After a great night's rest, Jannie and I took the train to Himeji to see Japan's most beautiful castle, Himeji Castle.
It is famous for its white walls and typical Japanese architecture, and is sometimes known as “White Heron Castle”. On that day, it really popped against the blue sky and rose majestically above the bright green trees! There are so many details about it that pictures could never capture, from the gently curving tiled roofs to smooth white plaster walls to the soft well-worn wooden floors... Like many of the other suviving castles, Himeji was built of wood, which required them to be covered with the fireproof plaster walls.
You could tell that Jannie and I were the "foreigners" because we refused to wear the small (yes, even to us!) plastic slippers (imagine tripping on those precarious steps!) after we had to take our shoes off and put them in plastic bags. At least she had socks on, but I was barefoot!!!
The castle had some really well thought out architectural features.... (yes, I'm such a nerd). There were these stone "gutters" set into the ground beneath the eaves that caught rainwater and directed them to drains. Even the deep windows had built-in steel pipes draining rainwater away from the building!
Just like the ninja-dera in Kanazawa, the castle had many defensive and architectural features which helped to confuse intruders. The gates, baileys, and outer walls of the complex are organized in a spiral pattern with many dead ends and there were layers upon layers of steep walls with massive wooden and steel gates (sometimes with smaller gates inset) that they would have to get past. Uneven steps and low doorways were constructed to slow down troops while gun and arrow slits in the walls allowed them to be aimed without allowing attackers to know where they came from.