After breakfast we got on a train again for the long trip to Himeji. The trip there was pretty nice as the train went past the coastline in Kobe and we got a nice view of the Akashi-Kaikyo bridge, which is the longest suspension bridge in the world. And one of the best things of riding the train is that the cars are all fully air-conditioned.
It’s Obon (summer vacation) right now and that means it’s HOT in Japan. And it was extremely hot today. Japanese women were carrying around their umbrellas and wearing their long sleeved and high collared shirts to protect themselves from the sun. The foreigners seemed to use different anti-sun tools, like sun block, sunglasses and the free plastic fans to enjoy some self-made air-conditioning. But everybody seemed to be hiding in the shade, using a small towel to wipe the continuous sweat or their foreheads, and drinking a water to keep their bodies hydrated. Just before we went up to Himeji Castle we found a little shack which sprayed thin water mist from all sides to provide some shade and cooling down from the insane heat (not that it helped much).
Himeji Castle, a.k.a. the White Heron Castle is very white and beautiful. It’s built in 1333 and is one Japan’s 3 famous castles and the most visited one in Japan. It’s a World Heritage Site and one of Japan’s National Cultural Treasures. And hundreds of years ago, one of Yasu’s ancestors, Norimoto Kotera, was the Lord of Himeji Castle. Also, the castle appears in a James Bond movie (You Only Live Twice) and The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise.
Even though no one lives in the castle we were still expected to take our shoes off, so inside it was crowding with shoeless people. We climbed all the way to the top, where Gy dumped one of his lucky 5 yen coins to ring a bell and make a wish, and Gui wrote a comment about the heat in the guestbook, in Dutch. My mom and I just took loads of pictures, and enjoyed the cooler temperature near the castle windows.
After saying goodbye to Himeji Castle it was time we nourished our bodies with some food, even though the insane heat seems to evaporate your hunger just as quickly as it does your hope for some nice cool breeze. We bought a huge senbei which to me looked prettier than it tasted (just too dry for a summer snack), but the nori was beautifully decorated with a picture of the castle and its crest. After just taking a few bites the senbei was discarded for all and traded in for some real lunch.
The Japanese like to use English very much, but sometimes they don’t know quite how to express themselves in English and some funny version of English gets broadcasted into the world. Much to the enjoyment of English speakers in Japan, who call this ‘Engrish’. There’s actually a whole website devoted to Engrish and it’s really very funny, and occasionally I stumble upon some funny Engrish myself, but I usually forget to photograph it… But today I remembered to take a picture:
Don't worry, I always pee with absolute confidence!
Next on the schedule: Amagasaki. We’re visiting Yasu’s house where my parents will meet Yasu’s parents for the very first time ever, even though we’ve been together for more than 4 years…