Osaka Castle and the last Samurai

Narai.
Narai.

I blame my parents for the fact I’ve eaten way too much over the last few days. They brought me up to eat everything on my plate. Each breakfast and dinner we’ve had on the Nakasendo Trail ┬áhas been a multi-course feast. Even last night, which was in the most basic accommodation we’ve stayed in, was fabulous and never-ending. Because the place we’re staying was run by a lovely couple who spoke absolutely no English I felt terrible that weren’t eating very single thing, or even half of what was presented. I tried Mum, I really did, but there was just too much.

So this morning after a quick but sumptuous breakfast we set off early on our final stage of the Nakasendo. For us this involved a walk to the next town along to catch a train South to Osaka. To be honest this final walk was disappointing – not only was it not terribly scenic but it involved walking to a train station to catch a train that immediately went back to where we’d just started walking from. The thing that saved the walk was passing groups of kids saying hello as they passed on their way to school in neat uniforms and clutching bright lunch boxes covered in cartoon characters.

Samurai boys.
Samurai boys.

We then proceeded to catch a succession of ever-faster and ever more crowded trains, culminating in the Shinkansen to Osaka. The trip was slightly surreal in that it started on a tiny train station in the middle of nowhere where we were the only passengers and ended in a huge city where we crammed onto the subway with thousands of salarymen in dark suits.

Osaka is a huge city but luckily we’re staying right by the Castle which is the major attraction. The combination of this being our second castle and the boys’ computer gaming knowledge (they have in the past attacked this very castle in the virtual world) made Osaka Castle an interesting visit. This is a much more imposing place than Masumoto Castle – but it is also a reconstruction, while Masumoto was the real thing. We learnt a lot about Japanese history while touring the Castle, in particular about the Shogunate period. I feel like a came away with a somewhat different insight into Japan and its approach to things, and in particular to the Samurai concept of honour.

The boys got the chance to unleash their inner Samurai. They survived the experience without damage and with an appreciation of just how heavy those helmets are.

Osaka was mentally designated as our rest stop after the Nakasendo Trail. So we’re in a nice hotel where the staff speak English and we’re looking forward to a meal which is not a feast and doesn’t involve eating fish heads. In fact we’re likely to go forth and search for pizza.

Addendum: Well it turned out to be pasta in a bar on the 18th floor with a view of the Castle by night. Not bad, and we think likely an amusing contrast with tomorrow night which we’ll be spending in a Buddhist temple…

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