John was in town for a bit, so we did some touristy stuff. Probably the most impressive thing I saw was this gigantic Buddha in Nara (奈良). We spent all morning in a museum full of Buddhas and I was pretty sure I had seen enough Buddhas to last me for quite a while, so the impression of this one was really something. I can only imagine how I would have felt if I came at it fresh, so to speak.
It's difficult to appreciate in the pictures how big it really is, or even when you're there in person. In fact, to help you get a grip on the size of the thing, the monks have cut a hole in one of the pillars of the building that's the same size as one of the Buddha's nostrils. The whole is big enough for school children to craw through; and so they do. While I was there, I watched a 10 year old kid go through with no problem.
The Buddha is guarded by various fierce looking figures. This one is a scholar. You can see his brush and his scroll.
Probably the best way to get a sense for the size of the Buddha is to see the building that houses it surrounded by tiny people. The Buddha's seat reaches all the way up to the roof of that building.
On a different day, we went for a bit of a hike in a town called Mino (箕面), north of Osaka. At the end of November, the leaves were turning here, so it's the best season to see the red leaves.
The area where we went was actually packed with people, but you could get off the busy paths pretty easily and have a quiet hike.
And, just so you don't think these days it's all about Buddhas and autumn leaves, here are some other random shots.
It's the x-mas season here now, so these sample girls, at one of the big stations in Umeda, are dressed up to match the season, as - Oh, I don't know - sexy, black Santas. They're handing out free samples of luxury, high-end cat food. You know, 'cause nothing says Christmas like giving your cat gourmet food that you got from a sample girl dressed in a sexy French maid costume that's really a Santa costume.
And then, out by the docks near the international convention halls, we have an ominous building somewhat vaguely called "Service Center" - where everything is yellow.
A few weeks back, I took another friend out to Nagasawa's shop and on the way out we walked by a sort of suburban stripmall. Below, you see the shelves in the parking lot where a liquor store keeps all it's bulk beer. There was no one around and no sign of any security, but there it was, just sitting there, right by the road - cases upon cases of booze. In the plastic cartons to the right, there are individual bottles of beer - again, let me reiterate, within easy reach of anyone who happened by.
Finally, a picture of a host, before going out on Saturday night, saying a quick prayer at a local shrine. After he threw his money into the container, he tucked his white Louis Vuitton bag between his legs, bent his head, pressed his hands together and said whatever it is one says under such circumstances.