• 29 . 12 . 04
  • The first day on our Christmas tour of Japan takes us down to Himeji, site of a famous castle.

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The White Heron – Plucked

Given that even the most simple tasks in Japan often end up being complicated by the language barrier, today went pretty well. The tickets we bought were valid for all the trains we took, meaning that we travelled about 500km for about ¥2000 (or £10). These trains (of course) were all on time, meaning that a potentially long and tedious journey actually passed quite smoothly. To break up the long journey to Hiroshima, we stopped off in the small town of Himeji, which is famous for having the most impressive original castle in all of Japan. Its prominent front corner and entirely white-painted walls give it the name of The White Heron and, at least from the outside, it does look great. From the inside, well, I don’t really know. The castle is open 362 days a year, but unfortunately, this does not include today. Or tomorrow. Or the 31st. Which means that, even if we did come back on the return journey, we still won’t be able to see inside. Ah Japan, your varied and inexplicable opening hours never cease to amaze me.

Fortunately, we were able to see another unusual site in the area, the Nagoyama cemetery, which is built on a hill and has a number of Indian pagodas standing at the top. This cemetery was designed to show the shared spirit of Buddhism between Japan and India, and with its great view of the town and lots of greenery is actually a very relaxing place to walk around.

The onward journey brought us to Hiroshima, where we are staying at the Kyobashi Ryokan. The proprietor has absolutely no English, which is surprising, but through the international language of gestures, mime and money we managed to arrange a spacious tatami room for a reasonable rate. Tomorrow we’ll be sightseeing and, given the history of the city, I’m not quite sure what to expect.

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