Today, we’re throwing the spotlight on Japan’s legendary Himeji-jō, one of the country’s last remaining feudal-era fortresses and a fine example of 17th-century Japanese castle architecture.
Note to readers: This is a long and picture-heavy post, so I’ve divided it into several pages. Hopefully this method yields a more user-friendly result than my usual practice of splitting up long write-ups into separate posts (“Part 1”, “Part 2”, etc.).
I’m also trying out a more consistent method for sharing pictures. Instead of using the old mix of super-high-resolution (clickable) and reduced-size (non-clickable) images, every photograph can now be clicked on to access a larger version (resized from the original 3648×2736 pixels to 800×600 pixels). After some experimentation, I decided that this method strikes a good balance between reducing space requirements for picture storage and allowing readers to enlarge any image that interests them.
The city of Himeji – with the castle at its heart – is only an hour away from Kyōto by shinkansen. Because of its immense size, Himeji-jō is visible from the train and is a prominent feature of the local landscape within the city itself. From the railway station, it’s possible to reach the castle on foot by walking north on Ōtemae-dōri, or you can spare yourself the trouble and hop onto a bus instead. Bear in mind that there’s plenty of walking to be had within the castle grounds and the surrounding area, so I’d strongly recommend the bus if only to give one’s feet a momentary reprieve.
And one more thing: come as early as possible to avoid the crowds.
The hill on which the castle stands is the highest point in this part of the city, so the main tower dominates the skyline even from beyond the outer moat.
To reach the main gate, one crosses the castle’s moat on a classic wooden bridge.
Beyond the first gate lies a broad greensward surrounded by cherry trees, a popular hanami hotspot during the spring blossoming season. There’s a great view of the castle from this field . . .
. . . which means that even those unwilling to pay the price of admission can walk away with a great picture or two.
Entry costs just 600 yen, or 720 yen for a combination ticket that gets you into both Himeji-jō and the magnificent Kōko-en garden right next door (beyond the outer moat). A separate ticket for Kōko-en – which should not be missed! – costs 300 yen so the combination ticket will save you a little money.
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