Final Days in Japan

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November 6th 2009
Published: October 12th 2010
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Day 12 - Himeji Castle

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.

Popular culture

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 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

Day 13 - Kyoto

The first stop in our last morning in Kyoto was to Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion (that's not silver at all!) It is a zen garden that a man called Ashikaga Yoshimasa built for his retirement. The main building was under construction and it was freezing cold, but nothing could take away from the beauty of the gardens, raked sand, mossy hills, stone paths and cute bridges, streams and waterfalls.

After this we thought we'd try our luck at the Kyoto Imperial Palace, and low and was open week so everyone (including the Japanese) were allowed in for free! Yay 😊

Day 14 - Tokyo

After our final pack we left our backpacks at K's House and went for a walk over to the Asahi Building which is a relatively uninteresting building that is made to look like a giant beer glass. We then got the city cruise boat down the river, the caught the driverless electric monorail across rainbow bridge across Tokyo Bay and over to Obadia.


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