Himeji, a Japanese national treasure, an impressive castle
Himeji Travel Blog› entry 15 of 34 › view all entries
March 17th, 2008 – by: portia
In Japan, it seemed all the train stations have lockers of various sizes so it was convenient to put our luggege in the lockers and then be free to walk around Himeji.
We took a leisurely walk toward the castle because I had planned to spend about 6 hours here. If you had less time, it would be not as leisurely but still doable, but we were glad to have this much time.
There was a shopping area with lots of interesting looking stores right across from the castle, and we decided to pay them a visit on the way back. The castle was real impressive looking even from a distance. There was a moat and a bridge took us over to the big gate which was the main entrance to the castle area. It was like a park with a lot of land surrounding the castle and its inner walls and baileys.
Himeji castle dating back to the 14th century is the grandest of 12 remaining feudal castles left in Japan, and is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Its white walls and graceful rooflines are its signature looks. The inner walls of the castle formed several irregular baileys. The labryinths of gates and passageways were meant to confuse enemies in case they broken in, but was never put to the test. On top of the west baily walls were living quarters for the soldiers, maids for the castle etc, but also included a vanity tower at its corner for a princess! The main tower contained 6 floors and a basement.
The charm of the castle was not just in the main tower, which was quite a sight from any angle, but walking the grounds through the various baileys and gates and passageways were part of the experience.
After climbing all the way to the top and had a look around, we left the main tower and visited the so called Suicide Quarter, where supposedly was the place to commit ritual suicide. But again, it was never known to actually have been used for that purpose.
We left the castle ground, and went around the outside to a very nice Japanese garden. It was actually a great garden with many sub-gardens, each with its own theme. There were ponds, waterfalls, running streams, tea garden, flowering cherry blossoms and other flowers. Very pretty and relaxing to walk around.
On the way back to the train station, we stopped to visit the shops across from the castle. They had food samples for all the goodies, and we had some very tasty seaweeds (almost tasted like jerky).
We retrieved our luggage from the lockers and got back on the train for Kyoto, which was only less than 1 hour away.
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