July 15, 2009 (morning)

After a day in Nara we headed further west to the city of Himeji.

We headed out early in the morning on a week day, so for the first time we got to see masses of people on the train system.  But we didn’t see those people you hear about who are paid to push people into the train compartments.

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Pnina looking at one of the many statues on the main street, not far from the Himeji train station:

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The Castle

The reason we chose to visit Himeji is that it has one of the best preserved castles in Japan: Himeji-Jo.  This castle was first built around 1300, then expanded around 1600 to roughly today’s size.  The city of Himeji was bombed in WWII, but somehow this castle survived nearly unscathed.  One bomb was dropped on the top floor of the building but it didn’t explode.  So today Himeji castle is one of the best preserved castles in Japan, and it’s the most visited (though it didn’t have that many tourists on the day we arrived).

The castle is located on top of a hill:

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Me walking up one of the twisty paths leading up to the main castle building.  This maze of paths was one of the castle’s defense mechanisms, in that the soldiers inside the castle could see and fire on the approaching troops as they made their way up.  But this defense mechanism was never tested:

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The roof tiles are decorated with the logo of the ruler.  We saw a panel with the logos of all the dynasties that controlled the castle, but this was our favorite:

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Getting close to the actual castle building:

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Looking out onto the rooftops from above:

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There were “dolphin”-like statues at the ends of each roof, similar to the famous golden ones we saw in Nagoya:

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Another hallway in a nearby compound:

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Koko-en Garden

Next door to Himeji castle there’s a garden, Koko-en.  When you pay your admission to Himeji there’s an option to pay just a little bit more to get access to the garden as well.  We decided to go for it, and we’re glad we did – it’s one of the nicest gardens we saw in Japan.  The garden is relatively new (built in 1992), but it’s located in the old site of the Lord’s residence, so it has some historical significance.  Anyhow, the garden is split up into 9 areas with walls, and each area has its own unique look.

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