Our onward journey is interrupted by a stop at Himeji, where the castle is one of the few in Japan that remain in its original state. It’s a short walk from the station, and we ditch our remaining case in one of the lockers at the station for our visit to the UNESCO site. I’ve allowed us two hours between trains, even though we are advised that a visit can take up to three.
The parks and paths leading to the castle are lined with cherry trees, but alas, we are probably about a week too early for the blossoms. It must truly be a magnificent sight, but the downside of the blossoms is that the castle becomes a tourist magnet with queues for the 15,000 numbered tickets that are issued each day.
For us, today, there are no queues, so we enter the inner grounds and climb up two of the levels of the interior. It’s an extraordinary construction, massive beams of whole trees supporting each stage. I wonder that they have any trees left in Japan, between the castles, temples and houses, not to mention the disposable chopsticks and toothpicks, wood is ubiquitous. Maybe it’s coming from Australia, not that we have that many trees ourselves. That’s right, cover me in moss and call me a greenie….
Taking leave of the guardians at the gate, we canter back to the train station with enough time to find our locker: no mean feat since we have to navigate the maze of shops, people and escalators to retrace our steps and find the right storage area. Phew, we manage it, and have enough time to buy a takeaway meal – a seafood bento box.
Our JR pass is getting a good workout – three different high speed trains to take us from Hiroshima to Himeji to Hakone and the Mt Fuji area. The total distance is about 730 km, but the Shinkansens hit speeds of up to 320 kph, so each leg is over quite fast.