If you want to step in to an Akira Kurosawa film don’t miss the coastal city of Himeji and contemplate the most visited castle in Japan. A trip to Himeji to see one of the best-preserved medieval buildings in Japan is well worth it. It was declared a National Treasure and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1993.
It has survived occupations by enemy clans, incendiary bombs, auctions and even government plans to demolish it.
It’s a defensive structure, surrounded by a labyrinth full of twists, turns and secret rooms to confuse the enemy. There are narrow doorways to slow invaders and walls dotted with handy openings to fire arrows from.
I advise thick socks for autumn or winter visits to this or indeed any temple/castle in Japan. It’s often obligatory to remove your footwear on entering and at the end of a long visit your feet will be freezing.
On entering the castle you’re presented with a pair of slippers for use during the visit. But they’re very flat and after climbing the castles five floors with all their open windows, you’ll feel as if you were barefoot and the cold will stay with you all day.
I love costume history and was blown away by the suits of samurai armour.
As with every great castle, it has a ghost. Legend tells of a maid that stole a valuable plate. She was executed and thrown into the Okiku well. I took a peek down there and I only saw coins…but I wouldn’t like to be the security guard alone at night in a place like that.
Himeji castle has featured in films such as “Ran”, "Kagemusha”, “You Only Live Twice” and “The Last Samurai”, as well as in various novels and TV series.
The perfect place to take some amazing photos.