A Docker in Japan
So the answer to yesterdays mystery about where was our next destination we went to using the Two Day JR West Pass is... Himeji...We were pretty tired after the long excursion to Hiroshima and Miyajima the previous day, so we decided somewhere a bit closer. Himeji while still in the Kansai area is actually a reasonably decent ride on the Shinkansen away. On the way home we got to ride on an N700 (the latest series) which is way quieter and smoother than the all of the other kinds I've tried, not that the others are all that bad, actually any Shinkansen is more comfortable than a regular train.
So the main thing we went to see was Himeji castle (Himeji-jo), which is only one of four castles in Japan that are still remaining in their original wooden form, rather than a modern concrete reconstruction. Himeji-jo is also the biggest of the remaining castles and some would say the most beautiful, but I think the most beautiful award goes to Matsumoto-jo.
Now, on this day I wore my Fremanlte Docker's cap in order that the rest of the party wouldn't lose me amongst the crowds at Himeji-jo. It was pretty apt that in this photo that Bob had the cap out of focus, because that's pretty much how the Docker's season has been this year. As of today (15/08/2008) we've only won 5 games out of 19 and we sit second last on the ladder! The good news is we beat our arch-enemies (The Eagles) in the two games we played against them this year, so it's not a complete waste of a season. Hopefully we can win tomorrow against bottom of the ladder Melbourne. Come on guys get focused! At least we should get some good draft picks for next season!
BTW Here's a list of the castles that I've been to in Japan:- Kumamoto-jo (1997, concrete), Edo-jo (1998, concrete), Nagoya-jo (1999, concrete with one smaller wooden building remaining in the grounds), Gifu-jo (1999, concrete), Ueno-jo (1999, concrete, not sure if this is it's correct name but it's in Ueno city in Mie-ken), Himeji-jo (2005, 2009, wooden), Matsumoto-jo (2005, wooden), Osaka-jo (2007, concrete), Nijo-jo (2007, wooden, but not typical of Japanese castle design), and Shoryuji-jo (2008, 2009, concrete, Nagaokakyo's own!)
The last time I've been out of the Kansai area in Japan was 2005. Every visit to Japan since then and since moving to Japan, we've stayed in the Kansai area. Well, the Walkers visit and a cheep two day JR West Pass that was on offer, provide the chance to travel further. We decided we'd go to Hiroshima which is about 310km away from Kyoto. To let you know what a good deal it was, the Two Day Pass gave unlimited travel on all JR Trains/Buses/Ferries including all Shinkansen (“Bullet train”) services (including the Nozomi, which the Japan Rail Pass doesn't allow BTW). It also allowed us to make seating reservations on four trips. All this for 12,000yen per person, which is about what a one way fare to Hiroshima on the Shinkansen normally costs! We were able to go to Hiroshima and back on the Nozomi Shinkansen, the regular JR from Nagaokakyo to Shin-Osaka was covered, the train ride out to Miyajima ferry terminal, and the return to ferry trip to Miyajima. Then we used to the pass again the next day to go somewhere else, which I'm planning to write about in the next entry...
Well, it was my second visit to Hiroshima, the last time being in 1999. All I can say is that was just as moving experience as the last time, probably even better with the Walkers to talk about it with. I think that every school in the world (yes this is very idealistic, but there is surely enough money in the world if the will is there) should come to Hiroshima for an excursion. To taste for themselves the stupidity of armed conflict in it's ultimate form (nuclear weapons), I think that might be the best education for many.
After visiting the peace dome (left), the peace park and the peace museum, we had the traditional Hiroshima-yaki lunch (savoury pancakes made from egg, pork, cabbage, yaki-soba (kind of noodle) and flour, topped with mayonnaise and BBQ type sauce). After lunch we headed out to Miyajima (which was my first visit there) to see the famous floating shrine (right) and catch the cable car up the mountain. I think I saw more gaijin (non Japanese people) in Hiroshima and Miyajima than I have since I moved to Japan last year!
Catching the Shinkansen back to Shin-Osaka at twilight while eating eki-ben (Boxed food from the train station, normally an assortment of rice, pickles, and meats (commonly fish and other seafood)), brought back memories (for Ritsuko and I) of 2005 and prior.
Missed something, found something
On this day we took the Walkers to see Osaka. First we went to “Kita” (North Osaka) with the intention of going up on the Ferris Wheel (left) at the HEP5 building. Unfortunately it was closed until mid October! Then we headed to “Minami” (South Osaka) on the subway and found this car (right) the brand is something like “Onochi”. We headed in the wrong direction in the shopping arcades and ended up in “Chuo” (Central) rather than further south as we had planned. All was not lost as we found an excellent ramen shop in “Chuo”. The we made our way back south on foot, but we were running out of time, so we decided not to head back to “Kita” on the subway. So we missed out on going to Yodobashi camera, but we went to the “Minami” BIC Camera instead. All and all it was a good day, even if everything didn't go to our plans.
Us with some characters
On the second day of the Walker's visit, we brought them into the centre of Kyoto to have a look around Kyoto station. Then it was on to lunch at a Tempura restaurant in Plaza Porta. After that we went up to Higashiyama and Kiyomizu-dera. While we were at a Kyoto station, Bob took this photo of Ritsuko and I standing in front of some anime characters.
With the Walkers
It has been a pretty long hard slog since we arrived here in November last year. Especially since we started Shining Lights Church. Although I've preached a number of times before coming here. It's the first time in my life when I've had to do it, week in, week out. It's also hard with not many mature Christians nearby to talk to when I have struggles. Here I have to be in a position of always lifting others up, not burdening with them with my issues. So we were absolutely thrilled when the Walkers informed us they were coming to visit us and give us a hand with things for 3 weeks.
Julia Walker is Ritsuko's best friend and has joined us on a trip to Japan in 2007. For the rest of the family, it was their first visit to Japan and it was such a pleasure to show them around and introduce them to new experiences. Bob was able to preach on two Sundays enabling me to have a little rest, and it was great to spend time bouncing ideas with him. It was also good to see the girls grow in faith through this trip. In fact, I think we all grew in the faith in many ways through the three weeks they spent with us (June 21 to July 11). We also got to do quite a bit a sightseeing too, which I plan to post more entries relating to in the days to come.