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Himeji and Kobe

2010 April 2
by will

Before I start talking about Himeji and Kobe…

I MUST RANT ABOUT SHINJUKU STATION!

I bet this is what happened to Shinjuku station when the Japanese people built it…

Engineer 1: Well, looks like we’re going to run a new line through Shinjuku.

Engineer 2: But isn’t it too big already?

E1: Nonsense! It’s just more convenient! I mean, it’s got everything in one place!

E2: But how are we going to fit a new line in?

E1: That’s easy, we’ll just make the station bigger!

E2: Gee, golly, I wish I was as smart as you!

And this repeated like 10 times!

Shinjuku station can easily be 10 different train stations and 3 different bus terminals with all the lines going through it. The station is so fricken big that it has 2 underground shopping malls AND connects to 8 above ground shopping malls. AND it’s getting bigger! The station just opened another main exit recently (South East exit). It’s pretty ridiculous.

Anyway, the reason why I’m ranting is because I was seconds to missing my bus. At first, I was briskly walking, then I was jogging, then I was running, then I was panicking and running. Seriously fucked up shit. I was 30 minutes early so that I can find the bus and I had to use all of it just to “barely” make it on. The bus driver and attendant were just about to leave when they saw me running for the bus.

So.. Fuck Shinjuku Station! Fuck Tokyo Station! Fuck Japanese bues! Fuck FUCK FUCKITY FUCK!

Ok, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, let’s talk about my trip.

Himeji is in Hyogo prefecture within the Kansai area of Japan. To put it in layman’s terms, it’s near Kobe, which is also in Hyogo prefecture. Himeji is famous for it’s beautiful castle (aptly named Himeji Castle) and is the largest one in Japan. It’s also one of those UNESCO World Heritage Sites so you know you’re seeing something special.

Himeji Castle.

I’m not exactly sure what the history behind the castle is but I’m sure it’s got a very detailed one. I mentioned before that I wanted to see it before it went under reconstruction (until 2015). Two parts of the castle were already blocked off and scaffolded. Boooo!! People were forced to go through a “tour route” so that people didn’t wonder into the construction zones. The castle was mostly construction free though so the construction wasn’t such a big deal.

Himeji castle was bigger than I imagined. I’ve been to a few Japanese castles before and this one blows them all away in terms of size and awesomeness. If anyone reading this is ever in the Hyogo (and even Osaka) area, take a day trip out to see this castle! It’s worth it. Just do it after 2015 (or before April 12 this year).

Another look of Himeji Castle.

Beside the castle are a whole bunch of cultural things such as a really pretty Japanese garden, a shrine, a zoo and a couple of museums. The garden, Kokoen, is quite nice. The name translates to “Little Old Garden” in English and the place has like 10 different gardens.

Cherry Blossoms

Cherry Blossoms.

The main garden has a nice pond, complete with goldfish, waterfall, bonsai and sakura trees. It even has a tea house so visitors can enjoy the garden while sipping on some green tea. The other gardens are smaller and not really notable.

Kokoen.

And that’s about it for Himeji… I didn’t go into the zoo but I read that it’s not really all that great so whatever. Plus my feet were already aching from walking in the castle. There’s an art museum which I didn’t go into (I really have no interest in art). There’s also the Hyogo prefectural museum which at the time had a “Miniature gallery” where things were made super small with microscopic detail. I suppose it’s kinda like art. Visitors were given a magnifying glass (that doesn’t work) to see the stuff in detail. It was interesting for about 10 minutes before I started falling asleep. Sigh…

By this time, it was late afternoon and I was dead tired. I checked in, took a bath and rested a bit. Overnight buses are brutal on the body. I thought about where to go next now that I’ve done Himeji and decided to head out for night adventures in Kobe.

Kobe is the capital of Hyogo Prefecture famous for its Kobe beef. Duh! I didn’t have any, BTW. I’m a cheap bastard. Anyway, the plan was to go to Kobe, go up Mt. Rokko and take photos of the night view of Osaka Bay. It’s supposed to be one of the most beautiful views in all of Japan.

Well, after I got out of Sannomiya train station (in Kobe), I tried to find the bus stop and the bus that goes up to the mountain. After walking around for an hour, I gave up and started looking for food. After walking around for another hour looking for food, I “accidently” found the bus stop I was looking for. Too bad the last bus had left already. So, I continued looking for food and ended up at this KBBQ rice place. It was decent but definitely not worth the 7 bucks for the Kalbi rice bowl. I did eat a lot of kimchi though to make up for the cost. Did I mention I’m a cheap bastard?

After dinner, I decided to go to the port area just to check it out but on my way there, I go on a subway train that was full of robot ads. Then I remembered something… That robot is in Kobe! That’s when I decided to switch destinations. I made a beeline towards the giant robot.

Tetsujin 28

Tetsujin 28

Nothing like a 20m tall robot to cap off a crazy night. Went back to my hotel right after and passed out after drinking some delicious strong grapefruit chuu-high. Yeah!

For reference, here’s the album… http://picasaweb.google.ca/willchau/HimejiAndKobe

Next up, Okayama.

-Will

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