Himeji Castle is regarded as the finest example of Japanese castle architecture in existence today so on our way from Osaka to Hiroshima we took the opportunity to break up our train journey with a visit. Getting there was easy thanks to the infamous Japanese Shinkansen bullet trains and the castle is just a short walk from Himeji Station (where there are loads of lockers for you to leave your backpacks).
Walking from the train station when you first glimpse the castle you are taken aback as you see it sitting proud on top of its hill as if to say “yes, I’m sexy and I know it”. But don’t be fooled by its brilliant white exterior which gives it the nickname of “White Heron Castle”, this is a castle that you don’t want to f#@k with. It contained advanced defensive systems including an 85 gate “maze” entrance, 3 moats and 1,000s of loopholes and drops to fire arrows, stones and hot oil on any attackers. On top of surviving ancient feudal onslaughts, the castle has also survived businessmen who want to demolish it to develop the land, intense bombing during WWII (a bomb actually fell through the roof but didn’t explode) and the Great Hanshin earthquake which was Japan’s 2nd worst earthquake of the 20th century. Apparently, during the quake a bottle of sake stayed in place on the alter of the top floor of the castle tower – yes that’s right, this castle is so tough that even during a massive earthquake it doesn’t spill his drink! 😂
They claim that the Castle dates back to 1333 but it has gone through a lot of rebuilds, remodels, expansions and restorations to bring it to its current grandiose and beautiful stature. It was in the 1600s when it was completely rebuilt transforming it to the huge complex of 83 buildings that is seen today, supposedly taking over 25 million man days to build (did they use striking French tradesmen?!).
Walking around and in the castle was awesome and the view at the top is pretty sweet. It’s such a beautiful and interesting place that feels like you are in ancient feudal Japan thanks to the authentic restoration that has taken place and that the Japanese excel at.
After the castle we visited the botanical gardens for a quick wander around before getting back on the Shinkansen bullet train to head to Hiroshima.