he uses it for all its needs. (I declined to point out that he's affecting its purity by doing that.) It certainly looked pure; the water was crystal clear even from up on the bridge as if you could just go down and drink it. Heading over to the other side took us to an unremarkable-looking shrine building, though he explained with great reverence that it was a memorial shrine to the invasion of China 700 years ago. We approached the shrine and had a moment, me trying my best to look like I knew what I was doing, and then we went on our way.
As we rejoined the main pathway and entered a wooded area, I could tell there was something on Toshiro's mind - his talkative self so evident for the brief period I had met him had gone and nothing I could say would get much of a response.
Then he turned to me and asked me if I was married.
Quickly hiding my shock, I explained that I wasn't but that there was a Ms Plants back home, to which he looked rather disappointed and seemed to lose interest in his tourism job. As we started to hit the crowds near the central section, he bade me farewell and said he would wait for me there once I had been to the shrine. Taking the opportunity to split while I could, I bowed and disappeared into the melee.
I moved with a sense of relief away from the situation and with the flow of people past the trinket shops on the periphery and through the woodland trail to the Kotaijingu Shrine entrance which stood at the top of a long stepped area. The entrance itself punctured a high wooden fence you could not see through, bar the little bit you could see between the crowds who both entered the sanctum and exited shortly athrough it. I was at the bottom, and the line of people ahead of me must have numbered a few hundred. Surprisingly, quite a few western faces were dotted here and there, mostly groups of young travelers who had, like me come to see what all the fuss was about.
Maybe it was the length of the crowd, or how fast it wasn't traveling, or perhaps just the shouting that was coming from my feet to find a place to sit, but the prospect of going into the shrine was becoming less attractive by the second, and eventually I decided to move on. Moving forward at the side of the queue, and trying not to make eye contact with those people who guessed I was pushing in, I made it to the front and joined the slightly more fluid outgoing queue as it made its way to the left and rejoined the main area. Reluctant to bump into Toshiro again, I took a right up another trail which took me past an open area behind the shrines which would probably have had performances taking place in it had I been there at a different point, but it allowed me to see some of the tops of the golden grand shrine buildings from a distance.
The trail eventually brought me out at the trinket shops, and like a statue in the middle of the crowds, Toshiro was there waiting for me. It was pretty clear I had not gone into the shrine itself, and he had masked his disappointment with a smile and a wave before he turned and left to play matchmaker with some other poor guy. I chalked that down to good fortune.
Since time was a little short, I stuck a nose into the souvineer shops, then headed towards the exit, pausing for a little while at a koi pond flanked by more cockerels that I had nearly missed on the way in. I then went back over the bridge and instead of passing through the sea of bikes, headed up the very busy Okage Street, a narrow road flanked with shops and eateries that follows a sweeping left curve into a market area. Grabbing a Kushikatsu (A battered... something on a stick - seemed to include cheese) from a stall for sustenance, I headed out to the roadside and found myself a bus stop.
The map that I had picked up part way round pointed to a cluster of museum buildings not too far away, and by taking the Chokokan bus from Ise-shi I would be able to go see them en route. By now it was 2 in the afternoon, so time was starting to become tight, but I went for it anyway. Getting off at the stop outside the museum area (and passing under the biggest Torii I had ever seen), there were two signposts, neither of which were in English. One pointed along a road that winded upwards to some sort of manor house, while the other one headed down a woodland trail. In hindsight, the clues were there, but downhill probably sounded better than uphill at the time so I took the wrong one and ended up on a leisurely stroll that turned into a hurried backtrack a mile or so along.
The main building looked very western in construction, and it and the surrounding grounds could have come straight out of an episode of To the Manor Born. The grounds in total contained 3 museums, but I decided there was only time for one, so I chose the main one - the Jingu Chokokan Museum.
Once more, the no-camera signs were up in ernest, and plenty of museum guards were present so no pictures unfortunately. The museum was dedicated to a selection of ancient clothing, statues and other religious artifacts from the Meiji and Showa eras of Japan, at which point, they had been moved from the shrines as they were being rebuilt. It was all quite dark inside, relying only on what little ambient light could make it through that far and some fancy back lighting from the exhibits themselves.
