Today, I was off to see Himeji Castle and Kokoen, but before I did that, I also stopped at Kyoto Tower since it was closed the first time I went. I’ll admit that when I learned about Himeji castle in my Japanese classes, I wasn’t overly interested in it. The pictures of it in our textbook weren’t overly spectacular and it definitely wasn’t a place I was in a rush to go see. In the end I decided to go mostly because it isn’t that far from Kyoto and because it’s such a popular place. In the end, I’m super glad I went. I think it’s my favorite out of all the castles I’ve been to.
My first stop was Kyoto Tower. As with all other towers I have been to, at the very top was an observation deck. I have to say, the view of Kyoto looks much different than the view of Tokyo. What makes it really cool is the fact that I could see almost all of my favorite spots in Kyoto from that observatory. Unfortunately many of the places were too far for me to get good pictures of, but I could get a good look at them through the binoculars they had around the deck.
Once I had my fill of the scenery, I jumped on a train to Himeji. It was a little bit of a walk to the castle from the station, but it was only rough because of how hot the weather was. It wouldn’t have been so bad under normal circumstances. The entrance to the castle is a little more expensive that other castles, but it was worth it. Many other castles in Japan still look like the original castles on the outside, but the insides have been turned into museums. However, Himeji is still in its original condition. Sure, it has exhibits inside, but the interior still has the feel of a castle. One of the most surprising things was how low the ceilings were when going down steps. I’m only 5 feet (152 cm) tall and even I had to duck on some of the staircases. I couldn’t help but laugh as I imagined soldiers running through the castle during a time of attack and accidentally banging their heads on the ceiling when going up and down the staircases. The side pillars (other parts of the castle) also give spectacular views of the main keep and looked just as spectacular on the inside.
After the castle I made my way to Kokoen. The beauty of the garden matched the beauty of the castle. It was full of ponds, bridges, stone paths, and traditional Japanese buildings. There are several sections to the garden with all sorts of walking paths. It is a great place to just roam and follow whatever path you happen to come across. It’s also a great way to get lost. I found that out the hard way. However, I didn’t mind getting lost in such a beautiful place.
Unfortunately I didn’t get to do much else in Himeji. I wanted to get back to my dorm at a decent time so that I could repack for my next journey and get a good night’s rest. Tomorrow, I’m off to Nikko.