Today is the day we leave Kyoto and start our long journey down to Fukuoka, where the flights are cheapest to Hong Kong. The problem came when we finally got round to booking our hotels, there was nothing left. Our first stop is Himeji and we could only find a “Love Hotel” that was in budget. If you want to know more about Japan’s Love Hotels checkout Hayley blog post on the subject, What to expect from a Japanese Love Hotel. To make things even worse it was a 40 minute walk with the rucksacks, in the blistering heat! On the plus side Himeji was only an hour and a half on the train with a switch over at Osaka.
We arrived at our boudoir at midday and were able to check in right away which was unusual, they are normally quite strict with check in times in Japan, but then we remembered that we are in a hotel that rents the rooms by the hour! Upon entering the room Hayley accidentally charged some lingerie to the room. Guess who had to go to reception and sort that mess out? Me!
Anyway, because we were burning daylight and attractions seemed to close early here, we started the long hike back to the station and finally made it toHimeji Castle at 2pm. FYI it closes at 4PM. The walk from the station to the castle is worth a mention, it’s very well maintained and made the walk very pleasant. There are many statues along the route and even replica features from the castles roof. I did wonder if the whole ofHimeji is like this, but I think it’s just here because most people do a day trip to Himeji from Osaka or Kyoto and walk this route.
The castle is defiantly the best in Japan, it dwarfs the Osaka castle and has a much more historic feel. The inside of the Osaka castle is just a modern museum but Himeji is dominated by the exposed wooded beams and supports, you even have to take your shoes off before you enter. The castle itself was originally built in 1346 as three stories. It was then significantly remodelled in 1581 and made in to the seven-story beauty that stands before us today. From the outside it looks like there are only five floors, but this is a deception and there are six floors and a basement, making seven in total.
On the second floor you can find rows upon rows of, what the leaflet described as, sword racks. But the windows on the 5th and 6th floor of the castle were very high on the walls to allow, according to leaflet, the musket smoke to disperse easily. This also meant they had to build platforms under all the windows for the gunmen to stand on. Getting back to the sword racks, why are their sword racks in the castle when guns have been invented, who brings a sword to gun fight, did they not watch The Last Samurai?
The most interesting fact I found was that there are two toilets in the basement that historicity have never been used. No pictures I am afraid as we were not allowed in.
You also get access to the auxiliary building. We think these buildings were mainly used for storing weapons, food, water and everything else you might need to run and defend the castle. One of the buildings must be around 400meters long with room after room and an endless corridor. There is not much to see inside, but there are a lot of information boards detailing the history of the castle.
If you are visiting Osaka or KyotoHimeji Castle should definitely be on your itinerary.