Posts Tagged Himeji
I picked up my parents early in the morning outside Hotel Miwa in Numazu. We were setting off for 4 days of sightseeing in western Japan before returning to Numazu. My parents liked the hotel so much that we booked a room for them when we returned to Numazu. The staff seemed really happy that my parents had enjoyed their stay so much, and not in just a “hooray, repeat business” kind of way. Hotel Miwa is a fantastic place which I would recommend highly!
My parents had learned from their first trip to Japan, and had packed much lighter for their return. The first time they had a bag with a shoulder strap that we referred to as “the green bag of doom” which seemed to weigh about 900kg, as well as some large suitcases. This time they had small bags and backpacks which made for a much more enjoyable experience.
We walked to Numazu station and took Tokaido line to Mishima. While on the shinkansen platform we enjoyed breathtaking views of a snow covered Mt. Fuji before catching the train to Shin-Osaka, with Himeji as our final destination. I don’t travel on the shinkansen often by myself, so I’m always amazed at how quiet and smooth the ride is. We blasted across the countryside at over 250km/h, watching the coastline and cities whiz by the windows.
We arrived at Himeji in time for lunch. While we were standing outside the station deciding where to eat, a friendly Japanese woman approached and asked in English if we were lost. I explained that we were just trying to decide where to eat, and she lept into action, running to the nearby information desk to find out where the station restaurants were located. She apologized sincerely for not being able to recommend one of the restaurants personally.
I have found that Japanese people, especially the ones who can speak English, are almost universally helpful to tourists. They seem to be especially helpful to middle aged tourists like my parents, who have been treated like royalty since landing at Narita.
Unfortunately the restaurant we chose was busy and not nearly as friendly as the nice lady we met outside the station (which is rare), but we still enjoyed a good meal and set out for the castle.
I have been to Himeji castle before, and it is still just as breathtaking the second time. My parents were blown away by the size of the castle, which dominates the view from the station. We spent a few hours exploring the huge castle grounds and the interior of the castle.
I could visit Himeji castle over and over without getting bored; there is just so much to see and enjoy. It was a bit of a letdown to walk away from the beautiful castle towards the station. We boarded the shinkansen again bound for Osaka, which would be our home for the next few days. Good bye Himeji!
This morning I woke up early and headed west towads Himeji to see the famous castle. Himeji is about 500km west of Numazu, so I took the shinkansen (bullet train) instead of regular trains. The closest shinkansen station is in Mishima, which is convenient because I could use my regular work commuter pass to get there. At Mishima I bought an unreserved ticket to Himeji. Each shinkansen has several cars with unreserved seats.
The Tokaido shinkansen has three options: Kodama, Hikari, and Nozomi. The Kodama stops at all shinkansen stations, but has the most unreserved cars. The Nozomi only stops at major stations and has the fewest unreserved cars. I struck a balance and took the Hikari. Three hours later I arrived at Himeji station.
Upon exiting Himeji station, you can instantly see the famous Himeji castle. It looks close but only because the castle and grounds are HUGE. It’s actually a solid 1.7km walk (thanks Google). The castle is one of Japan’s many UNESCO world heritage sites. It was built in the late 1500s, and unlike many castles in Japan, is still the original building. Somehow the castle survived 400 years of wars, earthquakes, typhoons, people, and a modern city springing up around it.
Himeji castle is probably the best thing I have seen in my almost 2 years in Japan so far. I could literally write about it for hours, describing in detail the different buildings, the steep stone base, the arrow ports, the crests built into the roof, and other awesome details. Words really don’t do Himeji castle justice – it’s something that needs to really be experienced in person. My favourite part was when I finally got to the top of the castle and looked out the window. I could see the castle grounds below and the city all around while feeling a nice cool breeze. I would have been happy to stay there until they asked me to leave.
If you are lucky enough to visit Himeji castle, I have one word of advice: wear comfortable shoes. The only way to get around the sizable castle grounds is on foot. I won’t soon forget the fashionably dressed woman sitting on the ground complaining to her boyfriend about how her feet hurt. Seriously, who wears heels to a 400 year old castle? Wear comfortable shoes with good support, you’re going to need them.
Not only is Himeji Castle an impressive structure, but all of the displays and information are available in both Japanese and English. Most famous tourist spots in Japan have good information available, but Himeji truly raises the bar. Himeji is truly a must see place in Japan.