One question for anyone from Hiroshima: who is this guy whose caricature is on this Carp-themed bar? (the Carp are Hiroshima’s baseball team). He’s got Peter Griffin’s famous, ah, double . . . balled . . . chin. And how does he eat with no mouth?
I’ve been traveling around Japan on the shinkansen – Japan’s ultra-fast bullet trains that criss-cross the country. On June 30th I headed back toward Tokyo from Hiroshima.
The shinkansen is amazing compared to airplanes.
You can arrive on the platform anytime up until departure and just walk on. No security check or ticket/passport check. Bring any food and drinks you want. Luggage weigh-in: nope. Speed is up to around 300km/h (~190mph).
One drawback is that it’s incredibly expensive, so Japanese usually just take the shinkansen if their company is paying for it. Foreigners can get a JR Railpass for varying durations if they are visiting for tourism, which is definitely worth it.
Note: if you want a Railpass, you have to buy a “Railpass exchange order” in advance, before leaving home for Japan! You cannot get a Railpass in Japan unless you’ve pre-purchased this exchange order, and it’s only available for tourists.
On the way to Tokyo, I stopped at Himeji Castle, one of the best-preserved castles in Japan. It retains its original style without much modification, displaying at every turn how it was built almost entirely with defense from invading Samurai in mind.
Steps are unevenly spaced so that invaders would have trouble running up them, keeping their eyes focused on the ground instead of watching out for arrows. Gates and passages are low to make warriors duck, and many passages would be tough on horseback. The final entry path to the main keep is sloped downhill, to confuse enemy commanders who are used to following uphill paths to such keeps. Dungeons & Dragons fans would love the construction of this place!
Himeji is undergoing renovation, but I was lucky that it’s not yet fully covered with scaffolding (as it soon will be, until 2014!). Only the center courtyard/castle was closed to visits. I saw a lot of the surrounding castle buildings and got many pictures with little or no scaffolding. But check on the status before you visit, because it might be a disappointment if you can’t even see the castle on the hilltop.
Read tomorrow’s entry for a better feel of Tokyo, when I visit the Modern Art Museum and Akihabara Electric Town!