Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Kyoto, Day 8: Himeji

On our eighth and penultimate full day in Kyoto, GPG and I took the train out to see Himeji Castle, one of Japan's "Three Famous Castles" and one of the oldest surviving structures from medieval Japan. It is truly an impressive structure, clearly built with military defense in mind. The castle is built on a hill, with five graduated floors:

You got to climb extraordinarily steep stairs to go all the way up to the top, and on the way you could see that each floor has lots of weapon racks, lookout windows, and hidden positions where reinforcements could hide. The castle walls all had gun/arrow slits and were very, very thick. Each entrance to the castle had a massive gate and watchtowers.

I didn't take too many pictures at Himeji because my camera was running out of memory. I was also getting tired of taking pictures in general. I only took the expected panorama pictures:

As a result, I don't have much documentation for our eighth day in Japan. The train ride to Himeji from Kyoto took about two hours, so visiting the castle pretty much took up the whole day. So, I've decided to use the rest of this post to include some miscellaneous pictures of some of the things I really liked in Japan, such as . . .

. . . The light festival that was currently going on at the time. All the temples in the eastern part of the city (Kiyomizudera, Choen-In, etc.) and the Gion area were lit up with special lights at night for about two weeks. The Chairpeople told me that the city puts on this event to draw both tourists and residents out at a time when the cold weather would usually keep people indoors. Although the picture below shows just one example of some of the lights that were put out, there were all sorts of lanterns lighting up the streets in this area of the city. Each street had unique lights, and a lot of them were very beautiful.

I also liked these turtle rolls at one of the bakeries in the basement of one of Kyoto's major department stores:

All the major department stores in Kyoto are monstrous. They are multiple stories tall and feature every kind of imaginable retail ware, from many-thousand-dollar suits to kimonos to stuffed animals to stationery. In the basement floors (at least one floor, sometimes two) there are vast food court-type areas selling ready-made food for customers to take home. Although the food is pretty pricey in general, it's also pretty mouth-watering and, of course, beautifully presented. I saw these turtle rolls and thought they were very cute.

Divisadero commented a few days ago that the Japanese taste range is somewhat delicate, thus producing baked goods and desserts that are a little too bland for the Western palate. I think that this is generally correct. A perfect example is GPG, who isn't a big fan of any kind of Asian dessert or baked good for precisely this reason. But I guess that, having grown up eating a fair number of Asian breads and desserts, I'm used to it. That's probably why I really liked Japanese toast:

This is the breakfast of champions in Kyoto.

I normally don't like eating buttered toast in the States, but I was mad for Japanese toast and butter during our time in Kyoto. The butter was really, really good (I don't eat enough butter to be able to articulate just why I thought it was so delicious, but I just liked it a lot), and I loved eating it on Japanese toasted bread, which is twice as thick as regular American bread:

The bread is thick and has a fluffy-soft consistency. I couldn't eat enough of it while we were there. In fact, I really miss it now!

And, lastly, one of the things I really liked about Japan is the CUTE KIDS. All the children I saw in Japan were inordinately cute. They didn't necessarily grow up to be cute or otherwise attractive grown-ups, but I don't think I ever saw a single kid in Japan who wasn't cute. Here is a prime example:

You can't tell me she's not cute.

Next up: Even MORE cute kids from our last day in Kyoto!


Anonymous divisadero said...

I didn't mean to suggest that I don't like Japanese confectionaries. I do! I like anything that's freshly baked. I just prefer a good western bakery (Parisian bakeries, being the pinnacle) to a Japanese one.

Anyhow, looks like you had a good time in Kansai. I love that area. So much more going on there than in the Tokyo area, IMHO. My favorite is Osaka. I love that city.

4/25/2007 1:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi! I am your KLS Savior and a letter went out for you yesterday. We live fairly close to each other (as far as mail goes) so you should get it today or tomorrow at the latest!

4/26/2007 9:54 AM  

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