Japan

himeji castle: one of japan’s oldest castles

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Reading just the other day about Cherry Blossom season  made us think of our time in Japan. Flicking through our photos we came across photos of Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle survived World War II bombings and earthquakes and is an example of Japanese castle architecture dating back to the 17th century. However, the history of the castle spans back to the 1300s, where it started as a fort and then a castle before becoming the castle that we see today. It is one of 12 oldest castles still standing out of about 25 000 (yes, 25 thousand) castles ever built in Japanese history. It is 6 levels high with very steep stairwells and with each floor, the stairwell get narrower and steeper.

We had to take our shoes off so were climbing the stairs light-footedly like ninjas. The depth of each step, the higher we got, was so narrow, we were only able to place half our foot on. Basically we were tippy-toeing to the top, making us feel even more ninja-like 🙂  And the view when we got to the top was worth the sore calf muscles! It really was quite a fortress!

The castle sits atop a hill and looks so wondrous and white and is referred to sometimes as the White Heron Castle. The day we were there, the sky was so blue – it was simply picture perfect. 

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Himeji Castle was listed as a UNESCO Heritage site in 1993.

To see the other UNESCO sites we have visited, visit our unofficial bucket list

 

weekly photo challenge: selfie

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This is a SELFIE from our honeymoon in Japan back in 2008.

For other entries in the Weekly Photo Challenge – visit

http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2014/02/07/weekly-photo-challenge-selfie/

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udons and geishas

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Along the Philosopher's path
Along the Philosopher’s path

You guessed it- we are now in Kyoto. There is a lot to see here but mainly does revolve around temples and shrines. We spent loads of time just walking, visiting the Imperial Palace, the Silver Pavilion and the Philosopher’s path. The main streets of Kyoto are busy but when you get to the temples and shrines, although teeming with tourists, there is still a very calming and spiritual atmosphere.

  • There are two stand-out moments for us in Kyoto:
  1. Eating udon in Japan
    Finally got to eat udons
    Finally got to eat udons

    – Sydney is a culinary haven (or at least we think so), in the fact that there are so many different options available for different countries. Pretty much there are a large variety of countries represented in some shape or form. Hence, our love affair with eating different cuisines but more specifically eating our favourite country’s dishes in THE actual country. So being in Japan for almost 2 weeks and not eating udon seemed like a rort until we stumbled across a noodle shop in Kyoto. We hit the jackpot!

  2. And more notable than eating udons: coming face to face with a geisha in the streets of Gion – we were in Gion one evening, strolling the streets and admiring the area, when we reached the end of a block, a geisha was turning the corner and we literally would have collided with her had we were walking any faster. She had her face down scurrying towards a doorway. Her face beautifully white, her make-up immaculate and her outfit was  exquisite, it was so surreal and truly beyond our wildest dream to ever encounter a geisha so close up. Within moments of seeing the first geisha, we saw another one, trying to cover herself with a Japanese oil-paper umbrella as she too scurried onwards to another doorway. The only thing that spoiled the experience was witnessing hordes of tourists chasing the geishas down the road to take photographs.

 

 

extending our lives by 7 years

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We were getting very traditional in Hakone – we were sleeping in a ryokan on the tatami mats, bathing in hot spring water, having tea ceremonies in our room and sitting on the floor for our meals.

Our own tea ceremony
Our own tea ceremony

Entering our room at the ryokan inn, there was no bed, just a table set up with hot tea and some nibblies. There was also kimonos and slippers which we were asked to wear to dinner. It was an interesting affair, with all of us trying to keep the kimonos closed as we sat on the floor to eat. That aside, the dinner was divine – there was an array of Japanese delicacies (most of which we didn’t recognise but happy to eat). It was a Japanese degustation so by the time we finished, our bums were numb from sitting on the floor.

Dinner on the floor
Dinner on the floor

Hobbling to the bedroom with pins and needles in our bums and legs, we-rentered our room to see that the “turndown” service had occurred. Our beds (?sleeping bags) were rolled out. Surprisingly we had an extremely comfortable night sleep considering we were sleeping on the floor.

Beds for the night
Beds for the night

How does one extend their life by 7 years? Easy – boil an egg in the hot springs of Hakone and eat it! Well, not technically boil it yourself. You can purchase eggs that have been boiled in the hot springs! The shells are black but the inside tastes and looks like any other hard boiled egg!

Eggs boiled in hot springs
Eggs boiled in hot springs

Hot spring baths are very popular here. And the concept definitely took us out of our comfort zone. So much so we opted not to do it. Basically, it requires no clothes whatsoever (that includes no swimming costumes either), and you clean yourself in the showering area first and then enter the communal bath naked with everyone else – men and women are separated of course. We have no doubt that it is very good for you but we didn’t really feel entirely comfortable doing this – yes we sound prudish. However, we found out the water used in the ensuite is also hot springs so we got the experience without all the companions – its so awesome how the water doesn’t get cold quickly!

Hot spring bath in the room
Hot spring bath in the room