Sorry again for the late post. I was out late last night with some people from my hostel, but I will get to that later.
Anyway, I had planned to revisit Arashiyama on my third day here amd them visit Himeji and Okayama on Saturday (which is today as I write this). However, the weather forecast called for rain all day Saturday, so I changed my plans to visit Himeji a day earlier than planned. Since I’ve been to Arashiyama already, I’m kinda ok with not seeing again (I had hoped to see the monkey park!).
Himeji is a place I had wanted to visit on my first trip to Japan, but it was still undergoing restoration work and was completely covered in scaffolding. Visitors at the time were allowed inside to see parts of it, but i decided to simoly save Himeji for a later time.
I woke up early-ish in the morning since Himeji is a bit of a trek to get to by train as i had hoped to see both it and Okayama (further west) and be back in Kyoto by 5 pm for a taiko drumming class I had signed up for. Unfortunately, it took some time for me to activate my rail pass and find the best route to Himeji that did not use the bullet train between Kyoto and Osaka, as my specific pass does not cover that. As a result, I was a bit later leaving Kyoto than planned…oops!
In any case, I did not reach Himeji until after 11 am and it’s a fair walk to the castle. At the castle, you can pay to either see the castle or the castle plus the nearby gardens, but since I was a bit short on time, I decided to just see the castle.
The castle itself is beautiful and big. I think it’s the biggest original castle (meaning, it’s not a modern reconstruction like most castles are; most castles were destroyed either by natural disasters, fires, or war, leaving just 12 original castles left) but I could be wrong! The inside of the main keep is actually fairly bare, but the interior wood is really quite nice. The only thing I don’t like about original castles is that they all feature narrow, steep staircases with low-hanging beams. Apparently, this was intentional to make it difficult for invading soldiers to make their way up, thus slowing them down.
The top of the main keep, like most castles, offers a great view in all directions over the surrounding city. Back in the old days, this allowed guards to see the whole town and see any approaching enemies, but nowadays, it just makes for nice views for tourists
After, I made my way back down, wandered the grounds a little more, including a connecting gallery, which housed the ladies-in-waiting.
By the time I was all finished, it was almost 1 pm. Doing some calculations, I decided I would not have enough time to visit Okayama, so I stopped by a shopping arcade to find a place to eat lunch. I stumbled on a tiny restaurant specializing in grilled eel, which I absolutely love, so of course I made my way in. It was off the tourist trail, so there weren’t any English signs or menus so I did a lot of pointing, haha! In any case, my meal was delicious!
After, I took the train back to Kyoto, hung out at the train station for a bit, and then made my way to the Taiko Center. Unfortunately, I got pretty lost and was 15 minutes late. Even still, I had a great time and even with a shortened lesson due to my tardiness, I managed to get through a short, simple song. It was fun to do an activity for once instead of just sightseeing.
After the lesson, I had to make my way back to the hostel. Some people I met there wanted to go out for dinner and drinks, around 7 or 8 pm, so I had to make it back by then. Unfortunately, Google Maps gave me the run-around by telling me to take a bus route that doesn’t even exist, and then once I found another route, I accidentally got mixed up and took the right bus but in the wrong direction! Still, I knew the bus would get me to where I wanted, but it would just be the longer route. However, about halfway there, the bus driver said something and all the people got off the bus, so I did too. So then I had to find yet another bus that would also stop near the hostel, which I eventually did.
I thought for sure I would be late but I was, in fact, the first person to arrive. I took my time to change clothes and freshen up a bit, since I had worked up a sweat with the taiko drumming. We all waited in the cafe/common area, but a few people never showed, so around 9 pm we left evacuee we were hungry. We ended up eating at a tiny restaurant in the Pontocho area, where we stuffed ourselves with okonomiyaki and yakisoba, then headed to a nearby bar (although it was more of a pub) with some drinks.
In Japan , people smoke everywhere, including indoors. My lungs are quite sensitive to cigarette smoke, so I did not stay long, as nearly everyone there was smoking. I left with the two Australians, since they had been up very early in the morning and were exhausted by midnight.
So, that was pretty much my long day! Day 4 will be comparatively more boring since, again, it’s supposed to rain the whole time.