Day Three Recap
Himeji Castle to Fukiya
Himeji castle is one of Japan’s largest castles. The entire construction sits on a tall stone foundation and is made of a wooden frame covered with white lime plaster to make it fire resistant – and it also happens to be beautiful. It was designed with a sophisticated defense system of multiple moats, gates, and zigzag pathways.
Today happened to be an incredibly busy day at the castle and in order to see the interior we had to join a sea of people all winding up to the top of the castle. The benefit was that it caused us to slow down our pace and notice more of the amazing details around us. Before entering the interior of the castle, guests had to take off their shoes, which is a typical Japanese rule that is seen in restaurants, homes and even large heavily visited cultural constructions like this one.
When we reached the top, we were treated to an incredible view of the town below. Some of us joked about making tourist t-shirts with “I survived climbing to the top of Himeji Castle” written on the front.
Today’s lunch was various delicious small dishes in a quaint Japanese restaurant. By this point we were getting used to taking off our shoes.
Our stay this evening was in a picturesque mountain resort in Fukiya, where we were treated to incredible hospitality. Fukiya is famous for the iron oxide that was mined in the mountains in this area. It’s rare in other parts of Japan, but here we can see red in the roof top tiles on many of the homes colored by iron oxide. Back in its heyday Fukiya was bustling with traders but now the population is about 70 people mostly aged over 70. And it’s absolutely lovely and worth a stop.
Getting there was an adventure of maneuvering up narrow winding streets that could only hold one car at a time. So we did it in a giant bus. Don’t worry, our bus driver, Ideue-san, who will be with us for the remainder of the trip, had it handled like a true professional. That is some skill!
The fun continued with a dinner consisting of a variety of indescribably delicious dishes including items from the sea and land. The best part was that we all had a personal mini grill to cook our own vegetables and beef. So good!
It didn’t seem like it could get better, but oh it did! From here the evening became pure magic. In the courtyard of the resort we were the invited guests of a 200 year-old dance performed by the children of the nearby town called Takahashi. They were costumed in warrior garb and slayed a dragon in the closing scene. The dance included complicated side steps and deep lunges all accompanied by a solo drummer and singer. We were all stunned when we learned that some of the children were as young as 6 years old! It was an incredible welcome to the area. It was so sweet to see that their families were in the audience documenting the performance as well. These are the sorts of experiences that you couldn’t plan on your own!
After the incredible performance and photo op with the young warriors, we were led into the village where we walked down pathway adorned with candle lit paper lanterns prepared by the locals welcoming us. This has got to be the best welcome I’ve ever received! It felt like we were in an enchanted forest village. Each lantern had its own unique design and created a mystical ambience that was exquisitely pulled off.
That would have been enough, but of course there was more. Mimi and Kuma surprised the group with firework sparklers in the courtyard. This night was really filled with magic.