The drive from Hakuba to Takayama is stunning. The road winds through tunnels, along wooded valleys and beside icy blue lakes until it reaches the beginnings of the plains and Takayama. This small city of 100,000 or so people is dotted with temples, shrines and charming buildings all set amongst pine covered rolling hills with snow-capped mountains in the distance. The centre of the town has been well preserved and everywhere you look there
are one or two storey wooden buildings of the traditional Japanese style. The streets have water filled gulley’s running down either side and streams are often found being channelled between the houses. Consequently the trickling sound of water is heard everywhere. It is truly one of the most picturesque cities we have seen and because it is relatively small it is easy to explore. We are here on a whim but because it is so pleasant we stay for three days. We have a room in a Zen-Buddhist temple that opens directly into the main prayer hall. So going to and from our room involves passing an ornate altar and prayer mats.
It is a lovely peaceful room with paper screens and although there are one or two other people staying here they are all housed in another part of the temple so we only see them in the communal kitchen. Because of the architectural delights in the town there are always lots of tour groups wandering around but as the day wears on these seem to fade away and the streets become virtually empty. We walked for miles during our time here and especially enjoyed the quite hillside walk taking in shrines and cemeteries all tucked away in the pine forests and the forest of 7 happy gods where there are some magnificent wood carvings.
Just for a bit of contrast we have come from Takayama and back to Osaka and wow is this place buzzing. It’s like Blade runner without the rain and gravity defying cars (oh and murderous robots). Huge billboards shout out there messages, neon is everywhere. Shops and restaurants are stocked with beautiful items of houseware, clothing, shoes and food are all around us. We
walked the length of the world’s longest undercover shopping arcade – 2.8km I think and still could find a pair of shoes to fit me. There is money here in abundance and the fancy shops are stacked one after the other along the roads but having said that there are still plenty of places to eat for relatively little money. 1300 yen gets us a shared salad, a pasta dish and 500ml of wine. Osaka needs to move a lot of people so the road system must be efficient. 4 lane highways are not uncommon and we even came across an 8 lane one running through the centre of town
(that’s 8 in one direction). As per usual we walked for miles and saw Osaka castle, the parks and so many shops that I felt confused. It’s a great city to be in. Huge and vibrant and full of crazily dressed young hipsters that no one apart from us seem to even notice.
Our accommodation was something of a change from the Zen temple because we have spent the last two nights in a love hotel!!! These excellent establishments sell rooms by the hour in the day but at night they are much cheaper than normal hotels. Consequently we have a room that was 7 x 5 metres plus toilet, dressing room and large bathroom. The bathroom comes
equipped with a whole host of toiletries, a shower, Jacuzzi bath and indispensible blow up Lilo for sexy, soapy fun. The main room has a huge bed covered in crisp, clean sheets over memory foam mattress. There is massage chair, a sofa, karaoke mikes, a wired in vibrator/massager, free condoms, eye-masks and vending option in each room to purchase sex toys for your pleasure. It’s a bit cheesy but spotlessly clean and you don’t have to watch pixelated Japanese porn on the 50 inch flat screen if you don’t want to. But quite honestly it would be churlish not to. These hotels offer supposed discretion but invariably look like they have been styled by Disney. Ours was a French clock tower affair.
|Love Hotel - Osaka|
You enter the unmanned foyer select your room by picture and push the buy button. You then take a lift to the appropriate floor and room number. Later, when you leave, one simply scans a credit card or puts the room price into a cash payment machine. A simple, seamless, secretive and sexy sojourn without meeting another person – really quite brilliant!