Edible souvenirs in Himeji: Bean-paste-filled pancakes with images of Himeji Castle.

Picture postcards from Japan

Can you imagine having this right in the middle of town? This castle is the pride and joy of Himeji, a.k.a. Phoenix’s sister city in Japan. I’d been there eight years ago, but it was fun all over again. Who needs an elliptical machine when you can climb to the top of this – in slippers!

Kokoen is the incredible traditional Japanese garden near Himeji Castle. I was envious of how moss just grows on everything there.

The fish looked fat and happy, and swam like they were dreaming.

More moss . . .

The “Okame Bento,” named after the jolly folk figure, was something I picked up from a vendor on the bullet train platform.

Take off Okame’s face, and it’s a box full of rice, ground meat, seasoned beef, egg, mushrooms, pickles, stewed potato, octopus, edamame, chestnuts, and several other random but tasty ingredients.

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