Translated by MATCHA-PR
Sightseeing Places and Cuisine of Himeji as Seen by a Thai Student
Written by MATCHA-PR
The series of articles on rediscovering Japan's wonderful places through the eyes of exchange students from Thailand has reached its sixth part, where we will have Miss Ten introducing the charm of Himeji city (姫路市), Hyogo prefecture (兵庫県).
Ten has become interested in Himeji by watching "Journeys in Japan", a program broadcast by NHK World TV.
Her interest was sparked by Himeji Castle, a national treasure of Japan, presented in the program entitled "Pure Himeji Beautiful Castle City, Craftsman Culture".
In this article, Ten, who is fascinated by Himeji Castle, will present the charming places of the castle. She will also introduce some local food specialties that remind one of the white color of the castle walls, which Himeji is famous for.
The Charms of Himeji, the City Where Himeji Castle is Located
It takes about 3 hours from Tokyo to reach Himeji by Shinkansen. Himeji is located in the south-western part of Hyogo prefecture. With a population of around 740,000, it is one of the large cities of Japan. Himeji Castle 姫路城 (himeji jō) - a national treasure and world heritage site, Shoshazan Engyō-ji Temple 書写山圓教寺 or the Kenka Matsuri けんか祭り (literally "Fight Festival") - renowned throughout the country for its aggressiveness, are the famous touristic attractions of Himeji, appealing to many tourists both from Japan and from abroad.
From Himeji station, located in the center of the city, you can see Himeji Castle.
Right near to Himeji Castle there is the Kōko-en Garden 好古園, where you can enjoy the beautiful landscape of each season.
Courtesy of なでしこピオレ姫路店 (Nadeshiko Piole Himeji)
On this occasion we rented a kimono from the kimono shop near Himeji station for Miss Ten to wear during the walk through the city. Taking pictures of Himeji Castle with oneself wearing a kimono will become a lifetime memory.
Visiting the National Treasure Himeji Castle
This is Himeji Castle, a national treasure of Japan that is also featured on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites. Because of its beautiful appearance resembling an egret with its wings spread out, it is also called "The Egret Castle". Himeji Castle was built in 1609, but we are lucky enough to be able to admire its beauty even now, 400 years after.
Impressed by the pure white color of the castle walls, Ten is already taking a picture with Himeji Castle in the background.
Ten: "I've seen it in the TV program Journeys in Japan, but I'm really impressed to actually see how large it is and how white its walls are!" When she heard that Himeji castle is the largest among the Japanese castles that preserve their original structure, she was very glad to be able to see it for real.
In various parts of the Himeji Castle there are devices installed in order to protect the castle from enemy attacks. As featured in the program, this path is wide at the entrance, but as we proceed further towards the inside, the path becomes narrower. This is a design meant to make it hard for the enemy to advance and gain enough time to counterattack.
Using AR (Augmented Reality) to Revive the Castle's Past Appearance
At Himeji Castle you can use AR (Augmented Reality) to see how the castle used to look in the past. Ten downloaded the application and tried it.
After downloading the application you have to point your smartphone towards the signboards located in the places where you can watch the reconstructed images.
Afterwards, when you point your camera towards "the Earthen Wall at the South of Ha no Mon Gate" はの門南方土塀 (Ha no mon nanpō dohei), you will be able to watch a video.
There are eight places throughout Himeji Castle where you can see video reproductions of how the castle used to look in the past. For more information please visit Discover Himeji Castle with AR.
Towards the Top of the Large Tower, the Heart of Himeji
We went up the Large Tower, the central point of Himeji. The Large Tower has one underground floor and is six floors high. You can reach the top by climbing its steep stairs. Before reaching the top floor there are several spots where you can find out more about the history of Himeji Castle.
Having reached the top of the tower, Ten spent some time looking at the landscape that the daimyo(landlord) from the past used to see.
Seeking the "White Food" of Himeji
Journeys in Japan presented several food specialties sought after in Himeji because of their resemblance to the white, beautiful image of the castle.
Among them, sōmen (そうめん), whose preparation is made possible by Himeji's climate and clean water, is the best known local dish. The program featured how sōmen is prepared, as well as the secrets behind its beautiful appearance.
The White Oden of Himeji
In Himeji there is a special kind of oden (おでん) called Himeji oden. In general, oden is served with mustard, but Himeji oden is served with ginger and soy sauce. Moreover, because Hyogo prefecture is the largest producer of Japanese sake (Nihonshu), there are many food specialties that use sake lees (酒粕 sake kasu), and there is also white oden prepared with sake lees.
Ten has eaten oden before, but she is having white oden for the first time. She was delighted by the authentic taste of oden and by the types of food with the mild aroma of sake lees, which can be tasted only in Himeji.
After eating white oden, Ten wanted to know what sake lees is and how it is prepared, so we went to the Nadagiku sake brewery 灘菊酒造 Nadagiku shuzō which is near Himeji station.
