For those looking to take full advantage of the coming cherry blossom season, one of the best places to visit is Himeji Castle. Photo blogs like Japan Photo Guide have featured Himeji Castle, and I also agree that it is one of the best Japanese places to photograph, especially when the sakura are in full bloom.
During my first year in Japan, my German friend told me to go and visit Himeji Castle – saying it was the only Japanese castle worth seeing. After visiting a few of the more popular, the Imperial Palace, Hirosaki Castle in Aomori, and even some of the less frequented ones, like Oshijo in Gyoda, I clearly realized why my friend didn’t bother with the other castles.
Himeji, of course, is different because it is the most well-preserved. It survived Japan’s feudal wars and WWII bombers. It’s massive outer wall is a sight to behold and its inner sanctums are impenetrable, but it has also been said that the defensive capabilities of the castle have never really been tested.
To get there, take a stroll along Otemae-dori from Himeji Station. It is a 15 to 20 minute walk. You can actually see the castle from the station. When I was there, there were samurai and ninja impersonators who were taking photos with tourists, of course I didn’t pass up on that opportunity!