Leaving the museum, I trotted back down the driveway to the bus-stop just as the next bus arrived. By mustering 'sumimasen, Ise-eki?' and getting a nod, I was relieved to see it went to the station and so hopped aboard. Just hitting 3pm, the next train left at 3.07 with the next one an hour away. I rushed to the lockers, picked up my big bag and just about got onto the train before it left for Nagoya once more.
Nagoya's familiarity was almost welcome as I passed through to the outgoing station to Kyoto. Ise was quite an intimidating place, not just because of the Toshiro's of the world trying to hitch up their daughters with potential suitors, but because it was off the beaten track, which meant no English, few people understanding English, and lots of bus routes that might not take you where you want to go. This handy PDF shows the layout of Ise and I wish I'd had it with me at the time.
The station bigness continued when I got to Kyoto - a huge black-windowed monster of a building rising perhaps 30 storeys high. The station levels themselves are a few levels up, and are accessed either side of the structure via long, steep escalators. On the levels below and to the side were the now-familiar department stores and shops, and the whole thing fit together like a giant block puzzle. First stop - find the hotel. Fortunately, the Apa Hotel was just down the road to the left of the station, and considering the location and size of the thing, was pretty cheap (7700 yen - about £38) per night. Very plush, and with some useful 100yen/10min internet kiosks downstairs, I reckoned I'd done pretty well for myself. I even got some paper cranes left at my bedside.
I'd over-compensated with getting out of Ise, and this left me with a little bit of time left in the day. It was 5pm, and there was only one place to go - Osamu Tezuka World. For those who don't know, Tezuka is the granddaddy of both manga and anime, best known for the long-running childrens series Astro Boy (otherwise known as the Mighty Atom) and Kimba the White Lion/Jungle Emperor Leo, which has often been cited as the inspiration (some would say more than that) for Disney's The Lion King), but was also responsible for a great many other characters both in manga, anime and live action form (such as the unofficial surgeon Black Jack anime, and the gritty, sometimes sexual Buddha manga), showed that he was more than a childrens storyteller. Also, its location was ideal - actually in the station building itself, and would just remain open long enough for a decent visit.
Now free of both backpacks, I trotted light-footedly back to the station entrance where I had seen a statue of Astro Boy, which thanks to several such characters, pointing, flying or walking in the general direction, was not hard to find. Inside the plush building was an open-plan sort of affair, consisting of a few life-size models, the predictable souvineer shop, and a film room which opened every so often and showed a cross-section of the films. Since that was about it, I decided to bide my time in the shop for a little while until the next screening. The shop was predictably stuffed with all sorts of tat, such as Astro Boy cups and keychains, BlackJack cards and various sweet tins with an obscure Tezuka character on them, but also one or two things that would have been more worthy of purchase: DVD boxsets of some of the more obscure works (unfortunately English not catered for) and some artbooks, including one particularly thick one chronicling his entire works, a dogeared copy left for people to leaf through.
Heading back to the cinema section in time for the final screening of the day, I was surprised to find no queue whatsoever inside, and was ushered into a small room containing comfy backless seats and papered with mock-filmstrips. At the front was a large flat screen monitor, which after a short while boomed into life. First up was (predictably) a 20 minute section of an Astro Boy film, followed by some of his live action work, and ending with one of his more mature works, a realistically depicted period piece about a samurai swordsman in the midst of a burning town fighting against his enemies. For its age, it was very fluid animation, and though the clip was only about 10 minutes, demonstrated the range of the artist.
I left, and consulting my trusty book, decided to scout out a free internet cafe that was listed at the other side of the station. Heading through and out to the other side where it was much quieter, I headed through the car park and over the road to Shiokoji-Dori, the street it should have been on. After considerable searching I could not find it, only a Tops Cafe. However the robbing baskets charged a fortune to stop there (200yen membership, then 120yen for 15 mins!) so I made it brief. To round off the day, I went into a nearby fast food joint, this one serving cheap, quick Japanese food in a McDonalds stylee. I opted (read: pointed at) a bowl of pork with rice and spices (I believe it was Tonkatsu), with some green tea to finish with. Despite not using chopsticks for several years, some of it did go in my mouth and it was pretty good.
By the time I had finished my meal, it was late into the night, I was tired, my tum was still doing somersaults, and tomorrow would be a big day: I was in the shrine capital of Japan, and I was going to see them all, so I ambled back to my hotel for some much needed sleep.
