We’re staying in a cute little house in Hatsukaichi. Well, not as cute as some others, maybe. It’s a cuboid with a corrugated tin roof. It’s not made from paper, but we do think cardboard is involved.
It was really cold our first night here. The vents can’t be closed and they seem to let cold air in but keep the warm air out. Also, for the first time since we arrived in Japan, we’re having to use a toilet seat without a bottom heater. On the other hand, there aren’t several other buttons to cause mayhem with.
One thing I do like is the makeshift shelf unit installed above the toilet seat. This is a wonderful way to increase storage for such necessities as loo paper. I don’t think Liesel’s a big fan, though. I had similar ‘temporary’ shelves installed in our house in Chessington, in the main bedroom and on the landing… But when Liesel moved in, they had to go: they made her feel claustrophobic!
This was all in the future though when we stopped off at Himeji Castle. We programmed Google Maps to take us there, aware that there was a good chance we’d get lost. But no: as soon as we left the station, we could see the castle looking down on the town from a mile or so away. We would have to try very hard indeed not to find it today.
Himeji High Street (I’m sure that’s its real name) is a wide boulevard and decorated with a collection of sculptures.
They are mostly young maidens but there are a couple of chaps too, one wearing a hat.
But I think my favourite was Summer Hat Girl.
The first fort on the hill was built in 1333 and it’s been expanded, enhanced, rebuilt, augmented frequently ever since. It is an imposing building and hard to believe that wood forms the main structure.
I think every shrine, temple and castle that we’ve visited has at some point in its history been at least partially destroyed by fire and then rebuilt. Several times in a couple of cases.
But this castle should be safe from now on. A mythical being on the roof is protecting the castle against fire but, as the loud, young American boy wondered aloud, how does that work, then? The other thing in the castle’s favour is the ban on smoking.
We took our shoes off before entering the castle as is the custom. Then, within a few paces, I also removed my socks: the shiny, slippery, wooden floor was just begging me to go A over T.
We walked up six (I think) flights of stairs to the top of the castle from where we had a great view of the surrounding countryside.
We confirmed our suspicions: a Stone Drop is the place from where you can drop stones onto your enemies’ heads.
The last renovation was started in 1956 and completed in March 1964 – more or less the same day as Guildford Cathedral was finished. It never even crossed my 9-year old mind that building work was also taking place way over there in Japan. When they dismantled the old structure, they discarded old, rotting timber, of course. But they did find useful notes written by the original builders, and these helped enormously when they came to rebuild the castle.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of it becoming a World Heritage Site. I don’t know if this is why the admission fee was waived today, or maybe they were just pleased to see us.
Walking back down the main road, we passed a shop selling the most gorgeous wedding dresses.
And just in case we were becoming homesick, we found this sign in a department store.
We arrived at the aforementioned Airbnb and on the walk from the local railway station, we saw some cats in the street. We hadn’t seen real life cats for a long time, so this was a surprise.
Then, in our new house, we notice the clock has a cat theme too.
After dumping our bags, we went out for a quick walk, and we happened to stop at the restaurant right next door to the station. We had okonomiyaki which was a fantastic cabbage-based pancake. Bung some spuds in and it would become the world’s best bubble and squeak!
None of the staff could speak more than a few words of English, we of course can’t speak more than one word of Japanese, but we had a good chat just the same, about visiting Hiroshima and Miyajima. As a bonus, we were each given a satsuma for dessert.