Himeji-jo is about an hour by train from Kyoto, one of the few original castles left in Japan and what must be their most brilliant one. Very stunning! They recently finished comprehensive renovations, which they conduct every 50 years to be sure they pass on the required skills to the next generation. While the first fortifications were built as early as 1300, today’s castle was constructed in 1580 as a critical military stronghold of the Tokugawa shogunate. The castle, nicknamed the White Egret Castle, was built for military purposes only. The more impressive it is how beautiful the construction is. We took the 90min English tour and learned all about the many defensive mechanism, with hidden gates, floors and staircases, trapdoors, shuts to throw rocks on climbing enemies and the hidden rooms where the last of the samurais would hide if the castle were to fall into enemies hands to ensure their leader had enough time to commit ritual suicide. Fortunately, the castle was never attacked, likely everyone found it too pretty to risk any damages. 😁
Next to the castle is Kokoen, a relatively recently constructed Japanese style garden. It consists of nine separate, walled gardens designed in various styles of the Edo period. Lots of chubby koi. We ended the day with an evening stroll in the old Kyoto districts, Ninenzaka, Sannenzaka and Gion. We saw out first (and only) real Geisha (all others are dressed up local and foreign tourists) on her way to work, in the full getup with the white makeup and everything.