Well, I threatened myself that I would do it and I will. My next race will be the Harewood House 10K in Leeds on 14 September. The organizers are being a little coy about the actual race route, but so far they have said that its around the grounds of the house and will be 'a bit hilly but not quite as bad as last year'. Apparently last year, the hills caused people to keel over a bit, and since the hill is my natural enemy, it'll be a bit of a slog, but it's all for charity so it will be worth it.
I will be running for Cancer Research UK and I've set up a fundraising page here for anyone who would like to sponsor me, or you could come along on the day and watch me turn into a gibbering, wheezing heap.
I will be running for Cancer Research UK and I've set up a fundraising page here for anyone who would like to sponsor me, or you could come along on the day and watch me turn into a gibbering, wheezing heap.
My first train direct to Nagoya was at 9am the following day, so after a bit of a snooze, I got up and ambled over to the station, my tum still not feeling too great. My trusty guide book mentioned a small town named Narai en route that was a famous tourist spot, partly because of its location in a beautiful valley, and its history as a 'post town' - one of 69 towns used as a stopover on the journey between Edo (Tokyo) and Kyoto in the days before the railway, but mainly down to the long main street through the centre of it, flanked on both sides by perfectly preserved Edo-period houses and shops. Since Nagano to Nagoya was quite a short hop, this sounded like a good way to spend the day.
Getting there wasn't quite as simple as it could have been. The rapid train leaving Nagano only stopped at a handful of stations between Nagano and Nagoya, and Narai wasn't one of them. The only way to do it was get off at Shiojiri, then take a local train along the same track to Narai, then another local train when done to Kiso-Fukushima, which was the next stop along that the rapid trains stopped at and finally a quick blast along to Nagano, where I had a room booked for the night.
The mountain pass between Nagano and Shiojiri was as nice a view as any of the train legs I'd encountered so far, plenty of woodland and steep drops into rural areas, with the train track carefully tiptoeing its way around the rocky ledges of the hills either side. Alighting at Shiojiri, I had a half hour before the local train arrived, so I headed out to what reminded me of the freezing, deserted streets of Hokkaido, except this time, the sun was out and it was pleasantly warm. Feeling too scroogelike to dump my bags in a locker for thirty minutes, I lugged them around with me on a circuit of the nearest block.
As I walked, it didn't look like your normal ghost town - everything was clean and well-maintained, but it looked as if the air-raid sirens had finished blaring just as I had stepped off the train and everyone was peeking out from their concrete bunkers waiting for the all-clear. Feeling the weight of the packing, I decided not to stray too far and rounded the nearest right hand bend to the lights outside the station. A small shopping arcade including a pastry chef making his wares in the window for precisely no-one to see held my attention for a short while until it was time to move on.
A short train ride later, through several local stops (with someone helping me find the right station once more) had me finally in Narai. The clock said 11:30, and the next train would be at 1:00, (with the one after hours away) which left a short amount of time to peruse the streets at leisure. Opposite the station (which was officially closed by Japan Rail some time ago, but was re-opened and staffed by the locals) is a giant map of the place, and while the much-lauded street was to the left, my eye was drawn to the curious pathway heading out to the right, into an area with decidedly non-traditional buildings jutting out from the steep hillside.
I headed upwards. The views event from the lower levels into the rest of the valley and beyond were beautiful, a great place to live, I'm sure, and the air was super-fresh like on a mountain-top, and after a slight accosting by an angry dog (fortunately tied to a post) the path joined a road on a shallower incline, until I hit upon the curious entrance to a Hachiman-jinja Shinto shrine. One of the many things in Japan that has captured my heart is the countryside, peppered liberally with small pathways and trails, at the end of which is usually a muted, subdued and wonderful piece of Japanese engineering or craftsmanship, usually constructed in reverence and respect to a local deity, and the nature around them. Even to a religion-weary old cynic like myself, the desire to explore these places brought back the energies I once had as a child.
This place was no different. The pathway led to a set of steep steps, and at the top, just past a Torii gate, (angled forwards so you could see it properly as you ascended), was a large log cabin and a hidden shrine. Throwing in a few yen and doing the hand-clap was now becoming second-nature and just seemed the right thing to do regardless of there being anyone else there or not. Coming back down, a further pathway led through the pine trees to an opening, and following it brought me to an area called Narai-Juku full of small bib and clothes-wearing statues called Jizo. Following the path along, it returned me to a more modern Japan, where the tarmac returned and the uglier contemporary houses became prominent once more. Gathering my breath, I followed the winding road back to the station.
