Day 4 – Sakai – or why I would lose at the Amazing Race

May 22, 2007 at 4:57 pm | Posted in Japan, Osaka, Sakai, Travel | Leave a comment
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I wanted to visit the Sakai areaafter reading about the kofun (or tumuli) located in the city. Emperor Nintoku’s kofun is apparently the largest in Japan with a base larger than the Great Pyramid at Giza. According to the city’s excellent tourist website (seemingly the only real information about the area) they also have a few other museums of interest to me – including a general city museum and another for Henomatsu Human Rights. For the sporty they also have a bicycle museum. Of course getting there was my first and only obstacle.

After arriving at Osaka station I rather dumbly said I wanted to go to Sakai rather than Mozu station. Mistake number 1. While on the train I looked at the route map to see if we were just skipping Mozu because it was an express but no and upon arrival at Sakai instead of asking a guard I decided to explore. Which is fine. To a point.

Later I’ll determine that I should have been able to take a local train to get towards Mozu.

So I decide to walk and quickly see a map (in Japanese) of the area – including the outline of a kofun – figuring I’ll check it out I begin to walk. For a bit. At an intersection by complete chance I spy hidden in the bushes a handy English tourist guide advising me to follow a particular path and see the sights. I do wonder how a tourist would find this sign and path without earlier ones to lead them here but I was in no mood to backtrack. Ahead was the plan. The path is allegedly marked by signs.

Unfortunately I’m not 100% on what these signs are and this leads me to wander aimlessly for quite some time and even the novelty of being the only foreigner for a change and walking around a town to just see wears off. Luckily at almost that very moment I spot a mound, thinking it might just be a kofun I head over to take a photo. Walking along its side though I come to the awful realisation that this is indeed some sort of historic land mark but not to Emperors but to sewerage and water control.

Fortunately I have spotted some of these tourist signs and begin something of a “Where’s Wally” hunt to continue my journey. At one point I do spot a big hill behind a fence and figuring that this may indeed be my kofun take a few snaps through the bars and forlornly follow the signs – now quite plentiful.

After some more walking I have made my way to, what I shall call the Sakai City CBD but for all I know was Osaka, and by pure chance came across their tourist/job office. While it looked like it was still under construction I was still able to go in and try my luck with the staff.

Presumably because the top floor was the job hunt section (while the touristy stuff was still being finished) they didn’t have any pamphlet maps to give me. Rather they went and photocopied a few pages from their local UBD and kindly highlighted where I was and where the city museum was situated. Now the hard part was the Henomatsu museum (this museum covers the out-castes from the medieval caste system period and the ongoing discrimination they face in Japan, it was a subject I was unaware of before looking up the Sakai city web-page while investigating the kofun). Apparently, it was also a topic the staff were unaware of as they sought to look it up in Japanese and eventually I convince them to let me show them the Sakai City English web-page (they seemed quite excited… like they’d never seen it before). Even so they only had a very vague idea of the museum and said it was not on the photocopied UBD maps they’ve given me.

Unfortunately, while the sun was still shining brightly it was getting on in time before the museum closed so taking their advice I went to the train station. I promptly arrived at the station and got on the train – only to find it was taking me in the wrong direction. So obviously it took some more time to get on the right train and arrive. Although now that I had actually arrived things went smoothly.

I found the kofun – with English information boards – and was impressed by it’s general size (although really it does look like a mound). With the exception of natural events the tomb has never been opened because it houses the Emperor’s remains – presumably an advantage of an unbroken monarchy. If I didn’t feel so weary I would have done the 3km walk around its base but I’ll leave this in this instance to go to the city museum located quite close by. For 200Y the entry fee is quite reasonable and they provide a very brief English guide. The content in the museum is all in Japanese and I was only able to discern a bit but generally it seemed interesting. I was able to rush through very quickly. 

Without knowing specifically where the henomatsu museum was and running out of time I gave up any hope of finding it and consoled myself that it would have probably been all in Japanese and by the looks of that map quite small as well.  I took this opportunity to walk around the park lands near the city museum and at 4:40 found myself at the, of all places, Japanese gardens. The ticket and guard person seemed concerned that I wouldn’t be able to see it all before 5 when it closed but I assured them with hand signals and simple Japanese it was doable. And doable it was, as I power-walked through the gardens I took numerous (possibly shaky) photos and left (to their surprise) before closing. If I had more time I would have enjoyed the garden and found it (more) relaxing.

Now back to the station and Osaka.

Despite my own ineptness I thought Sakai has a lot of potential for future tourist growth – particularly if they can capitalise on the kofun, my only real complaint is that the city website does not have a street level map or ideally a PDF with all of the sights listed and much easier to find/ ask for directions.

I was quite bored during my early wanderings and as a result my Flickr page is quite slanted towards Sakai photos. I know I promise this a lot (it is really dependent on Internet cafes/ pricing) but I will put photos up on Wordpress at some point and those that are already on Flickr will get descriptions and rotated correctly soon. 

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