We had the first of our day trips from Kyoto today, and today's was a rousing success! We headed off early in the morning on the shinkansen to Himeji, which is where the famous White Heron castle is located. We took the self-guided tour of the castle and the grounds, which was great. The castle is incredible and beautiful and everything you could possibly imagine a medieval Japanese castle to be. It was definitely a hike, though- lots of climbing and stairs, and absolutely no handicap capabilities. I was in the middle of wondering what people with mobility issues did when I passed an older gentleman in a wheelchair, parked out in the castle lawn, lonely and dejectedly waiting for his group to return.
nic pic of Himeji Castle, Kelsey
As we were walking back to the train station, Jeff and I were both dying of heat- after all that climbing, and the heat, we were both covered in sweat, when yeah!!! I spot a sign for what I think is a Japanese snowball stand!!! As a Louisiana girl this is a miraculous sign from heaven and sweet sweet salvation. We head up there, and Jeff, in his ever stronger Japanese, reads off the flavors. I get a berry one with condensed milk. It comes in a small bowl, heaped with feathery ice and is the MOST delicious thing I've ever tasted. Maybe an exaggeration, but very literally top 10 best. Better than anything I've ever had in the south. With a huge smile on my face, we continue down the main drag when we pass a thrift store with vintage kimono out front- since possible recipients of gifts may or may not be reading we possibly could have bought some very awesome 70s polyester men's kimono.
um... I'm BIG in Japan? (entrance to Castle - preserved in its original size)
In addition, we found an incredible ceremonial sake set- three cups, a pitcher in the ceremonial box all hand-painted (for 17 bucks!!! woo hooo). We have since christened it in a drunken kimono tyeing session back at Sandal wood hostel- Jeff, Jimmi and Zin (the hostel staff) made an awesome Japanese rock band with a djimbe, a guitar and a shamisen (the traditional geisha instrument!!!)
So with our treasures in hand, we head off to Kobe in search of one thing: BEEF, its what's for dinner. Or in this case, lunch. We hit up a restaurant called Waka kuqo- Lonely Planet's recommendation for Kobe beef. LP's been a bit spotty on this trip so far, but this time it hit it right on the head.
our chef presenting our meat to us
We had the absolute most incredible lunch, and quite literally the best beef I've ever tasted. It was hibachi style, we were alone at our table, so we got all the attention. They cooked the garlic slices individually, what I mean by that is that they lined up the slices into a grid, and turned each one over individually, so that each one was cooked to perfection. Likewise with the chunks of Jeff's tenderloin. They were cooked individually, so that each piece was medium rare. That's attention to detail!!!! They cut up the fat of the steak and cooked that and we were told to eat that with a little salt- and that was incredibly delicious!!! We couldn't go wrong!!! There was soup, appetizer, veggies and tofu, meat, rice, Japanese pickles, green tea and ice cream all for 4,000 yen (about 40 bucks!) And this was the lunch special, so you can imagine what this place would be like at dinner!!! Jeff splurged for the tenderloin (hey- you're only in Kobe, eating Kobe beef on rare occasions, right- so go all out) while I stuck with the sirloin.
Rock on shamisen
Delicious, delicious, delicious, a thousand times. So much so that we're considering going back and getting the cheaper 30 buck lunch (no soup or dessert) but who cares- gotta have that beef!!! And we did check- they do feed them beer and give them massages! Believe me that makes all the difference!