My trip to Himeji was another one of my half-day trips, but this time I rode on the train for the first time! Luckily, JR (Japanese Rail) has signs in English, making the whole journey slightly easier. Google was still needed, but we managed!
When we got to Himeji, we took a cab from the train station to the castle. It is definitely walking distance from the station, but since we wanted to make sure we saw everything, we thought the cab would be faster.
Himeji Castle is beautiful and huge. Very impressive, especially since it was built in the 14th century. Just be aware of the fact that when you are walking through, there are a lot of very narrow stairs. You also need to take your shoes off, so my little tip for you is: wear pretty socks 😉 At the entrance into the castle, you get a plastic bag for you to carry your shoes in and slippers . And then the climbing begins. The combination of the narrow stairs, low ceilings, and the one size fits all slippers can be deadly, so just watch out when you are there! Five flights of stairs later, you are at the top, rewarded with a view of the city. The only thing that was, in my opinion, was missing from the castle is at least one furnished room. Being from a completely different culture, I cannot imagine what the castle looked like when it was furnished and decorated, so I wish I could see that. But other than that, it’s definitely a need-to-see landmark.
If you go to Himeji castle, definitely buy the combo tickets to go to the Koko-en gardens next to the castle. Those gardens with ponds and waterfalls are truly magical, even before spring really started. Also, there is a tea room, where you can experience a real tea ceremony. I recommend you try it out, you get the matcha tea and a Japanese sweets made from soy beans. You get a little cheat sheet for the ceremony, so you know what to do. This is important since you have to bow at the beginning, eat the sweet, pick up the tea, turn the cup, drink, turn the cup back and then set it down. At the end, you have to bow again. It was a great experience.
When we finally found our way out of the intricate gardens, it was time for lunch. At this point we had to test out how helpful Japanese people are, because we found a restaurant online, but couldn’t find it in the real world. We found out that Japanese people are very willing to help you out, even if they don’t speak the same language. Thank god for google translate, because through it, a woman pointed us in a direction of several restaurants.
After lunch, we headed back to Kobe. To make the trip back more special, we took the Shinkanzen, or the bullet train. So, instead of spending almost an hour on a train, we spent 12 minutes. It is a nice train, probably very comfortable for longer rides, something that I will definitely have to try out at one point!
Himeji is a place you should visit, if you are in the Kansai region. The castle and the gardens are beautiful. You could also just walk through the city for hours, discovering new things.