So it seems the “type up the blog while watching world cup” is becoming the norm. The rain coming in of an evening kinda contributes, but so does being buggered.
Anyway, I almost cried with happiness twice today. Today, as the picture above gives away, I jumped on the shinkansen to Himeji to visit the famous castle. This was easily one of my most anticipated destinations. I was a bit concerned heading there as I knew that it had just started undergoing a massive 4 year restoration that meant the main tower was off limits. And I knew that as part of that, the main tower was being completely enclosed in a temporary structure (if you don’t believe me, check this out).
But the first pang of absolute joy, and the catalyst for the almost tears was catching my first glimpse of the amazing main tower as I got out of the train station in Himeji. I can’t tell you just how mind-blowingly awesome it was. And that awesome increased exponentially as I approached the castle grounds.
Now I feel I should explain the blog title, the first part anyway. The cost for me to get into the castle was 400 yen (a bit lower than usual as the main tower was closed due to the renovations). 400 freakin’ yen. Do you know how much that is? Like 5 bucks. 5 dollars to visit one of the most impressive things IN THE WHOLE WORLD. It makes me question how anyone can charge anything for entry fees at anything in Australia. 30 bucks Melbourne Aquarium? You have to be kidding.
What will blow your mind even more is this. Meet Sadao-san…
Sadao-san was my english speaking guide for the next couple of hours. MY guide. My VOLUNTEER guide. My 400 yen not only got me in to my samurai fueled image of heaven, but my own personal tour to boot. I can without any doubt say this was the best 5 dollars I have ever spent. Ever. But I digress again…
Sadao-san took me on an amazing tour of the complex. Because entry into the main tower was closed, he took me to all other kinds of nooks and crannys throughout the castle complex. I walked the board of the ancient maids quarters. But most awesomely I made my way up the windy interior paths to the foot of the main tower, all the way Sadao-san explaining what attackers would be thinking, and what the castle’s defenders would be doing. I was a ninja attacking the castle. I was Musashi, the ultimate samurai.
Thankfully, the scaffolding you see in the picture was not too intrusive, and my experience wasn’t really sullied too much. As Sadao-san quite rightly pointed out… all I have to do is come back in about 5 years.
Sadly, I waved goodbye to Sadao-san and the castle, and chilled out in nearby Koko-en garden to relax for a little bit.
While wandering the garden and the grounds of the castle, I had my first encounter with the “random person wanting to talk to you”. Thankfully it wasn’t a crazy old guy, but this nice lady taking her kids for a walk.
She told me she was learning all about Himeji Castle and planned to take people around, so she wanted to know all about me and if I enjoyed the castle. I bumped into her again later in the day, so couldn’t resist the opportunity to get a photo. Even 2 year olds know how to pose for photos here.
The rest of my day was just wandering Himeji, taking the shinkansen back to Kyoto late in the afternoon, wandering a shopping mall I found on the other side of the train station (called Aeon Mall no less), ordering my first meal with no english involved whatsoever (all apologies and pointing and smiles), and finally crashing again.
But here are some random pictures from my travels that I know some of you will enjoy…
Firstly, as CC pointed out in her comment, Astro Boy does greet you outside Kyoto Station.
Next, I found this advertised in Himeji. Unfortunately I was on my way to catch my train back to Kyoto, but dammit, I will find it and eat it (this one is for you Glen).
I did eat another fish though, which Damien and Anna will appreciate. Not an ice cream, this one wasn’t great.
I didn’t find Bill Murray, but I found Leo. Still sporting that same stupid facial hair.
But we all know who’s boss…
So, you may be asking? At the start of the post I said I almost cried twice with happiness? What was the second time? Well, I was in a supermarket in the shopping centre and found this. 1.5 litres of liquid gold. All for about 2 dollars.
Today I died and went to heaven.