Instead of spending time in Kobe I decided to head off to Himeiji Jo, probably Japan's most impressive castle. It's the castle used in one of the James Bond Movie: You Only Live Twice and briefly used as the Castle in the distance of The Last Samurai. If you visit only one castle in Japan make sure it's this one. Himeji-jo is really that good!
9AM - 4PM everyday
720 Yen with a combined ticket to the gardens near by (I missed this because my tour went longer than i expected, but great tour)
I took a free english tour as recommended to me by my book The Rough Guide to Japan. It was actually very good. The volunteer spoke English very well and was quite knowledgeable about the castle and its history. Ask for a guide at the main entrance to the castle.
Himeji Castle was built in the 1600s by Tokugawa Ieyasu's son in law in the 1600s. By that time the Shogun had united Japan so the country was peaceful so the castle itself was never used in any combat, but there were still many defensive capabilities built into it. During world war 2 nets were placed over the castle to attempt to camouflage it from Allied bombers. One bomb did fall in the castle but it did not detonate; a few brave men removed the bomb from the castle.
a gun port, it also tells you how tall, or in this case short, japanese men were in this era; hey the guide said it - not me.
Remember Princess Senhime from Osaka Castle? Well she remairried and ended up here in Himeji Castle.
A defensive door way. This would force attackers into a narrow line making it easier for the defenders to fight them.
Harakiri-maru - this courtyard was made for seppuku: samurai ritual suicide. My guide said it was never used for seppuku.
Okiku-ido is home to the castle's famous ghost story. Okiku was a servant girl who had been falsely accused of theft. She was dumped in this well after being tortured to death. It is said that her ghost can be heard wailing from inside the well. I believe there is a shrine dedicated to her in the city.