From Hiroshima to Kyoto is 269 km and exactly half way is Himeji, famous for its spectacular white castle.
Using our rail passes it was easy to stop of at Himeji we left our cases in lockers and a short one kilometre walk took us to the castle. Known as the White Heron Castle it was built in 1609 and has never been damaged by earthquake or war. It is known as one of the most beautiful in Japan. As the interior is unfurnished we only walked around outside and then found a supermarket to buy lunch. The amazing choice was sold by weight so we tried a little of everything not knowing what most of it was, We filled polystyrene tubs and they were weighed for us by the helpful and as usual unbelievably polite staff. I think they found us very amusing. You even got free miso soup!
Next back on a train and straight to the famous Kyoto.The bamboo forest is a lovely peaceful walk even though it is quite busy.
We found the Nonomiya shrine while we walked, once it was a house for unmarried imperial princesses.
The Fushimi Inari Shrine is thousands of Torii gates leading up to mount Inari. A torii is a traditional gateway to a Shinto shrine. Its very popular but the further you walk the quieter it gets so eventually you can see some of the small shines entirely on your own. Inari is the god of rice or commerce so companies and individuals pay for a gate. That attractive and mysterious lettering on each torrii is just the name of the donor and the date it was donated. It was better when I didn’t know that. The fox is his messenger so there are many fox statues. The Japanese seem to be very superstitious – if you make a thousand origami cranes your wish will come true . You can buy a fortune telling paper but if its not good you just hang it up and the wind blows the bad luck away. There are others, one involving stones, that I don’t understand at all but in Japan understanding anything is a bonus.
The Golden Pavillion
Finally the Kinaku-Ji or Golden Pavillion which was once a retirement home for a shogun and then a zen temple. The top two floors are covered in gold leaf. This is the most popular sight in Kyoto and was so crowded it was hard to walk round but it is very impressive.
There’s so much more in Kyoto, The Philosophers Walk was lovely and there are so many temples and weird coffee shops, but these were my favourites.