Himeji Castle, Himeji, Japan

We woke up and had a wonderful breakfast at our hotel before moving to our third (and final) hotel in Kyoto. This city is really interesting in that you can move about ten minutes away and feel like you’re in a totally different locale, despite being relatively close (it doesn’t seem that the neighborhoods change, just the feel, per se).


Today, we ventured to Himeji, a city about 360 miles to the southwest of Kyoto (via Osaka and Kobe), home of the famous World Heritage Site, the Himeji Castle (or “White Egret Castle” because it looks like a bird taking flight). We got to Kyoto station early, so we wandered and took note of the many restaurants with great plastic food options outside, and Perry picked up a tonkatsu bento for the ride.


After arriving in Himeji, we were immediately able to see the castle upon exiting the station. The clouds provided some great, moody backdrop also.


Himeji really has pride for the castle (perhaps because when we checked it was the major tourist attraction even close to the area, so they have to celebrate it) including on their manhole covers. The walk to the castle is fairly short, and it continues to be incredibly beautiful up close.


The castle, which is considered a “National Treasure” in Japan was built in 1333, and was finally completed in its current state in the 1600s. It survived World War II bombings of the area (can you imagine what is being lost in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan now out of sheer human greed?) as well as many of the major earthquakes. Apparently during high tourist seasons it can see up to 15,000 visitors a day in the main building, but we didn’t see nearly that many people at all today.


The inside of the castle is really beautiful; as it dates from the feudal era, there are many original pieces (and the restoration just completed in March 2015). You can walk through both the ryokan living area and the Main Keep, which was really interesting in that it has many different armament holding/display areas and many different military advantages built in.


It is amazing how this castle, which has 7 stories inside, allows you a full view of the city surrounding it, as well as the beautiful mountains around it.


Overall, it was cold but definitely worth the train ride and incredibly picturesque.


After our adventure at Himeji, Perry and I returned to our hotel. It offers a traditional public bath, something the guide book suggested we try if at all possible in Japan (and I feel much more comfortable doing so at a hotel, rather than a legitimately ‘public’ setting). So, I decided to get the cultural experience, and try it out.


After dressing in the traditional robe and making my way downstairs, I entered the public bath area (gender segregated, thankfully). I would describe the experience as somewhat like a combination of a nude hot spring and a very tasteful YMCA locker room. The procedure is that you actually bathe before getting into the “bath” which is essentially a hot water filled pool. This is to ensure that you are both clean and warmed up, so your heart doesn’t get overloaded in the heat. The washing is kind of peculiar – you fill a basin and pour the water over yourself while sitting on a stool at your bath “station” and then use a small, thin towel to dry yourself off. Then, after the hot bath, you rinse using a shower attachment at your same station. Overall, an interesting and actually fairly nice experience. I definitely see the appeal.


For dinner, we decided to go to a specialty ramen place, which had a trendy type vibe to it. I got the specialty “burnt miso” ramen and Perry got the tonkatsu ramen (we shared a gyoza). The sake here is really interesting- they pour your glass, and then overflow it into a box, as your somewhat “second” serving.

Tomorrow, we wake up and head early to Nara, one of Japan’s ancient capitals before heading back to Tokyo the next day. I can’t believe we only have a couple more days left in Japan and that our almost-month in Asia is so soon to being over.


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