Sake lees is the solid substance that results when squeezing the fermented liquid in the process of producing sake. Besides, sake brewing is a delicate activity that requires physical strength. The production process starts in autumn after harvesting the rice and continues during winter and spring. Once preparation begins, the process should not be interrupted in the first six months, that is why the brewery workers are required a lot of physical strength and concentration. At Nadagiku this work is being carried out by a woman Tōji, the chief production supervisor of the brewery.
After learning about the brewing process of Japanese sake (Nihonshu) and how sake lees is produced, Ten had the chance to visit the actual place where sake is produced. The workers are happy to show and explain everything in detail, visiting a brewery is quite popular among tourists.
At the end of the visit we even tasted the sake produced at Nadagiku. In the delicious sake enjoyed after learning about its production process we were able to feel the chief's dedication.
White Mackerel Shabu-shabu
In the end we went to eat mackerel shabu-shabu (しゃぶしゃぶ). When speaking of shabu-shabu we usually think of shabu-shabu with meat, but in Himeji you can eat mackerel (鯖 saba) shabu-shabu.
Mackerel is a kind of fish that starts deteriorating right after being caught, that is why you can rarely eat it raw. However, on the island of Bōze 坊勢島 (Bōze-jima) in Himeji city, mackerel is brought while still alive at the restaurant, and thus it is served fresh. As you can see in this photo, it is white and translucent, looking very tasty.
The mackerel slices are ready to be served after being held for a few seconds in boiling water. When feeling the soft texture and the delicious taste of the mackerel in our mouth, we cannot help but voice out how tasty it is.
Read also: 日本で唯一!? 生きた鯖しゃぶしゃぶを食せる「坊勢島 乱菊すし」(Japanese)
In the End
How did you find our visit to Himeji? In Himeji city, besides Himeji Castle, you can also visit Kōko-en Garden or a sake brewery. Moreover, there are delicious food specialties, whose white color reminds one of Himeji Castle. How about coming to visit the charming Himeji city of Hyogo prefecture?
Watch this video program presenting all the wonderful places in Himeji! Journeys in Japan “Himeji”
Photo by Junichi Higashiyama
Article created in collaboration with NHK WORLD TV (Journeys in Japan)
A program presenting the attractions of Japan through the eyes of foreign visitors. Previous editions of the programs are available as VOD (Video on Demand)。
Himeji Castle 姫路城
Address: Hyogo, Himeji city, Honmachi 68
Opening hours: 9:00 - 16:00 (the gate closes at 17:00) ※in summer (April 27th - August 31st) open between 9:00 - 17:00 (gate closes at 18:00)
Closed on: December 29th and 30th.
Credit cards: yes
Menu in other languages: yes
Station: JR Himeji Station JR 姫路駅, San'yō Himeji Station 山陽姫路駅
- from Himeji Station, North exit, take the Shinki bus 神姫バス and get off at Ōtemon-mae 大手門前.From here you can reach the castle in a 5 minute walk.
- a 20 minute walk from JR Himeji station (JR姫路駅) or from San'yō Himeji Station (山陽姫路駅).
Prices range: Adults 1,000 yen/Children 300 yen
Oficial HP: Himeji Castle (Japanese)
Nadeshiko Piole Himeji なでしこピオレ姫路店
Address: Hyogo, Himeji, Ekimaechō 188-1
Opening hours: 10:00 - 21:00
Closed on: January 1st
Credit cards: yes
Menus available in other languages: -
Station: JR Himeji Station (JR姫路駅)
Access: 1-minute walk from JR Himeji Station
Prices range: 5,000 yen
Oficial HP: Nadeshiko Piole Himeji
Nadagiku Sake Brewery 酒饌亭 灘菊 (Shusentei Nadakiku)
Address: Hyogo, Himeji, Higashi ekimae-chō 58
Open: Monday - Saturday 11:30 -21:30(LO 20:30)/Sundays, national holidays 11:30 - 20:00(LO 19:30)
Closed on: second and third Tuesday of each month
Credit cards: -
Menus available in other languages-
Station: JR Himeji Station JR 姫路駅/San'yō Himeji Station 山陽姫路駅
Access: 4-minute walk from JR Himeji Station JR姫路駅/San'yō Himeji Station 山陽姫路駅
Prices range: 2,000 yen at most
Oficial HP: 酒饌亭 灘菊 (Japanese)
Nadagiku Sake Brwery, Inc. 灘菊酒造株式会社
Address: Hyogo, Himeji, Tegara 1-121
Open: 10:00 - 18:00
Closed on: December 31st - January 3rd
Credit cards: -
Menu in other languages: -
Station: Tegara station 手柄駅 (San'yō line 山陽電鉄)
Access: 5-minute walk from Tegara station 手柄駅
Prices range: -
Oficial HP: 灘菊酒造株式会社 (Japanese)
Rangiku sushi 乱菊すし
Address: Hyogo, Himeji, Ieshimachō Bōze 490-7
Open: 11:00-22:00 (with intermissions)
Credit cards: none
Menu in other languages: -
Station: Bōze harbor 坊勢港
Access: 30 minutes by boat from Himeji harbor to Bōze harbor 坊勢港
Prices range: 5,000 yen - 6,000 yen
Oficial HP: 坊勢島