The first stop on a recent Japanese road trip was the city of Osaka, which is Japan's second largest city. And with a population of 19 million, probably one of the worlds largest cities, too! Originally a merchant city, Osaka still has a large network of canals, that we enjoyed exploring.
This is the popular Dotonbori area. The sign of the runner is a famous landmark in Osaka, and we saw lots of people copying the pose for their pictures!
The street right behind the canal, was very lively with lots of shops and restaurants. We loved wandering in this area.
Now for one of Osaka's specialties, takoyaki, or octopus balls.
They consist of octopus and veggies cooked in batter in a special pan, and topped with various toppings. Takoyaki is a popular Japanese dish, and is said to have originated in Osaka.
Our toppings were mayo, soy sauce, green onion and bonito, which is dried fish shavings. Ella actually remembered the name from a documentary she saw on our favorite channel, NHK World. Good job Ella! I would rate the takoyaki as okay. The flavor was great, but I just don't care for the rubbery octopus texture.
This area was so fun and entertaining for an evening stroll.
Yes, there is always a face cut-out sign in Japan. And the girls want their picture at ALL of them.
The view from the famous Ebisu Bridge.
There are three Lady Liberty's in Japan. We've now seen two of them, one more to go!
***Side note- ALL cabs in Japan have white, lacy seat covers over the seats. They are always pristine and I've no doubt that they are laundered daily. Also, the drivers ALWAYS wear a suit, tie and white gloves. I love this place!***
Continuing along our road trip, we stopped in the town of Himeji to tour the beautiful Himeji Castle, also known as the "white egret castle" because it looks like a bird taking flight.
Himeji is the largest and most visited castle in Japan, and was originally built in 1333, it has been restored many times since then, but this is still the original structure. This picture shows the original feudal town, with several moats in place.
We had our own personal tour guide, Takata-san, and he was wonderful. He works as a high school English teacher in the town, and really brought the castle and the old stories to life for the girls. Takata-San even shared a ghost story about the castle. Ella and Eva were thoroughly entranced!
The inside of the castle had such beautiful wood work.
Himeji Castle was used more as a military stronghold, than a residence. The kingdom was not considered conquered until the enemy troops reached the top floor, where the lord resided. So, a lot went into the design of the castle to keep enemies out.
The structure of the castle is made of wood planks that fit together like a puzzle. No nails were used to secure the building, and it has withstood centuries of earthquakes, wars and natural disasters. The girls enjoyed trying these hands-on replicas.
The moat rocks are also put together like a puzzle, and were carved to fit to perfection.
Seeing how perfectly these rocks fit together was truly fascinating!
This was the princess' room, we liked the models. It is rumored that Princess Sen had over 100 ladies-in-waiting! Must be nice!
Walking up to the main castle, we learned more about the defensive strategies of the architecture. They thought of everything, including uneven stairs, hidden staircases, etc., to keep the enemy at bay. The girls loved hearing about these secrets.
Lots of weapon racks inside.
This pillar is in one piece and extends the entire height of the castle. I don't even know how that was possible!
The top floor, where the lord would reside, housed a shrine for protection of the castle.
Also, great views from the top!
This staircase was built in such a way that you could not see the exit. It looked like a dead end from the top, to further confuse the enemy.
"Mom, take our picture."
After a fun afternoon exploring the castle, we got back in the car to our final destination, Hiroshima.