A while ago I bought the magical, oft-mentioned (certainly on this blog) Ju Hachi Kippu. It lets you travel unlimited for 5 days, and costs 8,000 yen. Last weekend I used up two of the days buzzing around Kansai, visiting my friend Nina in Nara Prefecture, as well as travelling to Osaka and Kyoto.

On Friday night I began my long trip across Japan to Nara Prefecture. It took about 4 hours for me to get to my friend’s house, and involved a couple of changes in huge Osaka stations when I had to race to get trains with mere seconds to spare. Luckily I made it each time, and managed to leap acrobatically onto the last train just before the doors closed.

On Saturday me and Nina explored Yoshino, a mountain town famous for two weeks a year, when thousands of cherry trees bloom. Sadly I visited a few weeks before this will happen, but it was still really beautiful, with some nice temples that gave me a good chance to pose in my Blues shirt for an upcoming feature in the Blues magazine!

After Yoshino I headed into Osaka, and went to all the crazy and cool shops in Shinsaibashi. I also visited Osaka Castle, which despite its ancient appearance has an elevator to get you to the top!

On Sunday I headed across the Kansai plain to Kyoto. I revisited Heian Jingu, and then wandered across to Maruyama koen, where I saw some sort of Japanese bridal fashion show in progress. Then I went to Nijo-jo. The castle is fitted with “nightingale floors”, which sqeak constantly, making it hard for any intruder to escape detection. Not so useful today when its filled with tourists. I got back to shiny Kyoto station, and just had time to buy an expensive department store bento and a couple of beers before getting the slow train back to Okayama.

Today I found a new and exciting way to pass time at Shonan- play badminton! I managed a total of seven games against Yoshida sensei (old but very very good), Yamamoto sensei, and Kagawa sensei, a man so cool he deserves his own theme tune (for some reason I imagine that it would be simlar to the Postman Pat song). It was so much fun! Me, Kagawa sensei and Yamamoto sensei are all about the same level, and we’re going to try to play every week.