Kyoto receives a lot of good press but except for the magnificent monuments, I found it to be a rather charmless city. Getting between these islands of beauty also required using the city’s slow and overcrowded buses, or a long, dull walk. I am glad to have seen the sights of Kyoto, but I don’t think I would go back.
On emerging from the train station in Himeji it seemed that someone had obscured the view of the famous castle with an ugly modern tower building! A minute later we realised that the building was in fact the castle encased in scaffolding for a five year restoration. It was easy to imagine how impressive it would look normally! While the main castle is closed there is an alternative tourist attraction which takes visitors up a lift inside the scaffolding for an “egret’s eye view” of the outside of the castle—it’s pretty cool to be able to view the roof tiles and sculptures from above instead of below! There was also a lovely volunteer tour guide who gave us the full history of the castle and being a mostly clear day we had great views all the way to the Inland Sea. So while we could not visit the castle in the usual way it was definitely still worth the day trip to Himeji for a unique castle experience.