For 5 dollars I got to be Musashi

Himeji Castle

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.

I know... I'm no Mifune

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.

Everyone is just so darn nice!

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.

It's Mighty Atom!

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).

Everything is big in Himeji

I did eat another fish though, which Damien and Anna will appreciate. Not an ice cream, this one wasn’t great.

Gone fishing (part 2)

I didn’t find Bill Murray, but I found Leo. Still sporting that same stupid facial hair.

"Right side. And with intensity!"

But we all know who’s boss…

Who's the 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.

Now THIS is a big-ass bottle of Calpis

Today I died and went to heaven.


  1. michelle
    June 22, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Matt, that was hilarious! What is Calpis?….

  2. szotdogs
    June 22, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    You know you have eat that giant big mac.

  3. Meags
    June 22, 2010 at 2:53 pm

    Hi Unkie Matt,

    Keep up the great work with the blog…it’s awesome!! Sounds like you are having an amazing time. I showed the blog photos to Ella, she had two comments….1. (The photos of you) Where’s he at?? 2. (The photo with the rabbit) He’s going to see all the rabbits?? Then of course she asked about the present you promised her… haha! Jake says Hi too!!

    Meags xx

  4. Lucie
    June 22, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Love the pics and the stories!!! It looks like you’ll be publishing a book on your return 😉

  5. GlenAyako
    June 22, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Keep up the blogging Matt. It’s fantastic and it makes me want to get back to Japan sooner rather than later. Wish we were there!!!! I can eat 10 of those big big macs in 10 minutes and beat Kobayashi. Can’t wait to see the see all the photo’s and it sounds like you have seen many places that we have seen too. It’s a pity that Himeji has some construction around it but it is a magic castle (one of my favourites in Japan). All the best!!!

  6. muttler
    June 22, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    Howdy all!

    – Michelle… Calpis is a fermented milk. You can get it as soda or water. It is often called Calpico and it is delicious!

    – Mark… hells yeah I am gonna eat one! Oh, these photos are all pancake lens too. I can’t see me even using the others.

    – Lucie… thanks! I am definitely going to print each entry. I was going to keep a journal, but this is turning out heaps better.

    – Meags… hello and hello Ella and Jake! Of course Ella would remember me mentioning presents 🙂 Hope you all enjoy all the photos… Ella should love the deer!

  7. batmanisnotgay
    June 23, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    I heard that only one train station in Japan (or maybe it is only in Tokyo) is named after a person. That is Miyamoto Musashi. 😉

  8. Andrew
    June 27, 2010 at 1:41 pm

    How awesome is that burger, you have to eat it or die trying.


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