Japan day 13
Japan day 13
After the sake drinking last night, I fully expected Yoshi to renege on his promise to come and pick me up at 7.30am…….but he was there when I got back from breakfasting and washing at a local 7/11 store.
(btw, the ubiquitous ‘conbinis’ can be everything to the traveller…food and drink, toilet and washroom, cool or warmth….7/11 is my choice because I get free WiFi).
I packed up, we jumped on our bikes and headed to Himeji Castle.
It was not yet 8am, when the doors opened, but half of Japan had turned up to tour the Castle……and for no other reason than to see it at it’s absolute best…..bedecked and embedded in an ocean of ‘sakura’ (cherry blossom).
I couldn’t believe I had timed something so awe-inspiring so precisely….. It was so resplendent, thousands of amateur photographers had turned up with their bulky equipment and tripods.
This is the largest and most elegant of Japan’s existing medieval castles (and some were sadly destroyed during the war), and dates from the 16th century.
Although it appears to have only 5 floors, internally it has 7, and fighting our way with the crowds to the top, we were rewarded with views of the city midst it’s framework of cherry blossom.
So stunningly beautiful is the ‘Great White Egret’ that it now has World Heritage status, and is officially one of Japan’s own national treasures…..used as the setting and backdrop for countless films.
Before saying goodbye to Yoshi, who had been my guide throughout the morning
….he had one last gesture of friendship up his sleeve. He had ordered one of the famous ‘bentos’ (lunchboxes) at a small local eatery, filled with myriad little mysteries (including lotus, slivers of ginger, baked tofu, raw fish….)
I was deeply touched at the kindness shown to someone he’d only met 12 hours before.
After lunch I headed off to do the 70 km to Kobe, the city that hit the headlines 20 years ago when it was completely destroyed my a massive earthquake, killing 6000 people. The route all along this coastline, right up to and beyond Tokyo, is unremittingly urban. Every few minutes, for the length of the journey, I was stopping at traffic lights. It was a stop-start experience all the way…..I couldn’t find any rhythm to the pedalling which, of course, means you never find that sweet spot of forward momentum.
When I arrived in Kobe, I got myself a city plan, circled the first Shrine I saw, and went in search. Half an hour later, I rang the bell of the guardian’s house, and met the lady in charge. When I explained I was looking for a pitch for my tent, she grabbed a key and took me across to an annexe, with a kitchen, toilet and tatami sleeping room.
Amazingly, she said I could have it for the night, use cushions as a futon, cook myself a meal……but beware, they would lock the main gate at 9pm……
I simply couldn’t believe it……would you?