Day 16: Himeji Castle

Today we visited Himeji castle on the way to Hiroshima. This is probably the best example of a Japanese castle from the 1600’s. I recognized it from many of the samurai movies I’ve seen over the years, but seeing it in person was really impressive. You can see it from the train, and it just keeps getting bigger the closer you get. I felt lazy after yesterday’s hike and we rode a taxi up the street to the castle.

There is a long winding climb just to get to the castle’s base level, at which point you purchase your tickets. After you enter the castle gates you are directed towards the west bailey, where you tour a long building that was constructed with a princess’ dowry. This building was used to house women, and the princess herself lived their with her husband while other parts of the castle were being renovated.

We then made our way to the main castle tower, looking up we could see little faces in the windows looking down at us. Robyn confirmed my suspicion that the castle did not have the luxury of elevators.

Inside the castle there were many little signs to explain what everything was, and it’s nice to have something to read while Robyn takes pictures. Of course there were many different signs, but the same sign was posted for many of “Stone Throwing Holes”  (and there were very many places for stone throwing).

Eventually Robyn’s camera battery died so we only have a few pictures from inside of the main castle. The castle did spark my imagination of what it must have been like to live there when it was a military stronghold full of weapons, warriors, servants, and masters from 14th – 19th century. Himeji castle is in a tie with Todaiji for the coolest thing I’ve seen in Japan so far.

I also have to mention how much we have grown to like Osaka. Anywhere you look there is a restaurant, bar, street vendor, or vending machine. On the walk back to the Himeji train station we really had to look for a place to eat. It’s just not something we have had to do the entire trip. We did eventually find a small place, I picked up some pork cutlet and Robyn got curry. Can’t go wrong with the classics.

Waiting for our train to Hiroshima I took a few pictures of the different bullet trains. Some of them zoomed by, and if you are not watching for the train to pass it can be a bit surprising as it whooshes past. It’s easy to see why they get the name “bullet trains”.

The bullet trains are actually named “Shinkansen”, and they are top of the line public transportation. Inside it was roomier and better appointed than our plane flight. We even got ice cream from the car attendant. We had planned on a long ride, but we did not even have time to take a nap… which is a great way to pass time on the rail.

I’m not really excited to visit Hiroshima Peace Park, but I still have always wanted to go there. Mainly because I know I’ll feel guilty as an American – that our country was the first to start nuclear warfare. Robyn also has told me about the sad stories they have in the museum. But these memorials need to be seen, and impact of the event understood. Later in the day we will go to the Mazda museum to lighten the mood a little.

We finished the night with dinner at a real Japanese steakhouse on the 21st floor of our hotel. I could have bought another valkyrie with how much we paid for dinner. It was a really classy little place so I did not bust out the camera and do the usual tourist moves. Japanese steak houses in America will never be the same. There was no show, no flash, no clanging knifes. Just the best seafood, steak, fried rice, vegetables, and service.