It was an early start this morning to begin heading south. We went from Shinjuku to Tokyo station to catch the bullet train to Himeji. On the journey the weather gods kept the sky clear and sunny so we were finally able to get good views of Mount Fuji from the windows. It was stunning.
In Himeji we got the tourist loop bus from the station up towards the castle. The castle is amazing. It has white walls and a black roof which apparently from the sky look like a flying heron. Inside the inner moat was a park where we sat and had a picnic before paying the entrance fee to go up to the castle tour. The main tower is closed currently for restorations but we were able to walk around the outer buildings with a volunteer guide who offered us a free English tour. He was very knowledgable and able to discuss the roles of the Samurai in the defence of the castle throughout its history. It added real depth to what we were looking at as we went around.
After thanking our guide we went next door to the Kokoen gardens (we bought a combined castle and garden ticket). There was little in the way of flowers due to the time of year but the reds, yellows and oranges of the leaves alongside the many water features were very pretty.
Both the castle and gardens were very busy, particularly with Japanese tourists, as it turned out to be a bank holiday. In the attractions this was a hindrance but it did mean that outside there was a street festival with market stalls and live music provided by various J-pop groups, which included much crazy dancing from the audience.
We walked through the celebrations then along a side street back towards the station and as we had a bit of time we went to find some dinner. Our guide book had told us that to find the equivalent if a Japanese pub you have to go to a place with red lanterns outside so we found one of those and went in. No one in there spoke any English so we used the phrase section of our guide book to order what we hoped would be pork gyoza, prawns and breadcrumbed chicken and to our surprise that is what we actually got! By the time we left it was busy with locals so I think we managed to choose well.
We took our bullet train down to Hiroshima, booked into the Hotel New Hiroden and then fell asleep for the night.