The Edo-houses must have been freshly creosoted now that winter was pretty much out of the way (bar a few drifts of stubborn snow here and there), because they had a bit of a smell about them. Sticking out directly onto the main road, (that looked out of place because someone had decided to tarmac it) they lent at obscure angles to each other and no two were the same. Some had been converted into restaurants, others were ryokan or shops (many shops) or museums to the history of the town, but most seemed to still function as houses for ordinary families. Tanuki statues were placed here and there outside some of them to greet the weary traveller.
At several points along the length of the street were signposts for a number of shrines, and various pathways heading right between the houses and up into the forested hillside above, and if time and energy would have allowed, I'd have stopped and explored a few. However there was really only time for one, so it would have to be what seemed to be the main shrine at the end.
Tucked away in the woods behind a modern-looking building stood a pair of structures, both looking very old and in comparison to the buildings on the street, not very well maintained. As I got nearer, an old woman who had beaten me to it set aside her wheeled-basket-cum-zimmer and picked up a stick. She turned to smile at me and then headed slowly up the side of a small ravine that was home to a trickling stream of water. I winced and tried to call her back as she shuffled up the hill negotiating the rocks and branches along the way, until she sat herself down and started poking the stick into the soft ground around her.
With her back to me, I couldn't tell what she was doing, but at least she had made her journey and seemed happy, so I switched focus to the shrines. Perched up the side of the steep hill and surrounded by fir trees and gravel, they looked like they were part of a central gathering place that the imposing structure in front of them had now replaced. One shrine looked newer than the other, and had a large, curved roof like a ski jump, while the other was a very basic structure, little more than a shed. Each of course had the obligatory donations box, so in went a few yen, and after a bit more hand clapping and a little sit down I moved on. The woman and her zimmer by this point, had disappeared so what she was digging for would remain a mystery.
On my return down the long road, the side roads to the right connected this side of town with a few structures at the other side of the train tracks (and the valley river), which thanks to the dozens of ancient roads criss-crossing it, had more than its fair share of level crossings. The main area was a car and coach park, now quite empty but would probably be pretty full during the main tourist season. One vehicle going nowhere though was yet another steam train stuck at the side of a touisty log cabin at one corner of the car park, consigned to looking bored just temptingly next to the tracks it once used to travel.
Heading back across the tracks (the car park was about the only thing over there) I headed pretty much straight back due to the time, pausing only to trot down a side road, at the end of which was a traditional Japanese Temple Bell in an open area with kids playing. It looked a bit of a private area (for quite a rich-looking household) so I left for the train.
As I boarded the train, I saw a non-Japanese guy for the first time since leaving Europe, so I sat down and we started chatting. Richard was from New Jersey and was spending some quality time setting up camp around the area, (including Narai) on a trekking holiday. As if to prove what a small world it was, when I told him about my little part of it (Yorkshire, UK) he said he had done some work teaching at Bradford University (where I had studied) and had even been to nearby Hebden Bridge and Skipton sightseeing not one month before. Quite taken aback with the worldly knowledge of the guy I was quite struck dumb for things to say (and actually found it difficult to not immediately start my sentences in Pidgeon Japanese), but got my voice back and spent a little time with him exchanging stories about the holiday so far, until Kiso-Fukushima rolled up.
Rejoining the Nagoya train immediately as it was still in the station, I continued getting some pictures of the valley that the track descended and went on its way to Nagoya. A mixture of sunlight, batteries and a bad seat meant that unfortunately some of them didn't come out too good, but the valley itself was beautiful almost all the way into Nagoya. The track was part way up one side of a large and winding valley, covered with trees and fields on both sides, and the bottom of the valley was home to the stretch of water responsible for carving it through the centuries. The river was not deep, in fact at some points it was barely a river at all, and for much of the trip it was filled with chalk-white boulders worn smooth with the flow, some of them as big as a house!
As Nagoya came close, the naturalistic views petered out and were replaced by the scars on the landscape of industry and commerce.
