Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Day 7: Himeji Castle and Kobe

We started our day by going down to the grocery store within the Kyoto Station for some breakfast. I scored myself a nice bento box, and Aren finally found some chicken and rice without raw egg on it. We packed that S up and headed for the train. We took a rapid train all the way to Himeji, but even on a rapid train, the trip was about an hour and a half. We realized later that we could have taken a shinkansen there as well, and saved about a 1/2 hour, oh well.

Himeji castle is one of the, if not the, most famous castles in Japan. It is said that if you are going to see one castle in Japan, you should see Himeji. The castle was built by a feudal lord in 1331. It has stood since then, and to my knowledge, actually did see some action in war.

The castle is about half a mile away from the station, well in walking distance. However, it is such the tourist attraction, that you can easily take a bus or rent a bike to the castle. The castle is impressive, even from the train station, and it only gets more impressive as you get closer to it.

Speaking of the train station and it's distance, when the train lines went in in the late 1800s, the then owners of the castle would not allow the trains within the outer moat of the castle. The outer moat protected all of the city that cropped up in the shadow of the castle, for the protection it gave. All of the old city has been replaced with newer shops and restaurants, however, you can still use the station as a point of reference for as far as the feudal town used to go.

It was hot yesterday, but thankfully, not all that humid, which made for a pretty decent walk. This was a God-send as we walked a lot.

It costs 600 yen to enter the castle, but is well worth the money. The woman automatically gave us an English flier, and all of the signs throughout the castle are in English and Japanese. We took our time through the castle and road most of them, learning quite a bit.

When we got to the castle, we were welcomed by a massive, green colored moat, leading right up to the sheer stone wall. Welcome to the first phase of the castle defenses. In the background, the main tower loomed above the walls and the trees. It looks so large and impressive you almost can't believe that it is really there.

First views up close:

This was made in the 1800s, after the time when the moat was useful for protection. They recently rebuilt this, though, and IMO it looks too new

Gate after the bridge

We start the journey through the castle towards the main tower

Circle, square, rectangle and triangle holes cover most of the castle walls. Like the European castles, this is where soldiers would fire their weapons to defeat advancing forces.

Getting closer

Yet another gate, I believe this is the third one

The roof tiles bear the family crest of the lords who have lived in, or repaired the castle.

going up

as you can see, the walls are very steep

These holes, and this slit were also used for protection. They would pour boiling stuff down the slit, and throw rocks out of the holes, to stop anyone who managed to get by the moat, and the hundred of soldiers shooting at them from the holes in the wall

They castle builders were struggling to find enough stones to build the massive walls for the castle. This mill stone was donated by a poor woman who made a living selling rice cakes. Her story spread and more donated stones started to come in. At another part of the castle, they actually used stone tombs to help build the walls

We are starting to get pretty high in our climb to the main tower

a well, there were something like 32 of these on the castle grounds, 13 of them still work

Unlike in the US, people actually observe this warning

A nice garden at the foot of the main tower

I told you everything in this country burns down

We took our shoes off and started to journey inside the castle

First floor, just a lot of rooms that were used to store weapons and armor

The wind blowing through these windows felt really good. All of the windows had these wide concrete pillars to prevent weapons from making it inside

The steps were very steep in the castle, it was another form of defense, because it isn't very easy to climb them

From the top

looking out the window

Even we were too tall for some of these stairs

The roof tiles are actually Korean style, the castle builder got the idea to use this style after he invaded Korea

Weapons are everywhere, and on every floor

At the top of the tower (6 floors up) there is a shrine

and an awesome view:

This shows the structure of the castle. In the 1950s they actually took the castle down, replaced damaged pieces and put it back up. This was made before they took it down to examine the structure of the castle, and to find any weak points

when they were rebuilding the castle they found some archives from the original builders, including these shoes.

After the north tower we headed towards a building that was built a little bit later, to house Lord Honda, and his bride, Princess Sen. Herdowry was so large that they still had some left over after building this large building.

Being the home of a princess, the house was decorated in the best materials, there were beautiful silk screens one very wall, and thick mats on all of the floor. Unfortunately, most of these items were lost in, you guessed it, a fire. They recreated this room based on a painting of Princess Sen. She's the one in the orange kimodo

The view of the tower was beautiful from this part of the grounds

After the castle, we got on the shinkansen and started back towards Kyoto. One of the stops along the way was Kobe. We decided to get off and get dinner, as well as see some of the stuff in Kobe. We went to the Harbor area.

Stupid fake Italian boat

People were trying very hard to get us to pay for a 15 minute ride around the harbor on this thing

Closer photo of the harbor tower

This crap really is world wide

The Maritime museum had a great design

We didn't go inside, but we did enjoy the free exhibits outside

This boat is propelled with magnets

Pirate ship

Awesome hotel

Uh yeah

Just next to the museum was a park dedicated in honor of the 6,000 people who died in the Kobe earthquake in 1995. The earthquake hit the harbor area particularly hard, mostly because the land was reclaimed from the ocean. This same fact is what destroyed the marina district in San Fransisco in the 1989 earthquake.At the time, the harbor took 70% of Japan's import and exports. It was severely crippled, and actually put Japan into a depression. A pier that was built in the 1800s was completely destroyed, they left a portion of the pier as is, to show the extent of the damage

The city has completely rebuilt, and expanded, in the 12 years since the earthquake. Check out their awesome double-decker freeway system

We tried to refill our water bottles at this drinking fountain, but were unable to for obvious reasons


Yum, Kobe beef, $125 worth

If you want beef in Kobe that's cheaper, you can always go by the local McD's for a megamac

If you don't like beef, go for the McPork

I thought my dad might like this heavenly golf shop

Even though my grandmother told me that this reverse swastika is the symbol of a Bhuddish temple

After that we got on the train and headed home. We had some ramen and went to sleep.


Laer said...

I wonder if New Orleans will look as good 12 years after Katrina.

umie said...

what a nice shots! can i grab your pictures from this page, please??
i went there in last few days, but it's kind that i was missing some great pics there. thank u very much b4.


Lauren said...

Umie, feel free to use the pictures. Perferably with a link back to the blog ;)

umie said...

Thank you, it's only for my private collection :)