After three days in Tokyo, I shot off on the Shinkansen (bullet train) and landed in the city of Takatsuki, smack dab in the middle of major cities Kyoto and Osaka. Along with visiting the major tourist sites, I also learned what makes Takatsuki an enjoyable home base.
Years ago my dear friend Soureya introduced me to the breathtaking film Memoirs of a Geisha. The red pillars of the Fushimi-Inari shrine have been etched into my mind’s eye ever since.
And so it was quite surreal to exit the train station and see the vibrant entrance to the shrine standing against the pale sky.
I learned quickly that the site was larger than I anticipated–it took about two hours to walk the duration of the trek up and down the mountain–but I was reminded again of the privilege of lazy summer days when I realized I had nothing but time to walk as slowly as I’d like. I even met a hiking buddy on the train ride over!
Speaking of the hike, a word to the wise: For the love of Pete, wear shorts, wear spandex, wear a spandex shorts, just…don’t wear full length denim jeans to do a two-hour hike up a mountain in the Japanese summer–even if it is the rainy season. Not the most comfortable option.
But even the rivulets of sweat couldn’t dampen the exhilaration of walking up through the seemingly endless gates.
As I climbed, the tide of people in the corridors would ebb and flow. At one time there would be crowds of fellow tourists, stopping for water or gawking at a view of the city, and then at other times it would seem as if I was the only person on the path, a secret of the Japanese jungle.
I didn’t know anything about this city before I pulled into its main train station, but a speedy Google search showed me that Osaka Castle was only an hour’s walk away. So I set out.
It was pouring rain the whole day, and I found a bakery tucked away on a little side street during my walk across the city, so I was a pretty happy camper.
The castle was nice, too.
While Takatsuki doesn’t have any of the big-name shrines or castles that draw tourists to its neighboring cities, this small city has plenty of love to give.
What I liked so much about Takatsuki was its easygoing nature. There aren’t any skyscrapers or droves of pedestrians, but there are plenty of cafes and public spaces. I spent a day writing postcards in a park. Good afternoon.
And you can see from the dining that cultures from all over the world have settled into the fabric of this town. From Hawaiian to Italian to French, there’s all sorts of options.
And–glory of glories–I even found an Indian restaurant! Traveling alone, I’m used to dinner dates for one. But with this naan the size of my head to keep me company, I certainly had nothing to complain about.
And of course, I enjoyed my stay with my host Chiaki. I was well taken care of all day, from the generous breakfasts (with the best homemade bread I’ve tasted since…er…sliced bread),
Even though we only really crossed paths in the evening after she got home from work and I got home from adventuring, I still enjoyed our times playing with her dogs or meeting the rest of her family.
I had never heard of Takatsuki before being placed in Chiaki’s homestay, but my time there put me in the perfect position to experience three very different cities in as many days. I’ll be sure to take the sweet memories back to Tokyo as I finish out my time in Japan!