Our day to Himeji Castle started after we had a bit of a lie-in and some breakfast at the hotel. Himeji is about an hour away on the Shinkansen, and we were soon strolling down the main avenue towards the castle. We spent a bit of time in the gardens surrounding the castle before going in, took some pictures (and saw a really cute wild kitten). By the time we entered the castle itself it had just started to rain. It was really hot so a few drops was actually quite refreshing. Inside the castle it was all wood, and the doorways and room partitions were really low down – they must have been really small in those days! I can’t remember how many floors we went up, but I reckon it was about 6 or 7. It was roasting in there, but when we got higher up we kept stopping near the windows to grab as much breeze as we could. After visiting the castle’s main Donjon, we walked around the grounds, stopping to take a pic at the ‘Suicide Quarters’ (where they committed seppuku – basically gutted themselves with their swords!). As we came out of the grounds to go back to the station we got soaked from the rain as we only had Kate’s tiny umbrella to protect us. Got back to Kyoto and went out for dinner (beef and rice!). We stopped in the cool manga/model shop and I spent about 10 minutes trying to ask the guy behind the counter if he had any Battle of the Planets stuff. He just didn’t get it! I even drew pictures for him, and made the “Braaaaat toot toot!” sound! He still had no idea. Then as we were walking out Kate spotted a load of Battle of the Planets stuff right near the door. D’oh! Stopped for an ‘Authentic Egg Tart’ before coming back to the hotel.
Next day we got up a bit earlier as we had a bit more of a trip ahead of us, to Iga Ueno (famous for Ninja)! There was a lot of travelling today, and a lot of waiting about for trains, plus it was really really hot and sticky, and we both felt pretty crappy on the way back, but it was worth it as the Ninja stuff was really cool. 🙂 Anyway, after using my own ninja skills to navigate us to Iga Ueno, we entered Ueno Park and paid the 600 or whatever yen for a ticket to the museum and live ninja demonstration. The Museum started off being a tour (in Japanese) around a real ninja house… with things like trap doors, hidden stairs, revolving doorways etc… it was totally wicked! There were quite a few children there too, and they kept going “woooh” and “wooaahh” whenever the guide performed a sneaky ninja trick. Classic stuff. Following the house, we went through the museum where they had loads of ninja stuff to look at, such as weapons, lockpicks, tools, clothes etc. I even got to stand on some ninja ‘mud shoes’ (for walking across marshy ground). A bit later on we went to see the live Ninja demonstration, which involved 3 actual ninjas showing off their skills. The kids loved it, and the show really made everyone laugh. At the end they gave everyone (even the kids) the chance to throw some real shuriken stars at a target board. When it was my turn I actually hit the target with one of the stars. I didn’t hit it enough to win a tee-shirt though. It was probably a stupid tee-shirt anyway.
After the Ninja stuff, we went and looked at Ueno Castle, which was also in Ueno Park. This castle is a bit like Himeji castle that we saw yesterday, but is much much smaller, but it has some cool samurai outfits on show on the bottom floor of the main keep. We climbed all the floors in no-time, but it was about now that we both started to feel a little poo, from the heat/sun, so we decided to head on back to Kyoto. The train ride to and from Iga Ueno is really picturesque, and I wish I’d taken some pictures on the way there now, because halfway through the Ninja demonstration the camera ran out of battery, which totally sucked because I got no pics of Ueno Castle and the surrounding gardens either. Oh well, the camera’s fully charged now for tomorrow, when we’re up early and off to Hiroshima for the day.