Trip Taken: 2007
Coming out of Himeji Train Station, I saw an orderly gathering of taxis to the right and a large main street that led to the goal of visiting Himeji, the castle. The castle is called Shirasagi (The White Egret) for its white walls that still shines after all these years. The Japanese sure knows how to maintain and build lasting structures, just think of their cars. It is said to be the most beautiful of the castles in Japan, which still have their original structures.
Approaching Himeji castle is a fun little excursion into a small town experience that are not the big metropolises like Tokyo, Osaka, or Kyoto. It is a large street and could probably pass for a small street in any one of the cities I mentioned. It’s lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants. But the vibe is noticeably slower in pace. There isn’t that extra kick in the step that so many city people seem to be possessed with.
Approaching the castle, I saw the castle appear through the trees and it’s a brilliant white. It’s just like the guide said. I was in luck as there was a English speaking tour that just began. I followed them through most of the castle to learn some of the history. In my opinion, it’s much more interesting to know some background on what you’re looking at. Inside the castle, there is a variety of samurai armors, weapons, and antiques. Everything led to a climb up to the top of the castle where there is a great view of the city of Himeji. Since they want to preserve the wooden floors, you will be making that climb up to the top with slippers you exchange for at the beginning of the castle. Thank goodness there wasn’t anyone with a bad case of smelly feet that day.
One interesting room in the castle was the Harakiri-maru, or the suicide room where people were forced to commit ritual disembowelment. It is a small room without any distinguishing features. But knowing that little fact about its history changed how long I wanted to stay there.
Before getting out of Himeji, I stopped for lunch at a restaurant with a sign on which “Lunch Special” was written on in English. 500 yen for lunch is not bad in Japan so I sat down and ordered the special. It was roasted pork with rice, salad, and soup. A meal more like a homecooked Japanese meal than the known teriyaki, tempura, and sushi meals.