Welcome to Himeji!

30 Apr

This post is primarily intended for the five new ALTs preparing to come to Himeji. Congrats, Briana, Roxanne, Cole, Debra and Sean! You have a lot of preparations to make, but don’t stress out over it!

I went out today and took some pictures around Shirasagi, as well as around places I frequently go to, just to help give an idea of how to find things. I did want to do more but it started raining. Nevertheless, feel free to ask me or any of the other ALTs about anything with finding things or otherwise getting prepared.

So, here’s the first floor hallway coming in from the west entrance (hey, I didn’t say this would be an exciting tour). To the left is the entrance to the main classroom; the library is the next door down. On the right are room entrances. At the far end you can see where our garbage bins are, and to the left of there is where you’d find the elevator and stairwell.

Here are the apartment doorways. Yep, those are doors alright. I am an amazing photographer. I like to put a lot of crap on my door – not a prerequisite though. Definitely a choice thing.

Here is the classroom I mentioned above. This is where we teach the community lessons in between school terms. We also have parties in here!

If you were to come down the hallway in the top picture and turn left, you’d find the north entrance like so. This one leads out to the parking lot, but we’ll take a look out there a little later.

On the second floor we have our own personal garden – another place for parties. You also get a nice view of our neighborhood and nearby Mt. Hachijoganzan, which is definitely an easy to remember name.

Another view from the garden. This one is pointing north. Though you can’t really see it, up the street is a nearby stop for the #13 bus.

So let’s jump into that parking lot I was talking about. Here you can see where we keep our bikes. You can also see the garden above, which I was just taking pictures from. I hope I’m giving you some sense of bearing in how things are laid out.

Hey Jude! Out in the parking lot I’ve run into one of our resident Adelaide ALTs. There is nothing the residents like more than having random pictures taken of them after they’ve gotten back home from running errands. Nothing.

Continuing on, here is the west face of Shirasagi Residence. If we were to follow this road southward (to the right, from this perspective), you’d eventually reach “castle road”, or rather the road that goes to the castle. I should mention that in Japan, they name intersections, not roads. We’ll head down this way because there’s some neat stuff.

Let’s get back to the opposite side of the street, first. Right across the street from the west entrance, there are some local vending machines. Even ones with beer and sake, whooo! Get used to seeing these because they’re pretty much everywhere.

Right next door to Shirasagi (yes I’ve crossed the street again) is a bakery. I’ve only been here once but they’ve got some pretty good stuff.

And across the street from that bakery is, well, another bakery. Specifically this is a bread store (the other one is more dessert items; cakes and donuts and such). Our friend Michelle says the baguettes here are really good. I wouldn’t know because Michelle is always buying up their baguettes.

Just to the right of the bakery is a road that splits off and goes behind the store that has the vending machines out front. This is where the #12 bus stops, which a lot of residents take to get to the train station because it comes more frequently than the #13. The bus stop sign is that blue and white circle on a post to the right of the road – kind of hard to make out here. In the distance is good ol’ Mt. Hachijozangan.

Going down the main street a little more, and next door to the bread bakery, we have two more places of interest. First there’s Steakhouse Hiro; a little pricy but you can get some fine kurogewagyu steak (but not today since it was closed). Next door to that is Amane, the newly built wine shop. Definitely a place you’ll want to visit to pick up gifts for teachers. Or, if you just like wine. They also have a small but decent selection of imported meats and cheeses.

Continuing southward, we get to an intersection. You can’t really see them, but to the right is Eneos gas station (which you’ll probably never need to use but it’s an easy to recognize landmark with its bright orange awning, and to the left is Hakuro Taxi. You can barely see one of the taxis there. Just for reference, the taxi costs around ¥1100~1200 to get to the station, and not preferred to the usual ¥200 bus ride. But if you’re in a hurry or out later than the buses run, the taxi is what you have.

If we keep going south/forward we’ll get to castle road, but let’s go left for a moment.

Nothing really of interest here. Somewhere to the right is a hair dresser where some of us get our hair cut. It’s called Delight – a little pricy but the two people who run it are really nice and do a good job. Plus you can get some discounts for being a regular customer. Going down this street a little, we’ll take a right. It’s where the bus is at –  a bit hard to see though.

