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SOLO JAPAN 3.-16.11.2002.
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Monday, 11th of November 2002
Kyoto <-> Himeji - Osaka.

Day Nine :
Himeji and Osaka

No Hiroshima this time

Well, today was supposed to be the day I would go to Hiroshima, but I just couldn't get my stuff together early enough. So I decided to visit Himeji instead, which was less than a hour away from Kyoto by the shinkansen train. Himeji's star attraction is the Himeji-castle, which is the oldest castle standing in Japan (built in 1580), partly because it never was attacked.

Himeji castle

The castle was about a 15 minute walk from the station. One positive thing I instantly noticed at the castle was the near non-existence of high school students, which was a good change after seeing them everywhere at other historical tourist spots.

The castle itself with its courtyards and barracks was interesting and it was pretty amazing it has preserved so well through all these centuries. But despite the architectural oddities and castle beauty, it didn't really awe-inspire me in the end. It was "just" a castle in the end. Sorry, castle-freaks. This doesn't mean it isn't worth checking out, though!

With lots of time still in my hands, I checked out the near by Koko-en garden, although I feared it would be a waste of time when I could have used my last chance to go to Hiroshima instead.

Interesting garden near the castle

The Himeji Koko-en garden was constructed in 1992 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the establishment of Himeji municipality. But since this isn't really an interesting point, I will say that it turned out to be a splendid garden!

The whole area was split into nine main gardens and they were made according to the Edo period style. They were really professionally made, had a very idyllic atmosphere and those autumn colours really shined in these gardens. No wonder there were professional photographers taking pictures all over the place.

After admiring the garden for a while and wishing our back yard had even half the magic, I filled out a questionnaire at the front gate before leaving. While I was filling it, two guys in neat suits were paying the entrance fee for the garden.

They seemed like yakuza thugs, since the other was talking constantly on his keitai-phone with a that low, grumpy voice you hear them use in all those yakuza-movies and the other looked exactly like John Travolta from Pulp Fiction, only that he was Japanese. I just found the scene funny that they decided to escape work in a nice garden (or where they having an appointment there perhaps?). :-)

Taking a quick peek at Osaka

It was time to head back to the station after having lunch in a small restaurant (and watching some Japanese drama show while eating). When I learned that the next train to Hiroshima wouldn't leave in 50 minutes and the time was already past 4:00pm, I decided to give up and head back to Kyoto.

4:00-5:00pm seemed to be a rush hour even for shinkansen trains, as it mainly was filled with tired salarymen. When the train was closing into Osaka, I had this sudden idea checking it out just for kicks, even though people have said Osaka is not an exciting place.

So I did and when I marched to the subway, I suddenly remembered what I could have done in Kyoto instead: watch Shonen Knife play there that night!! AARGH! How could I forget that all of a sudden?! Oh well...

Once I got into Osaka centre, it looked pretty much the same as in Tokyo: lots of people and not a clue where I actually was. One nice touch to the scene was the slight rain falling from the sky, a neo-lighted small street and tall buildings in the background. Guess what movie did it remind me of? Yep, Blade Runner. Nice. ^_^

Otherwise it didn't dramatically differ from Tokyo, but then again I didn't stay around longer than two-three hours before I had enough.

Advanced video gaming

There is one thing I saw in a game hall worth mentioning though (I had to check this thing out myself as some people back in the guesthouse talked about this). There is this football league game system where you make a team by buying magnetic cards that represent different football players. You place these on a magnetic table and then play a match in the league you have chosen.

These player's statistics can be improved in the card, so basically we are talking about a combination of trading card games and video gaming. Think of the transfer scene between the team managers! If this kind of system ever hits Europe, it surely would be a massive hit!

I could have used a local train to get back to Kyoto, but since it was free to use the shinkansen, I took a seat for the next one going that direction. At Kyoto it was back to the guest house, cursing myself for missing both Hiroshima and Shonen Knife, then exchanging the day's events with the other guests before heading for my last night in Kyoto.

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Photo copyright Ude
Himeji-castle, beautiful but otherwise failed to make any real impact on me.

Photo copyright Ude
Himeji the city from Himeji the castle.

Photo copyright Ude
One of the gardens at Koko-en close to Himeji-castle.

Photo copyright Ude
Somewhere around Osaka.

Photo copyright Ude
Football played with a magnet table and cards (in some game hall in Osaka).

Photo copyright Ude
Shinkansen station at Osaka. Notice how litter free it is.

LINKS TO SERVICES, PLACES, ETC. MENTIONED TODAY:
Himeji castle - While the castle is a beautiful piece of architecture, the website fails to capture it.
Himeji koko-en - This garden next to the castle is a must for garden freaks.
Shonen Knife - Legendary Japanese band I failed to see! >_<;
Osaka - Okay, I was there, but I really didn't a good idea of the city.

 

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