The morning came early, and we had decisions to make. Unfortunately, it was raining. This was because of the typhoon that was currently hitting the island, which was supposed to head north to Tokyo after hitting the middle part of the island where we were. This was our last day in Kyoto, and our Japan Rail pass was running out on Sunday, and we wouldn’t be getting back down this way, but had planned on going to Nagashima Spa Land today, one of the few parks that I felt was a must visit. But I didn’t want to go with a typhoon literally right over us and torrential downpours. I’d have liked to have spent some time on the Ryokan grounds as well, but the rain wasn’t conducive to that either.
So instead we had a traditional Japanese breakfast at the inn and decided to head to Mount Inari in Kyoto, where the Fushimi Inari shrine is. If you’ve ever seen any photos from Japan of people walking through what seems like endless paths of red tori gates, this is where probably it was taken. It was pouring rain by the time we arrived but we’d stored our luggage again in Kyoto Station. We got in line to walk thru the gates and once we got to the first level, we headed off on a smaller, less traveled path up the mountain.
The rain came and went as we made our way up. First, we found a small shrine with sitting areas where we sat along with a young Japanese woman and a German couple. Then when the rain let up we headed up and through a bamboo forest and found an old shrine with cat statues (and a very large spider that I was not fond of meeting). We got a little turned around having gone down behind the cat shrine and found a random high school and street, and after a few rest breaks, decided to head back up to the cat shrine and finish the original path down the mountain. The typhoon was messing with our plans so we had to wing it with our plans.
The next morning we woke up and had a really amazing breakfast at the hotel, which almost made up for the problem the nite before, then walked to the nearest station to catch a train. I can’t remember the entire transit pattern, but I believe we headed to Osaka station, stored our bags, then headed to one of the must do and truly remarkable sites in all of Japan, south of Osaka, Himeji Castle. We arrived in the late morning at Himeji Station and the castle was visible at the end of the street. And it looked amazing. This was the Japan I wanted. An ancient castle at the end of a metropolitan city’s main thoroughfare.
And what an amazing sight it was. Himeji Castle is considered one of the best examples of the surviving original 12 Japanese castles that haven’t been rebuilt or are replicas. Across the street from the castle was a shopping area for food and souvenirs, but before we headed there to eat, we walked down to a viewing spot of the castle at Shiromidai Park. Once we arrived we took photos. There was a newly married couple there also taking photos, dressed in traditional Japanese kimono, and it was beautiful. So was the castle. They realized I was trying to (respectfully) sneak photos of them, and they started posing. I think they wanted to take pictures with us, but we were heading back to the shopping area.
There was a small amusement park & zoo by here, but we decided to forgo a visit and head to the castle. As we made our way back we stumbled upon another random shrine, the Gokoku Shrine, so we went in to check it out and take some photos, then headed to the castle area. At the shopping center across the street I had my first taste of matcha ice cream. It was great.