On the first day of 2010, I packed up my things after a charming breakfast with Aaron & the Sumidas and wandered out to explore Japan on my own. They needed to be with the family for Japanese New Year / shōgatsu (正月), and I wanted to be on my own to dive into Japanese sites and culture on my own for a little bit.
I took a train from Kobe (神戸市) down the coastline to Himeji (姫路市). I checked in, and jumped straight into the tourist mix at Himeji Castle (姫路城). Himeji seemed smaller, but I think that was mostly due to the fact that nothing was open in the town, except those shops closest to the tourist attractions. I had perfect weather to shoot the Castle, and I could not have asked for better photo-friendly clouds. People were also abound (being a holiday with free admission), and I liked having some bodies around to use for framing. The castle structure is so impressive, and the state that the building is in demonstrates that there is quite a cultural value to the building.
I did not realize until the middle of the afternoon that this was a 'castle' where samurai (侍) would protect territory. My mind had previously been caught up in a vision of the castle where the Anglican queen or pretty princess might be held up as men with pikes and straight swords would take their watch (all very Western). There was also a turning point when I realized that I would not have been able to run up and down the stairs of the mulit-leveled castle with stairwells not fit for someone with the height of 6'2"+.
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The night was slow in Himeji, and I was forced into my first McDonald's meal. No other establishments were open due to the family obligations of the first day of the Japanese New Year. I took my cheeseburgers and settled down for the night with American 'cuisine'.