Leaving the hostel at just before 10am, I headed towards Kyoto station and my Shinkansen to Himeji. However enroute, I had yet another chance encounter. The week previous, I’d struck up conversation with a couple from Belgium in Asakusa as we tried to navigate our way out of the right exit of the underground. Twenty minutes or so later, I bumped into them again and we discussed our mutual concerns surrounding the sentient toilets and the unbelievable cleanliness of the city.
As fate would have it, I ran into them waiting for the same train at Shijo subway station!
The late and great Terry Pratchett summarised this beautifully:
“Scientists have calculated that the chances of something so patently absurd actually existing are millions to one.
But magicians have calculated that million-to-one chances crop up nine times out of ten.”
Nadia and her partner explained that they were heading to Nara and I explained that I’d been there the day before. It also turns out they are flying back on Saturday too… I’m almost certain our paths will cross again…
Heading south-west, Himeji took just under an hour to reach on the bullet train, with it’s castle (the largest in Japan) being the main feature of interest. Leaving the station, the city seems designed around the thoroughfare leading to the castle otherwise known as the White Heron Castle.
It’s easy to see why.
This world heritage site was originally awarded by Ieyasu to his ally Ikeda Terumasa who rebuilt it between 1601 and 1609. It’s one of 12 original castles in Japan to survive WW2 and various natural disasters.
Deciding against going inside the castle because of the queues and the stifling humidity, I took the route less travelled and walked around Himeji’s extensive moat. I was surprised by the lack of tourists- it’s extremely beautiful. It’s ironic how a symbol of war has given way to something extremely tranquil.
Adjacent to Himeji is Koko-en park; a quaint set of well trimmed gardens with a number of winding paths.
The castle alone is well worth the visit.
That evening I spoke with a handful of American travellers who were having a college reunion trip of sorts. We spoke about British football chants, American football and other ball based topics.
Fleeting friendships are embedded in hostel culture.