Monday, August 3, 2015

[EHIME] Yet Another Japanese Castle

I have no problems with castles per se, except that they are like temples to me, especially if they have the same motif. To some extent, you’ve seen all once you’ve seen one, unless of course if you are an enthusiast, well-versed, or perhaps just interested in ancient history. The past can really be amusing but for those who do not give a shit, it could translate to boring... OUCH! Who just pelted me with a rotten egg? Show yourself, I will troll you! Sorry, I’m schizo sometimes. No. I’m not. Yes, my precious.

So the plan was to stay in Matsuyama for two days and perhaps visit my friend on a daytrip in Imabari. But he said he would meet me at the airport, and then we did the onsen thingy, and then we ran out of things to do, and then we got hungry, and then we ate, and then we drove all the way to their house which took a couple of hours. We even had to stop at the side of the highway to sleep a bit because we were both wasted despite the lack of sake during lunch time. Welcome to Imabari!

Imabari is not really popular. Sorry if I have to be blunt. I just appreciate being brutally honest. I have come to that point in life where travel is no longer defined as getting an orgasm upon seeing a new landmark and posing in front of it so you could post an update on Instagram. If I wanted to do that, I could have stayed in Kansai and explored Nara or Himeji. When I travel nowadays, I usually just try to catch up with friends and talk about life and the entire existential BS haunting us on a daily basis.

The problem is that this friend of mine speaks no English, and my Nihongo is shit. We were classmates in Xiamen, both of us learning Mandarin. I only stayed for a year. He is now on his third year. Needless to say, his Mandarin has so far eclipsed mine, which meant language barrier came into play. I guess this is the reason why he seemed a bit frustrated because: a) I seemed bored (I was born with a bored face, so that’s me by default); and b) We couldn’t talk about anything significant because of my shitty Chinese.

And yes, there isn’t much to see in Imabari. The prefecture is popular for its bike lanes. It is also a port city and there is a lovely harbor where you can spend around five minutes unless you want death by dehydration courtesy of the summer sun. But there were fireworks that night so what we did was steal his folks’ bikes. Okay, that would have been fun, but you know how nice Japanese people are. They actually volunteered the bikes to us. Cycling that night was chillaxing because of the cool breeze.

Imabari’s castle was already closed that night so we thought we would just reserve it for the next morning. Given the lack of legit things to do, I am glad that we did. Imabari gives off a small town feel but the good thing is that all the creature comforts you need are there. I would even go as far as to say that it is a really modern city pretending to be old school. But yes, this is no Tokyo, and the absence of skyscrapers in the horizon tends to worry me a lot.

Did I mention how hot it was? This is the reason why most locals who came to see the fireworks that night chose to wear their yukatas and opted for a leisurely walk. I then wondered if it would be weird to start a similar trend back in Manila. Nah, we have our own dress code. Sleeveless shirts, short shorts, and flip-flops are our thing. You know, we are beach people. Okay, I digress once again. Let’s talk about the castle now just to say that this is a relevant post, shall we?

The centerpiece of the Imabari’s castle looks like any other Japanese castle, at least to me, because I am uninformed and did not do prior research. Sue me. The vicinity is worth checking out because it is surrounded by a body of water. How do you call that, a moat? The interesting thing about this is that the castle used to be surrounded by the bay itself, which seems to be a weird combination. I mean, most castles are far inland, right? Well, not this one!

Talking about the vicinity, you have the usual red gates, many of them lined up and surrounded by those mini stone temple thingies that serve as altars. You also have the brown wooden ones which are not as attention-grabbing but lend an air of antiquity to the premises. If you are looking for a really quiet place for meditation, you came to the right place. The thing is that I was not really in the mood for that. I was not really in the mood for anything so I could have just sat under a tree and slept.

The castle has six floors and doubles as a museum for anything Japanese that you could think of. You want to see a katana? You will see a katana. You want to see a samurai helmet? You will see a samurai helmet. You want Lucy Liu to chase you up and down the castle with a katana? I think we could negotiate that if you can afford her talent fee. Or maybe we could just get someone who looks like her. Okay, I digress again. If you are a history buff, you will surely enjoy, BUT!

Yes, there are BUTS. I already told you that Imabari isn't that popular, meaning there isn't that much effort to accommodate tourists. What do I mean, specifically? The texts you see inside will all be in Japanese. I could not remember quite well, but I think there were some Chinese writings there too, but this is debatable given how the use of Kanji was customary in Japan in the past anyway. It could have been just Japanese written entirely in Kanji.

Secondly, you are not allowed to take photos or videos until you reach the uppermost floor, which is where you really need your camera anyway because of the awesome panoramic views! For the museum, just pretend to understand whatever you're reading and then try to appreciate the visual clues available. I would dare say that you could maximize the enjoyment if you are fluent in Nihongo, but we know you’re not, so let’s stop kidding each other here.

Once you reach the top, you'll be rewarded with a bird’s-eye view of Imabari from all angles. You'll even get to see the bridges connecting the island to the neighboring ones, like, so San Francisco, but with white bridges instead of red. Even if you are not that interested in such gorgeous views, you can just stay up there and claim one of the benches as yours. The cool breeze is truly relaxing and you will be shielded from the sun anyway. Fall asleep and just set your alarm before closing time!

And so that’s how my Imabari trip ended. My friend and I decided that I'll just go back to Matsuyama that day instead of staying at his place for another evening, because what’s the point, right? We just ran out of activities to do, and we were both not in the mood for a 24-hour staring contest. Matsuyama has its own castle, by the way, but I‘ve already reached my quota for this particular trip. That only meant one thing. SLEEP! Sleep is awesome, guys.

[EHIME] Yet Another Japanese Castle

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