On our way from Kyoto to Hiroshima, we visited Himeji Castle, one of the largest and most well-preserved ancient castles remaining in Japan.
The castle is in the city of Himeji, which is conveniently a stop on the shinkansen (bullet train) that travels between Kyoto and Hiroshima. The train station had big lockers to hold our bags, and the castle itself is just a 20 minute walk from the station, so the visit was quite convenient!
Fortifications were first constructed on the hill where the castle is currently located in 1333. After Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun in 1600, he awarded the castle to Ikeda Terumasa, who enlarged it to the complex grounds that we were able to visit. Amazingly, the castle has survived in its current form since then!
We were treated to some awesome views of the castle as we approached.
As you enter through the main gates, you walk along narrow stone paths along the walls. This meandering entrance supposedly prevents against attacks.
Within the castle, we ascended up the 5 narrowing floors. Each floor is dark and covered in wood. There is little to no furnishing, but there are signs that explain what took place in each area.
We were a little surprised that the castle itself seemed to not have any living area. It seemed almost exclusively defensive.
After making our way up steep narrow staircases, we enjoyed the view from the top.
After descending, we were able to take in the view from a different angle, before heading to explore the rest of the grounds. We walked through the West Bailey, which did seem to have some areas where people lived. We read quite a bit about Princess Sen who was apparently a very famous Japanese princess. The main attractions of the West Bailey related to her.
After enjoying a few more fantastic views of the castle, we headed back to the train station.
We stopped for quick bite of udon and to buy a used kimono for Della. We found the equivalent of a thrift store, even in Japan!
This was a really easy and fun stop off on our way from Kyoto to Hiroshima. We highly recommend it. Don’t worry if you have your bags because it was so easy to store them at the train station!