Having gone right, we head a little south down another street. This takes us to a Family Mart, a convenience store. Convenience stores in Japan actually are very convenient, because besides snacks and stuff, you can pay a lot of your bills here. This includes ticket items for things you buy online. It’s about your only option since it’s nearly impossible for foreigners to get Japanese  credit cards.

If we kept following this road, we would still get to castle road. But let’s back up to the intersection above, and head straight this time.

So now we’re heading down the main road again (the one Shirasagi is on). Not gonna lie, this road can be a little perilous to travel. It keeps getting narrower as you go, but it’s always a two-way street. Approaching the T intersection of castle road, if two cars come up going opposite directions, one will have to pull to the side to let the other pass. Just pay attention to the road and you’ll be fine. Also, let’s look to the right real quick.

The blue awning marks the spot for Fresh Shinzaike, a local grocer. They don’t have the same selection as the bigger chains, but they do have cheap and fresh vegetables. Also inside is a dry cleaner that I highly recommend. They are closed on Sundays, however.

Here, we’ve finally reached the T intersection, and castle road. The castle is actually a ways behind us, from this perspective. Across the street here is a Sushiro, one of many “kaiten sushi” (i.e. conveyor belt sushi) restaurants. These places are great, and even if you don’t care for fish (like me) they’ll probably have something you like. Most sushi plates are ¥105 a piece. We’ll head down this way just a little.

Pretty much next door to Sushiro is a MaxValue. This is one of the major chain grocers. Pretty typical grocer, all the staples can be found here. Truth be told, though, every grocery store seems to carry something a bit different in it. Even the same product will come in different varieties depending on the store, and these varieties change frequently. It’s actually a little annoying – you may find something you really like, a kind of of snack or drink or something, and then a couple weeks later it’s just gone. Even more standard things, like fruits and vegetables, change in stock depending on whether or not they’re in season. But at least it’s a good excuse to keep trying new things.

Anyway enough of this. Let’s turn around and head towards the castle already!

Here we are heading towards the castle (I’m on the opposite side of the road now, the side Sushiro and MaxValu are on). Nothing really of interest here, just a pretty spot. To the left you can see a little of the castle wall on the other side of the road.

And here we have Himeji Castle, in all its boxy glory. The road ahead is the road we’ve been on. I retreated a little into the shops and recreations area to get a good shot of the castle. It really something having a World Heritage site less than 10 minutes by bike southeast of you. Anyway, we’ll get back on castle road and head down a little more.

The show’s about over, and my pictures aren’t doing such a good job of indicating the whereabouts of things. But supposing we continued a little down castle road, past the Castle, and then took a right at a big intersection called Otemaedori. We’d be looking down this road here, which goes all the way to the JR and Sanyo train stations, as well as the bus station where you’ll be visiting soon to get your bus pass. This is also essentially downtown Himeji, with all kinds of stuff to see and do. I could pretty much write a whole post on just that… and maybe I will. For now though, let’s just take a left at the intersection we happen to be at.

This rather spacious area is the Egret Center. A lot of festivities happen here, including cultural events and even a circus for a few months out of the year. Also, inside the center are Japanese classes you can go to to brush up on your skills. It’s basically a big cultural/community center.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope you’re looking forward to Japan. If you want to know about or see anything else, just talk to any of us on FaceBook!


2 Responses to “Welcome to Himeji!”

  1. Horgh April 30, 2012 at 11:09 pm #

    A-hem, the patio area is NOT for parties, but rather informal (and mostly quiet) gatherings.

    There was exactly one community party there and since then the cranky neighbours have been on our case about “beer fueled madness”.

    This said, good initiative. I should be less lazy and post pictures of other things of interest such as the Yamada grocery store and such.

    • Adam April 30, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

      Oh come now, Sylvain. You’re basically arguing semantics. Regardless of what you want to call it, the garden can be used for merry making of various degrees. They’ll have plenty of time down the road to hear about our cranky neighbors.

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