Of course, if one is given a free ticket to Kansai, generally one does not complain too loudly. So after the Kobe renewer's conference, I took the opportunity to travel to a few places I had not seen the last time I was in the area.

First I headed to Himeji, which has one of the few original castles left standing in Japan. It's an amazing place, and the castle is absolutely astounding. It adds a whole new level to understanding medieval Japanese society (high society, anyway) when you can actually see what the castles and living quarters were like. The views were amazing, and some of the more interesting bits included the crests of the various owners, and a suicide area.

Castle 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7.

After that, I made a run back to Kyoto and crashed at a place called the Tani house (not to be confused with the Thani hotels I stayed in in Thailand!) It was old and cozy and had lots of interesting people staying in it, not to mention 8 or so Saga JETs!

Saturday started with a nearby temple and random sights nearby including the Unknown Soldier memorial, where we were given some incense and had to figure out what to do with it, and where Marie Louise took a quick nap. We also visited a pagoda, and some geisha out on a photo shoot. I then popped off to Osaka to take in the more modern scenery and do some shopping. I started by walking around the business district in the north of Osaka, which boasts in my opinion two of the ugliest buildings in the world. At first I thought the Umeda Sky Building (2) would win hands down, but on the way there I glimpsed another monstrousity, the Hotel Monterey, which may give it a run for its money. I actually took a little too much time wandering around and missed getting the shopping done, which set the stage for Sunday. I snagged a late-ish train back to Kyoto and crashed out, exhausted.

Sunday the women were headed to Kinkakuji (which I had already seen) so I headed to the station for some relaxing and shopping before hooking back up to go to Osaka and shop until our plane departed. Kim and I jumped over to Den Den Town, a massive electronics shopping area covering perhaps six blocks or so, in hopes of finding a cheap MD player. We mostly succeeded in that, and I also managed to procure a video camera, so watch for video on the web as soon as I get the tools! We reunited at the airport just a touch late and had to be ushered to the front of the line to make our flight. Fortunately, about half the plane was as late or later than us, so other than a slight delay, there were no problems. From Fukuoka all was perfectly normal, and Sunday ended on a quiet note.

All the images
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