Takamatsu --> Himeji Castle --> Kyoto --> Takayama
We actually managed to find some storage lockers at the rail station, so the trip to the castle wasn't bad at all. After all that walking, though, the climb up the hill and then 6 flights of stairs wasn't my favorite part of the trip. But occasionally there was a breeze, and the view was great.
Wandering through a nearby park we'd heard some boogie music and some motown -- I finally recognized 'Heard it through the grapevine' as an instrumental -- although all the other ones with words I didn't recognize. Some rap was played too -- on a set of huge speakers. We could hear this through most of the castle, making the experience a bit surreal.
One of the first places we went in the castle, we changed into slippers and carried our shoes and I nearly did myself some damage not-quite falling down a set of stairs. However, I noted other people in their socks, and at the next building, and every one since then, including hotels (Ryokan) I've stuck with socks.
When we made it into Kyoto, it was dark (about 6pm it gets DARK NOW) and raining, and we knew the hotel was a good way away from the station, so we took a cab. (Only Rickshaw to go now... and I had an opportunity, but turned it down.) About half an hour later we arrived at the wrong hotel -- very near the right one, and a similar name, and as I noticed later, he took us to the one that I had a picture of. Ouch! Bad web -- and worse me for not looking closer, verifying that I was capturing a picture of the Annex not the Main.
We did a festival at a Temple where we got a bit of Noh drama and the priests gave out chrysanthemum sake. No offense to the first person who shared sake with me, but this is now my favorite sake to date. We also visited the Golden Pavilion. We also went shopping and I bought some stuff and have had to unzip my luggage that extra inch.
I'm flip-flopping as to whether I'll try to travel with the duffel and the camera, checking only the large luggage (with the small inside) or whether I'll try to check both large and small, and have a backpack and camera for travel, or whether I'll check only the large suitcase containing only dirty laundry, carrying the rest in the small 'carry-on sized' suitcase and the camera... I've never had anything stolen by the airlines, but I've been lucky.
I would never have had the nerve to do the buses by myself, but my co-travelers figured them out -- pretty quickly -- and we got around the next couple of days on bus pretty well. Even took a bus back to the rail station.
Now we're in Takayama. Our first night we made a reservation for a SERIOUSLY expensive meal. We had thought that it would serve Hida beef, but since the 3 of us dropped about $400 and 'only' got about 10 courses of fish and veggies we could probably have spent a bit more if it had had the beef. We all also ordered sake (got a local brand) and it was even more wonderful than what we'd gotten at the festival. The walk back to the hotel (in the rain) was kind of neat, because as we were walking under a set of covered storefronts (a few blocks of them) we heard some smooth jazz music coming from ... it sounded like all around.
We got back at about 9:30, my umbrella broke, and the public bath here (no shower, but a HOT bath, and a place to cleanse oneself first) closes at 10, so I had barely the time to strip and run down there.
Today was a bit gloomy. I started off wearing my sweatshirt, but before we left for our first item of the day, I stopped into a 7-11 like store and bought a rain deterrent. It worked quite well, and shortly there was blue sky and it was so warm that I needed to remove the extra layer. We ran into some American fans & family at 3 or 4 other locations in the town. After spending time in Tokyo and Kyoto, Takayama is VERY different. It's small.
I was amazed that this very Japanese style hotel (toilet down the hall -- segregated by gender -- mine has 2 urinals, one Japanese style toilet, and one Western one. So far I've waited for the western...) has a computer at the front desk.
Darn near homeward bound.