with the rolling Japanese landscape in the background. Definitely an experience that can't be repeated! So, then we parked... and Kazuyo's friends had made us T-shirts that we wore and surprised her with... they read "Happy Birthday Kazuyo ! (heart)" Chris wore the (heart) shirt, and we all jumped out and screamed "happy birthday!" She was surprised, and very happy. I could tell she felt really grateful, and as for me and chris, we definitely held on to the shirt! It was a great idea, and it really made the day! Then, we headed to the walking part of the safari, where we saw penguins, walked with kangaroos, and fed an elephant and a giraffe! It was a really good start to the day...
...and it got even better, because chris and i got to go to the biggest, most impressive castle in Japan! We could see it over 5 miles away. It rose up between the hills like a sentry looking out over his post. When we got up close, it towered over us... a good 6/7 stories of castle! So, we stopped for photos on the walk up, then climbed up the stone steps, then when we got to the castle entrance we took off our shoes to walk up into the old, preserved wooden floors of the ancient castle. There, we ducked down as we climbed up the tiny wooden steps and viewed the displays of castle relics and the former shogunate family that ruled from there. Then, on the top floor was a Shinto shrine! As well as a great view of the surrounding area. Then, we headed back down, stopped for sakura (cherry blossom!) ice cream, then headed back
! We finally got home around 8 p.m., then from there, Chris and I headed right out into the night for a night out in Osaka... we planned on spending the whole night at....Karaoke! We got really excited.... we've been wanting to have a night out! So, we got into Osaka and headed for Umeda, a neighborhood in the north part of town! We went to a little bar/club we had seen a few nights before, but things were really quiet, because we had arrived on the last train (until morning!) so, we sat around and chatted with the owner, who was really helpful with getting us acquainted with the area, which was nice! Then, it was almost 2 in the morning, so we headed around the corner, to a great karaoke joint we had seen... it had a giant T-rex in front of it, so we knew it had to be a winner! And it was! We sang for the next 4 hours, so much that I forgot what we even sang.. I took videos of all of our terrible singing, but I was too embarrassed to post them (sorry... teehee)... well, morning came and our 4 hour karaoke deal (they come in packages--2 hrs, 4 hrs, etc..) was over, so we headed back on the morning train and got back to the house...where we slept all day until the afternoon! =D
So, March 19th was Kazuyo(my host mom)'s birthday, and we all went out on the 20th, (a national holiday because it was the first day of spring), to celebrate her birthday. so , we hopped in the car--a big group of us!--to go to Himeji 'Central Park' (it was a safari/theme park) and Castle..but, the roads were wet, a guy changed lanes last minute, and 20 minutes away from home we got into a little fender bender (oops!) luckily, no one was hurt.. it became a 6 car fender bender, but no one was really hurt, so we all exchanged info and explained everything to the police, then we all got on our way... (one guy was going to be late to his sister's wedding in Kobe! so we had no reason to complain...we did wind up getting off almost 2 hours late, though.) So, finally we made it to Himeji drive-through safari..it was really surreal, to go through little subsequent parks for animals each about the size of a plot of land at a zoo, viewing tame (mostly bored) looking tigers, lions, cheetahs, etc.