Himeji Castle - If you're going to see one castle in Japan, this is it. Also called the "White Heron Castle" for its white plastered walls and soaring tiled rooftops, Himeji Castle (Himeji-jo) is awesome. After you enter the main gate, you wind past courtyards, passageways, turrets (don't miss the loop holes for rifles) to the heart of the castle, the five storied tower (donjon). As you climb up the donjon, you'll pass through the weapons and storage rooms, living quarters, to the top, where you can see to the sea. And, it's a fun walk to circumnavigate the castle, plus there is a small play area within the castle walls and a great park behind the castle. Your kids can pretend they're lords of the castle!
Himeji Castle Garden (Koko-en) - The Koko-en is really nine gardens and ponds, each with a different theme, such as bamboo, pines, trees of summer, all in the 17th century style of architecture.
Hyogo Prefectural Museum of History - In this history museum, you can see excellent models of castles from all over Japan, including a model of Himeji Castle. In the clothing corner, try on armor or kimonos.
Mt. Otokoyama - To the west of Himeji Castle is a small hill, Mt. Otokoyama, topped with small shrine, the Senhime Shrine. From Mt. Otokoyama you get the best view of the city, and it's fun for kids to climp up all the steps to the top.
Harimanokuni Sosha Shrine (Itate Hyozu Shrine) - This five hundred year old shrine is a landmark of the gods and deities in this area. Each morning, you can watch the priest observing traditional rituals.
Tegarayama Central Park - This park, which is over a hundred acres, has views of the sea and Himeji city, an amusement park, aquarium and swimming pool.
Mt. Sosha and Engyo-ji Temple -While you're visting Himeji, you'll want to visit this magnificent temple complex on Mt. Sosha. Engyo-ji is an ancient Buddhist center (over 1000 years old), with wooden halls, gates and terraces, set in a peaceful forested area. A friend writes, "My son particularly enjoyed ringing the large traditional "peace" bell." On weekends, watch craftsmen demonstrating traditional crafts such as doll and toy making.
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