Nagoya is the fourth-largest city in Japan (besides Tokyo, Yokohama and Osaka) and has the same sense of hurry to it that Tokyo has, though without so much of the buzz that went along with it. Nagoya station itself was huge (the largest in the world), and not like any other station so far; a series of open areas containing shops and department stores, connected by a network of wide, pillared tunnels. To complicate still further, the station also connected to the Nagoya subway system and each area was packed with rush-hour wall-to-wall commuters. Wherever you stood there were bodies zipping by in every direction trying to get to their station before the trains went. Stopping off for breath in a Kiosk, I watched the world go by and realised that I had no idea in which direction to go. Fortunately the river of people I decided to join washed me up at a large open area containing a massive board of train departures and an information desk staffed by an english speaker.
After showing them my map for the hotel that was printed out for me back in Nagano, they were able to point me at the correct exit and I was able to find the correct hotel. Fortunately, not too far away, (and next to the biggest panchinko shrine I had seen so far) the Chisun Inn was a cheap and cheerful affair shaped like a cylinder. The central lift took me up to my floor, where I chose my room from a circular corridor with a door to each room every couple of feet. Entering, and knocking my head on the low door, it was the very definition of 'compact and bijou', more so than any other I had been to so far, but it was clean, had all the amenities, and would do just nicely for the night.
Dropping off my packs, I decided to use the remainder of the day (it was about 4pm) to explore some of Nagoya. Even though the city had the smack laid down on it by some of the tourist sites I had visited, my travel book did outline a couple of places that sounded half interesting. Studying the maps showed me that I could visit a few in a streight line and be back at the hotel before nightfall, so I headed back to the station to catch the subway train.
The subway was not covered by my Japan Rail pass, and so I had to do something not encountered before: buy a ticket. And that meant the automated machines. Armed with my book I cross-referenced the required station name with the japanese symbols on the giant subway map above me, which told me the going rate. Approaching the machine, a nice 'In English' chunky button stood out, and pressing it brought up an almost completely unhelpful screen telling me things in engrish that I couldn't work out.. so I did the only thing I could do - pump 100yen coins into the machine until I hit the amount I had guessed I needed, and see what happened. Fortunately a button flashed for me to press, and my ticket was spat out at me. So that's my 'tip': throw money at the machine and eventually it will be happy.
My first destination was the Nagoya Robot Museum, which was located a few minutes from Sekae station. After braving the subway crowds (both off and on the trains) I eventually managed to make my way back to street level and found myself slap bang in the middle of downtown Nagoya - massive multilane roads in a grid system, with huge department stores anywhere you could fit one in. Fortunately, next to the bus stations were city guide maps. Unfortunatly they were all in Japanese and didnt tally with the map in my book, but eventually after some asking and showing a cubic building with a silver sheen hoved into view. Excited that I'd made it before the described closing time, I arrived at the door, complete with a 'Robot Museum' sign on it. I tried the door, which was locked. I looked around the building. There were no other doors. It took me a full minute of searching around and arriving back at the entrance to realise the sign was actually telling me what I didn't want to know: the museum had closed down the previous year.
With the wind out of my sails, and not actually remembering the direction I came from, I slumped down on to the steps outside and had another look at my book. The next thing along was the Nagoya TV Tower, situated in the middle of the Hisaya-odori Park, a long thin stretch of parkland running down the middle of the main Hisaya-odori road. The tower itself used to be the tallest structure in Nagoya, but has long-since been dwarfed by the buildings around it.
Once I'd had my fill of the park, my eyes glanced east to a strange structure that resembled a spaceship across the road. This was the 'Spaceship Aqua' a huge Voyager-shaped structure held up by steel pillars. Its purpose seemed to be primarily as an extended covering to the subterrainian bus terminal you could see below, but it was also open as a free exhibit to the public.
When you got to the top of the stairs, the oval section turned out to be a walkway with a misted glass bottom, and in the centre was a 'lake' of water no more than an inch or two deep. Around the edge were seats, so you could sit and look at the sunset over the lake and pretend you weren't in a city at all. It was all quite pleasant and calm up there, so I decided to stay a little and admire the sights until the sun was low in the sky.
After making my way back down, I looked back at the map. It was clear that the remaining sights would have to wait until tomorrow as most attractions had by this time closed, so I walked some more around Hisaya-odori park and some of the shops that were still open, and then began to head back to my hotel, which was by now a welcome sight.