After another bus, ferry and three trains it was time to visit Himeji and its world heritage medieval castle. We arrived to the rain again and settled into our upgraded room,,,which was a blessing as the standard rooms are tiny and after benesse house very cramped. as we had a large lunch at Okayama station we chose to pass on dinner and have an early night as it was cold and wet outside.
Our plan to see the Castle was put in doubt after reading some TripAdvisor reviews but despite the rain and cold we got up and arrived at 8.30 am to minimal crowds and an easy journey through the maze of walls and defensive structures until we reached the Castle Keep.
Sakura were amazing and were the perfect foreground to the Castle photos despite the grey and rain backgrounds. The Castle has been totally restored and as a UNESCO Heritage site it has been done to traditional perfection. It is a glowing white reflection of days gone by and a symbol of both prosperity in the region and the price that is paid to defend that ideal especially from the people who were both down trodden by some leaders and flourished under others.
The Castle itself is a 6 storey wooden structure that is a sight to behold both from a design/engineering perspective and a function/form beauty perspective with it’s exposed beams and massive timber slab flooring.
Wandering the gardens and the covered hallways and corridors around the Castle and taking in all it’s history was a great experience and its no wonder that the crowds are flocking here on-mass as we saw as we were leaving…it was going to get squishy in there.
A three minute walk outside the gates was the Koko-En gardens adjacent to the Castle outside the Moat on the site of the Lord’s west Residence. It is also where the Samurai houses were built and is now 9 separate themed gardens from the Edo period ( 1600-1860). It was superb with every imaginable element catered for including a traditional Tea House. Back at Himeji station we cruised around for a while , ate at a great Gyoza Restaurant and had a foot massage before exploring the department stores to keep warm and dry. It was chinnese for dinner for a change and then a night cap at the bar looking back to the castle all lit up at night.