Bonsaiiiii! Oh, err...

In Brisbane this week It's the Ekka. This is a sort of big country fair, and people come from miles around to take part in cheesy musical shows and buy plastic bags full of nasty corporate merchandise for ten bucks a pop. The Ekka is also famous as the time when everyone in South East Queensland swaps their germs, and the latest flu bug does the rounds. In the days leading up to our holiday, our housemates started coming down with the flu one by one, and we became resigned to a nine hour flight with headaches and temperatures... But in the event we got away with it, and arrived in Osaka knackered but healthy.
We picked up our little hire car (I wanted to pet it, not drive it - it looks like an extra from a Miyazaki film...) and headed for historic Kyoto. Coming from the Australian winter, the humidity and heat were a bit full-on, but the evening by the river was still fairly pleasant. The sultriness and long evening twilight added to the feeling of being abroad, and slowed us down a bit - which helped appreciate the Japanese weirdness to the full. The restaurants display detailed colour photos of all their dishes (with prices) on plastic menus and big boards by the door. The hostess bars and brothels display detailed colour photos of all their prostitutes and hostesses (with prices) on big boards by the door. We passed a geisha house in the old town, which also displayed colour photos of the available geishas (but without prices) on big boards by their door - and we saw a couple of Korean gentlemen strolling through the back streets of the old town with geisha companions on their arm. Things are no better in the bookshops or on the billboards, where dodgy proclivities are unavoidable.
Kyoto's sight - seeing highlights were the tomb of the unknown soldier, the Kiyo Mizu Dera temple, and the hall of 1,000 Kannon statues.
As I wound down from work (and C remembered that she's five months pregnant!) we slowed the pace to match, and spent the next couple of days checking out the Nara temples within easy-hitting distance of Osaka, and the nightlife around the Kita and Minami parts of the city. It can be tough to judge which places are the pricy ones - we had salmon, blue cheese croquettes, some tapas, steamed beans, beer and two soft drinks in a nice little restaurant, then felt knackered after walking to the other end of the mall, stopped off for tea and a slice of cake - and it came to the same price as the previous meal. Next week we're kipping on Ian's floor, and things will be getting messy in Tokyo... I hope.

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