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Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Himeji & Kobe

We were going to Hanshin-Umeda to take the train to Himeji. Himeji is located in the Hyogo prefecture, still within the Kansai region. The train ride was long, bringing us from Osaka to Kobe and finally to Himeji, all in about 1 hour and 40 minutes. From the Sanyo-Himeji Station, it's about 1km to walk to the castle grounds. It was sunny, at about 11 - 13 deg ... very pleasant weather for walking.

 What a beautiful and sunny day to be walking towards Himeji Castle ... 

Himeji Castle is also known as Hakuro-jo, meaning White Heron Castle. Its exterior is all white, and it is supposed to resemble a white heron taking flight. It is supposedly built in 1333 and expanded through to the 1600s. It has remained intact ever since, surviving wars and natural disasters. It is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site.

To get in, we had to pay ¥1040, and this was inclusive of the entrance to Koko-en Garden which is located next to Himeji Castle.

So majestic!

To enter the interiors of the castle, we took off our footwear and put them in a plastic bag which we had to carry with us. Then we nagivated the wooden interiors of the castle, climbing up steep and high wooden steps up the 6 storeys .... it was quite a tiring climb!

Inside Himeji Castle - it was certainly well-preserved!

View of Himeji City from the top floor of Himeji Castle

There's a shrine here on the top floor, and some people do pay their respects, bowing down in supplication. There were also staff who were repeating, "Congratulations, you have reached the top floor of Himeji Castle ..... " Lol .... 

Then it was a long climb down ..... 

View of the castle against the blue sky ... so beautiful ... 

View of Himeji Castle from the West Bailey, Nishi-no-maru

A visit to Himeji Castle would not be complete without a stopover at Koko-en Garden. This is a beautifully-landscaped Japanese garden. The late autumn colours were so lovely! Indeed the whole garden exudes peace and serenity .... 

Breathtakingly beautiful! 

Loving the colours! 
I could sit here all day .....

So tired from all that walking, we stopped by this little shop on our the way back to the Sanyo-Himeji Station, and saw that it sold bento lunches .... and we stood for a while there, perusing what they had. The young man inside was really nice ... and he came out of the shop so that he could see for himself which bento set we wanted to order or which bento set we were pointing at.

The shop

My Bento Lunch

Ta-da! All for ¥590.
A lot of rice with an umeboshi on top; the meats consist of a piece of fried chicken, pan-fried salmon and a battered chikuwa; then there's a piece of tamago, a piece of very flavourful braised daikon, carrot, konniyaku, lotus root, kamaboko, a sweet tofu and I loved the radish pickles! So much food and it took us such a long time to eat everything! 

Ikayaki, ¥250
This was bought from the shop next door .... it's some sort of a flattened egg crepe with tiny bits of squid inside, and drenched with a sweet bbq/okonomiyaki sauce and topped with bonito flakes ....

The shop owner came out to give us free Japanese nori! So unexpected, so kind of him.

The shop owner came out another time and gave us free chicken karaage! 3 pieces! We kept mouthing our thank yous ..... so kind of him! 

Lunch was a happy occasion! We were so full. But I could not resist an ice-cream .... 

Choc almond ice cream, ¥200
I bought this from the shop that sold us the ikayaki; The banner said "soft ice-cream" but it's not exactly soft serve .... I saw the lady vendor taking a tub of ice-cream and putting it into a machine which pressed it out onto a cone; not smooth but quite tasty with generous bits of almonds inside ....

We took the Hanshin train back to Kobe-Sannomiya ... and from here, we took the local subway to Shin Kobe. That's where to Nunobiki Ropeway was located. We paid ¥1400 for a return trip on the cable car. It brought us up to the Top Station Herb Garden, giving us an astounding view of the city of Kobe ....

On the way up .... Kobe in the background ....  

At the top station ....  

There's a rose garden here, but there weren't many blooms, it being winter and all; and also a fragrance museum which we could visit.

Beautiful blooms I saw while walking down to the mid-station

More greens on the way down .....

We took a leisurely stroll down to the mid-station ... it was such a leisurely and relaxing afternoon and I enjoyed the peace and quiet and serenity of this place.

We got back on the subway from Shin-Kobe to Kobe-Sannomiya ... and from here, we could either take the Hanshin or the Hankyu line back to Umeda-Osaka .... we saw the Hankyu sign first, so we followed it and took the Hankyu train back to Osaka.

We visited a konbini or convenience store down the road near our apartment, Family Mart and bought some food. I bought a Banana Baum (yes, they sell baum in the convenience store!! I do not think I can find baum anywhere at all in Kuching), my favoure ham & cheese mayo buns, green tea latte and a fried chicken to snack on .... all cost ¥582.

My friend, ME bought a piece of Butter Baum - we found it a bit dry 

 Clockwise from the top: Green tea, 2 sticks at ¥124; Banana Baumkuchen was ¥170 - it tasted like any other banana cake, slightly more moist than the plain butter version; my favourite ham and cheese mayo buns were only ¥108 and a ham and cheese croissant I bought the day before and have yet to eat, ¥128

Fried chicken, ¥180
Hot and crispy and salty and yummy! 

We snacked in our apartment before calling it a day. Today was great! Everything ran as I had planned it - the trip to Himeji and Kobe was smooth. The best thing today were the unexpected freebies from the kindly bento shop vendor ... that's Japanese hospitality at its best. :)) 

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