Himeji Castle is about half way between Kyoto and Tokyo. So we got off the train, threw our backpacks in a locker and headed up the road.
Also know as the White Heron, this magnificent castle is built on top of a big hill and the main tower is 6 stories high. The complex is made up of 83 buildings. It was blowing a gale when we were there but the sky was blue and the air was clear. The stairs going up into the castle were super steep and a bit slippery, but it was so worth it, with all the hidden doors, paintings and views from the top.
Himeji Castle frequently appears on Japanese television. Edo Castle (the present Tokyo) does not have a keep, so when a fictional show such as Abarenbo Shogun needs a suitably impressive substitute, the producers turn to Himeji. In film:
– In the James Bond film You Only Live Twice (1967), Himeji Castle appears as Tiger Tanaka’s secret ninja training school and rocket weapons development centre.
– Himeji appears in Akira Kurosawa’s Kagemusha (1980) and Ran (1985).
– The Last Samurai (2003), starring Tom Cruise, was shot on location near Himeji City at Engyō-ji Temple on Mount Shosha. The scene where Cruise and Ken Watanabe are standing under some cherry blossom trees talking about Watanabe’s poem was filmed in the family grave of the Honda clan, who were the daimyo’s of Himeji Castle for about a hundred years or so.
– In Shogun, a 1980 TV miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain, Himeji appears as Osaka Castle.
Back on the train we sped on towards Tokyo and much to our delight we caught a crystal clear glimpse of Mt Fuji…so exciting! Late in the afternoon and we were back in Kyoto, so we had to make the most of the little time left and went to the