Sakura Hunting in Kansai (Part 3)

As the train entered the outskirts of the city, I slowly opened my eyes after having dozed off. Half asleep, I looked out the window; a sea of city lights met the dark night sky. In the distance an unmistakable sight immediately got my attention and any tiredness I had felt from the previous couple of days quickly vanished.

Perched on top of a hill overlooking the city was a blinding, pure white vision, like an angel descended from heaven. Lit up from all angles, Himeji Castle seemed to float above the city. It looked like an illusion, and a little out of place in a modern city. Then again, the castle has been around in its original state for over 400 years, so perhaps it’s the city that doesn’t match!

My sakura trip so far had taken me to Kobe, Kyoto, Nara and the countryside around it, and Osaka, before bringing me to my final destination. I was super excited to be visiting the country’s most famous castle, especially since it had been closed for so long to undergo renovations. I was still a couple of days early for the peak of the cherry blossoms, but I knew I was in for an awesome experience regardless.

I was up early again the next day. I had heard of the long queues to get into the castle, and the congestion inside the castle itself due to narrow and steep staircases, so the plan was to get there as early as possible. During the cherry blossom season, the gates open earlier than usual, and at 8:45am it was already busy.

One thing that intrigued me about the castle was all of the defence mechanisms. From the castle grounds entrance, you follow a confusing, winding path that goes through about half a dozen gates before you actually step foot inside the main keep. In fact, there used to be 84 gates throughout the complex. The castle appears to have five floors, but actually has six plus a basement within the stone base. The different floors are full of secret hiding places, special lattice windows and stone drop hatches, and the walls outside are lined with gun and arrow shooting holes. Also, the white exterior is made of plaster to protect the castle from fire and bullets.

I finished my visit at midday with a quick walk around the central moat only to stumble upon the most gorgeous view ever! I had seen the castle from this angle on postcards but didn’t know exactly where it was. Cherry blossoms in the foreground, the red bridge in the middle ground and the castle in the background – amazing. I ended up sitting here with my lunch taking in the view for as long as I could.

 

What an incredible few days. Kansai is a special region full of iconic locations and a lot of history. This was my sixth spring in Japan and rather than thinking I’ve done everywhere worth going, I just keep discovering more and more places I want to go! Talking to the locals of a particular area, you find out so much that you’ll never find in guidebooks. But for now, the cherry blossoms have departed and it’s back to normal life, for a short while at least :P

 

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15 thoughts on “Sakura Hunting in Kansai (Part 3)

  1. Hi Celia,
    I was hoping you would go to Himeji, even though no other Japanese castle will compare from now on. The roof was covered in scaffolding when I visited and it is great to see your photos showing Himeji in all its splendour. The artisans I saw working on the refurbishment did a great job. I also enjoyed your previous post on Nara and thought you summed up the native deer perfectly haha. Nevertheless, your shot of the lanterns with the deer poking its head out was classic – well done! Sounds like you’ve had a memorable cherry blossom season and now you can get ready for the summer Matsuri.
    Cheers,
    John

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    • Hi John! Himeji-jo is so impressive. I’ve been to a few castles before but Himeji is probably the only one I would push visitors to go see. You’ll have to try go again sometime in the future now that they’ve taken all the scaffolding down!
      Thanks for your comments about my Nara post. I had heaps of fun running around with the deer and quite liked how the pic you mentioned turned out :)

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  2. 白く輝くシラサギ城が 夜空を背景に ライトアップされると、天へ昇って行く
    かぐや姫を 思い起こします。とても幻想的な光景ですね。昼間は うつくしい
    桜の花に飾られたお城の壕(ほり)を 船で周遊するとは なんと 風情(ふぜい)が
    あることでしょう。そして、一番最後の写真に しみじみと、見とれています。
    絶世(ぜっせい)の絵画のようです。セリアさんの お花見旅行は 大成功でしたね。

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    • はい、大成功でしたよ!良い思い出がたくさんありすぎて、この旅を決して忘れません。
      やっぱり姫路城は日本一のお城ですよね。そして、桜が咲く時に見に行けて、すごくラッキーでした。:)

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