NEWSFLASH: Himeji is a gem, and you should visit. It takes just under an hour to reach from Kyoto, and one could easily spend a half-day or even a full day in Himeji and still not see enough. At the moment, the icon of the city, Himeji-jo castle, is undergoing renovation until 2015, but you should still go to admire the ornate architecture and get a panoramic view of the city. For 560 JPY, you can buy a combination ticket that will get you into the castle and the Kokoen Japanese garden. If you’ve been to Japan, you know that once you’ve seen 1-2 temples/shrines/gardens, you’ve pretty much seen them all, but the Kokoen Garden is worth visiting. It’s huge and so serene!
After you exit the castle grounds, get some green tea ice cream from across the street and take a walk. Through the side streets and covered malls, just walk, and you’ll find some real gems like the smallest bar in the world, some peculiar statues, and torii gate gardens. Though there isn’t anything overly unique about Himeji, it’s very modern, offers some great shopping, and wears the Spring sunshine well. Overall, I just really like the vibe, and I’m glad I made the visit.