Monday, September 25, 2017

From Kyoto to Himeji back to Tokyo

Early Thursday AM, the 14th.  Entering the homestretch of our time in Japan.  Fatigue is there, but there is an awareness that much is still to be enjoyed.  Today, we leave Kyoto, fairly early, with an 8AM departure from Kyoto Station, so it is really just get out of bed and go to the station (which, for us, is literally just outside our front door).

Actually, a little bit more difficult.  Gotta get cleaned up, and get breakfast.  Actually, breakfast can be Ekiben. I won't get a nothin-but-Uni box!!!  We get to the Shinkansen departure area of Kyoto Station and there are immense numbers of Ekiben, but we still are indecisive.  Below, see what we are eating on our short 50 minute Shinkansen trip.

We have given up the 2 x 2 facing each other orientation!  Especially for the short jaunts.  We get down and dirty with food. Em just gets salad.  Connie gets a veggie box.  Sam gets the same.  I get a nigiri sushi set.  No Uni.


We're headed to Himeji, 50 minutes away, in the opposite direction of Tokyo.  Wait, what?  No, our destination, first, is Himeji-jo, a beautiful castle, which has undergone a six year complete renovation.  About 50 (or more) years ago, it underwent a complete overhaul with taking everything apart and repair/replace the wooden pieces that hold the place together. Long considered the most beautiful castle in the land, there are few who would dispute this.  We get to Himeji station, and the castle is a short 15 minute walk.  I know there are some lockers there, so I've been saving my coins since they're called coin lockers, and I want to put our luggage in there while we walk to the castle and back.  On the way to look for the coin lockers, we see these imperial noblepersons.  

I saved about 40 to 50 coins (that's 40 to 50 dollars in coins for those who don't know), but only needed 14.  We got our 4 suitcases and backpacks, etc into the two ¥700 lockers we claimed, easily.  Lucky, they still had a bunch of the big ones. But I had things all planned.  I even got the lockers, inside the Shinkansen gates, so we would have less time to carry our luggage.  Here we are walking on the yellow brick road to find the wizard!

The wizard is in there, as you can see in this pic from the road above.

Along the way.

It's close to a thousand yen per person to enter, but worth it.

Shoeless throughout the whole walk in the castle.  Not good for plantar fasciitis.

The castle itself is pretty plain inside.  But very well put together.  Function over form.  I was here in 1989 with Auntie Masu, with the same kind of day trip, stopping on the Shinkansen. She walked this walk, so can we.

The view from the top of the castle along the road from the station to the castle.

Sammie grew a lot.  Almost as tall as the castle

There is a long shopping arcade that parallels the road from the station to the castle.  Here it is.  Long and longer.  Lined with shops on either side. Nice during inclement weather.

As usual, we have a bit of a hard time figuring out where to eat.  Soba!  We all finally agree to eat at a soba shop near the station.  We get various forms of Zaru Soba, but Connie gets Yamakake Soba.  Ground Yama-imo into a slime and dip the soba into that and eat it.

Back on the Shinkasen.  Waze actually starts up and works (sans naviation).

Below is a screenshot from back on Sunday the 10th, when we were on the Shinkansen from Tokyo to Kyoto, via Kanazawa.  In other words, the LONG way.  We love trains, in case you have not figured that out yet.  Long distance trains, where the rhythmic sounds of the tracks and the quiet hum lulls you to sleep.  Better than Ambien!  Especially when you have a full tummy of Japanese Bento.  But this is the 14th, Thursday. when we're going from Himeji back to Tokyo, non stop (actually there are stops, just no train changes, and the train stops are easily ignored by the occupants/travelers). 150 mph is pretty fast through an urban area.

So we arrive back in Tokyo, and a short walk from Tokyo Eki to our hotel, our home away from home, brings us to our comfortable room.  We knew this was coming.  They wanted to greet Em with a birthday greeting.  But I let them know she was vegan, so they gave us a nice fruit plate.

OK, Dinner.  Here we are, at Shichisai. Just Connie and me.  Superb pork, with chewy noodles. Noodles made right there, fresh, from flour and water and some "stuff."  Like Na2CO3, I think. Not sure.

Lots of pork!!!

Chewy noodles, crinkly!  With no veggies! Except a few pieces of negi.

Karl, Pug, and Willow like it too. Bargain large Sapporo for ¥500.  If I had only one ramen place to go to, for the rest of my life, this would be it.  No question!

The next AM, we head out to Kagurazaka, the quaint area we found the chicken last year!  Here is our booty:

Manju from the same shop as last year:  elaborate Kiku which Em loved.

The master Wagashi maker.

This is the Raison d'etre of Kagurazaka for us Connie.

Fresh Chicken legs, really meaty!  mmmmmmmmmm!

It's really rude to eat on the street.  But we're know nothing Nikkei tourists!!

The kids bought combini food and also ate on the street!

Later this day, we went out to the new Loft in Ginza (it moved from the Yurakucho location which we enjoyed).  Here, we purchased more stationery supplies...

Walking back to Yurakucho station, I see a group of people watching something.  An organ grinder with a monkey!  But this man had no organ.  But he did have a monkey on a leash.  Em loves monkeys.  There is a message there somewhere.  This monkey never smiled, but I'm not sure that monkeys smile anyway.  It made me feel a bit sad.  Exploitation?  Or maybe this is a monkey rescued from a really bad life.  Don't know, so I'll give the guy the benefit of the doubt.  This guy was fun to watch.  We didn't understand the Japanese perfectly, but this was watchable without verbage (I think the man was a comedian and failed with his jokes, because there were a few chuckles here and there). We spent about 15 minutes watching and I donated a few hundred yen when the hat was passed around at the end.

We get back to the station and decide to get ekiben for dinner.  Ekiben in the hotel.  This way, we don't have to struggle with "which place" questions...  Others got their veggie bentos and ate them up before I had a chance to even start (how wude,  as Jar Jar would say).  I had to go get a can of Sapporo Classic.

A restful night, in prep for the following day.  I promised Em a trip to the Aoyama Farmer's Market.  If this is any representation of how Japan does things, this should be a decent Farmer's Market.  Held every weekend, Sat/Sun, rain or shine.  It is held on the grounds of the United Nations University (which I had never heard of aside from this Farmer's Market), it is walking distance from Shibuya station.  On the way to Shibuya, we see this man, a very tired man, who couldn't even sit in his seat, the empty seat visible in the pic.  On the seat is the man's keitai, which no one will steal, and his shoes are neatly arranged under the seat.  In orderly fashion, everyone is on their keitai, politely letting this man rest.  I was worried that he was seriously ill, but Sam/Em told me he was ok, just resting after a Friday night out.

Here is the Farmer's Market.  

A musubi cart!  I bought a yaki-musubi, really good!!!

We ended up buying several more.  ¥180 each.

Apple spring roll!  Really rich, in custard and crispy spring roll outer.

Produce all over, but we're here for the food.  There are probably at least 30 small (very small!) food trucks scattered.  mmmmm

Em bought a pre-owned Seiko.  Upon return to the US, she even removed some links to size it, all by herself.

Really nice Margarita pizza.  Really light crispy crust!

Taco and burrito, both vegan.

The girls got a vegan pizza too, just no cheese, which was great, per them.

Here is the Yamanote back from Shibuya on a late Saturday PM.  Empty!!!

Tonight, we go to Sputnik!

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