You HAVE to see Himeji castle, the other students in my Japanese for beginners class told me. It’s the best castle in Japan. Can’t skip it. Better than Osaka.
OK then. On their advice, I decided to spend one day of my third trip to Japan in Himeji. I’d previously skipped it due to time constraints.
And there I was with hundreds of other tourists, waiting in front of the gate of the castle of Himeji (姫路城, Himeji-jō) also known as The White Raven. One hour of waiting outside the castle, then in sock feet and one hand clutching a plastic bag with my shoes, all the way up the slippery wooden stairs in a long line of people. I gasping for air and was fed up with the crowd. I didn’t see a thing the entire way, except for the buttocks of the people in front of me. And when I got to the top? I found a small shrine and an unimpressive view of the city. That’s all. Followed by the even more precarious trip down the stairs. Once outside, I was a little disappointed, but glad to no longer be inhaling the smell of socks. Time for a comforting snack.
Unfortnately, despite the otherwise festive market in the dusty park outside the castle, the takoyaki I bought was below par.
The fact that it can be busy at Himeji is something the proprietors know very well. If you take a look at the castle’s website, you will find their “congestion forecast”, in which they distinguish between “overcrowded”, “full” and “moderate”.
- visit Himeji during the low season.
- Osaka castle has a better view.
- if you do go, take into account that there doesn’t see to be much else to do.
- Seriously… Osaka is much more fun. And the takoyaki tastes a lot better over there.