My original plan was to visit Osaka. Osaka is a city that I have already visited, and I had some unfinished business in it. But, as I was looking at the list of the train stops, I found Himeji station.
Japan is full of scars from the Second World War. Most of its castles were destroyed by bombing and fires. I have visited several castle reconstructions. The castles are a kind of museum that keep some old artifacts and showcase history lessons for children. Some are built using traditional techniques, and others have concrete structures. But, maybe, more importantly, they tower over other buildings bringing back the city old skyline.
Surprisingly Himeji Castle survived. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site. As any wooden structures of its age, it has been subject to several conservation projects. Buildings added in the 19th or 20th century were removed to keep it in its original state.
As many locations that I have visited, the Himeji Castle is prepared to receive a massive amount of visitants. But, being winter, the facilities are well under their maximum capacity. This extra space is welcome and allows me to go around not limited by time, but just by the one-way path designed to orderly move visitors along.
The castle is magnificent. I love the view of old wood marked by the pass of time and the work of woodworms. There are sloped stairs that become tricky to climb in the borrowed slippers. Walking with your shoes over the old floors is forbidden. And here and there, there is text explaining the different uses of the space in war times.
After I finish my visit, I find some Spanish tourists. They are looking for someone to take a picture for them. I offer myself to take a picture of the three of them with the castle in the background.
We talk for a while about our experiences in Japan. Even that big cities have many places to visit; we have visited most of the same places. I guess that we ended up reading the same top-thing-to-see lists. But, it is always interesting to share the information, you never know when you are going to receive or provide some unusual insight.
I do not stop in Himeji for too long. Once I have seen the castle and its garden, I move on to Osaka. I want to purchase a flat cap. Past Christmas Holidays, I bought one in an Osaka’s second-hand clothes store.
To get there, I pass by streets that I remember. One of my favourite places is Namba Shrine. I was there last year, twice, and now I was able to see a new new-year decoration for it. There are four more days to go to new year. But the walls are already decorated with boars replacing the dog depictions of 2018.
Finally, I get to the second-hand clothes store Kinji. I can finally get a new flat cap, and I put it on. I have finished my pending task at Osaka. From there, I go to Dōtonbori. I end the day taking a selfie in front of the 70-year-old Glico Man sign.