Magical Christmas Train | Sacramento, CaliforniaDecember 19, 2018
Hiroshima Castle & Peace Memorial Park | Hiroshima, JapanJanuary 2, 2019
Just 45 minutes from Osaka via JR Railway is the city of Himeji. Himeji is in the Hyogo prefecture in the Kansai region. It is the 2nd largest city in the Hyogo prefecture, after Kobe. This city has been the shooting location for many movies such as "The Last Samurai" and the James Bond film "You Only Live Twice". Himeji is known for its beautiful white castle, Himeji Castle. You can see this majestic castle as you exit the Himeji train station and look down the road.
Before we walked to the castle, we stopped by Cafe de Miki with Hello Kitty for some morning coffee. The cafe is just a 5 minute walk from the Himeji Station in a covered shopping street. When I was a child in elementary school, I remember having tons of Sanrio accessories; pencil boxes, backpacks, lunch boxes, candies, and the list goes on. Going to the cafe was very nostalgic and the kid in me was beyond excited to actually go to a Hello Kitty themed cafe.
The cafe is hard to miss - the building is a vision of pink with a huge bow and cat ears on top.
The menu is full of sweet snacks and appetizers such as pancakes, parfaits, small sandwiches and drinks. All the different coffee drinks you can order are decorated with a cute Hello Kitty face like my cafe latte that I ordered above. Unlike other themed cafes in Japan, this cafe was reasonably priced, with the most expensive item, a plate assortment of different desserts, being 1800 yen.
After getting my coffee fix, we were on the way to Himeji Castle.
The Himeji Castle dates back to the 1300s and was slowly expanded throughout the centuries by various rulers of the region. It is one of Japan's 12 surviving original castles but is the only one that hasn't been destroyed by natural disaster or war, making it the best preserved castle in the country. During World War II, the United States dropped over 700 tons of bombs over Himeji. Although the surrounding area was incinerated, the castle remained intact. This led many to believe that the castle is protected by the spirits of its past residents, one well-known spirit being Princess Sen. In 1993, the castle became one of Japan's first UNESCO World Heritage Sites and named a National Treasure.
Just outside Himeji Castle sits the Koko-en Garden. The garden is over 8 acres and has nine different gardens, all inspired by the Edo period. The garden is open from 9:00AM to 6:00PM, and admission is 300 yen for the garden and 1040 yen for the garden and castle. This garden features multiple ponds with waterfalls and a green tea garden with a tea ceremony house. The gardens were made to reflect the best of Japan's four seasons.
After walking the beautiful grounds of Koko-en Garden, we walked back to our hotel to rest for our next destination in Japan: Hiroshima. Himeji is a small town with a lot of charm and culture. To see the historical White Heron Castle alone is worth the trip to Himeji.