April 27, 2009

A Worthwhile Trip Back To Himeji Castle

We have only been to Himeji Castle once. It was last year, during Cherry Blossom Season for 0-hanami. (We picniced. There was a huge festival. Sakura were blooming everywhere. It was beautiful and fun, but we were also joined by thousands upon thousands of our closest Japanese revelers - meaning... it was crowded!). With rumors of long-term renovations starting soon (now, pushed back to starting this Fall), we have been wanting to go back - it is such a nice town and we wanted to get a more relaxed and closer look at the castle, which is up there as Japan's most authentic and striking classic castle. On Sunday we did.

We got off to a bit of a slow start. After all, it was Sunday morning. But that worked out perfectly. Before leaving, we popped in on a small matsuri taking place on Rokko Island (food, farmers market, and music).

On the Rokkoliner and JR train, Jacob and Lauren were in rare form, making friends with and exchanging stickers with different groups of Japanese teenage girls. Although the kawaii squeels that they elicit just by being little white blond children can sometimes (understandably) overwhelm the kids, its fun and funny when they just roll with it. This time, Jacob kept proudly repeating "Very Cute-O," after being so dubbed.
When we arrived in Himeji, the sun was breaking through the to-that-point-gloomy clouds. We happened to catch a very interesting dance routine in front of the castle, before we headed in. We saw some of the peonies garden, and stopped to say hello to the cats that seemed to live there. (Since Japanese dogs are often so small, many of these cats were scaring the dogs!)

We also made some more friends out in front of the castle, who asked us to take their somewhat kooky-posed picture in front of the castle. (We took one of them for ourselves - and for you! - too:)
The castle was completely uncrowded, and we could really take our time to tour the castle building. The kids were super-interested in the castle; it is a true battle fortress, and were running around peeking through the various look-out slits and checking out the hanging weaponry. There was also some striking art on display.

We enjoyed climbing the narrow steep staircases (more like ladders) up to the sixth floor, while carrying our shoes in white plastic bags there were handed out at the entrance.
It was a far more relaxing and extremely enjoyable trip to Himeji. We are really glad that we went back!