There is a beautiful, new public spa/hotsprings to visit in Himeji. It's called Akanenoyu and the sign has the symbol for hot water that looks a little like a fish. It is a beautiful place on the outskirts of the city (I think near the port but if you get in a cab and ask for Akanenoyu Onsen I think you'll get there).
It has beautiful, light colored wood everywhere and looks like a cross between Japan and Sweden. You pay at entry and are given towels and a shorts outfit for wearing in some of the areas. It's gender divided so you don't have to worry!
Just like any spa in Japan you carefully and thoroughly wash in the washing area then there are the pools...get over feeling weird being naked and just enjoy! I promise you won't regret it. There is a hydro-massage spa, hot spa, warm spa, outdoor spa with TV, steam room and sauna on the ladies side.
You can also visit the common areas (in your shorts outfit) where there are hot rooms with quartz pebbles to lay in, warm rooms with medicinal herbs and the coolest thing-a snow room where a giant snow-cone maker shaves snow off a huge block of ice in the ceiling. You can also massage your feet in a big bin of heated ceramic balls while you chat or just smile at the friendly people there. You will never feel so relaxed!
Most first time visitor will rush forward to area in Himeji Castle to catch best cherry blossom with the castle view. You will have to compete with the locals and other visitors in large group
in order to get best spot.
However I found a better place to view of the castle and same time enjoy the gracious pinky colour trees.
All you need to do: Once cross over the bridge and the entrance gate turn to your left, a steep hill covered the cherry blossom trees, walk up further you will get into hidden corners which facing the river or the moat and the back of you will be the castle.
REMEMBER- Cherry Blossom viewing is absolutely FREE
Mt Seppiko if just north of Himeji proper. It's been a couple years since I hiked there, but I think...
You can catch a bus from the station just north west of the JR Himeji station (Shinki Bus?). There's only one morning bus, at about 7:00. You should be able to ask at the station. The bus will take you to the base of the mountain, Seppiko was first described to me as a "relaxing nature walk" when in reality it is a hard-core hike... don't be fooled by the grandmas, giggling as they race ahead of you. If you get down fast enough you will have time to follow the other hikers to the onsen to relax before the only evening bus back to Himeji comes.
Between Kobe and Himeji you pass the longest suspension bridge in the world, we stpped to take a look. It crosses over to the island of Awaji-hima (not really that much to see over there - just enjoy the bridge!) JR station Maiko. Took a ferry across the water, great photo opportunties, and hoped to get a bus back across the bridge (over 3.5km), sadly our Japanese for "where's the bus stop" was not understood! back on the ferry - ho-hum!
Underneath JR Himeji Station is a shopping area named FESTA. There is a small local art gallery there that alot of visitors don`t know about. The gallery changes every week or so & there`s always a different theme: Japanese landscapes, cartoons, family portraits, sculptures, pottery, etc. You can see oil paintings, watercolors, crayon, charcoal, different kinds of pottery & glazes, etc. The artist(s) themselves are on site as well if you have any questions (in Japanese).
To get there, wander around FESTA underground & walk past Kiddyland. The gallery is in a quiet area of FESTA across from a beauty shop & next to a men`s clothing store. Free entrance.
RESTAURANTE TOGETHER is located in Shirahamanomiya (Sanyo train line from Himeji-6 stations from Himeji). The food is DELICIOUS! It`s a small restaurant owned by a Japanese woman who has travelled to Peru & Brazil. She seems to know alot about the cuisine, constantly explaining to us what we were eating. We ordered a few dishes including a seafood soup, a beef dish w/ a tomato & milk base, a chicken & onion dish with a tomato base, & salad that came with palm tree meat! Everything was really good & I recommend all to go there! The prices are good & the portions larger than regular Japanese size.
(Walk out of the South exit, turn left, walk to the first set of lights & you`ll see a mini plaza on the corner. TOGETHER is there). Sundays:12-9pm. Mon-Sat:10am-2pm, 5pm-9pm. Menu in Japanese & Spanish.
Speeding with Shinkansen (bullet-train) from Kobe to Hiroshima the small town of Himeji is "off the beaten path". If one however knows (by reading or being informed) about the castle of castles in Japan, it's not that difficult to implement a stop-over here. Again, for James Bond-fans ... it's almost a must (You only live twice)
You can visit a water park, an amusement park, and safari park all in one place at HIMEJI CENTRAL PARK! The water park is open only during the summer. It`s a little worn but the rides are still fun. The highlights: RIVER RAPIDS & BODY SURFING DOWNHILL. The amusement park is small but enough. Highlight: the twister coaster DIAVLO. The safari park is a drive-through park so you must have a car to go to this park. (Sorry I can`t comment on this park since I didn`t get a chance to go here.)
go to the JAPAN TOY MUSEUM!! it has a huge display of various kinds of japanese toys (wooden, plastic, cloth, metal, etc) and also a building that houses international toys. i've never seen a museum like this before. most of the toys are in display cases but this museum is really for kids because you can play with ALOT of the toys on display tables.
this is a great place to remininsce about your childhood toys. there are some US toys from fisherprice that brought back some memories for me!
there is also a building that houses traditional japanese house shrines and seasonal toys.
LOCATION: 671-3 Nakanino Kodera-cho, Kanzaki-gun Hyogo 679-2143. TO GET THERE: take the JR BANTAN LINE from JR HIMEJI STATION to KOURO STATION (about 15 mins). when you get to KOURO STATION, you have to walk east about 15mins. (there are signs to point you in the right direction). on your way there, you may feel lost because the museum is not on a main street; it's in a very secluded area and you pass by homes and fields. HOURS: daily 10am-5pm but closed wednesdays except for national holidays and during spring and summer school vacations. ADMISSION: 500yen/adults, 400yen/high school&college students, 200yen/children 4+yrs.
SHODOSHIMA ISLAND ('SMALL BEAN ISLAND')! you can take a ferry from HIMEJI PORT to this island that is famous for olives! it takes about 1 1/2 hrs from himeji port and costs 1320 yen per adult & 660 yen per child (one way, and cheaper than going to osaka!). there are many things to do on this island: go to the white peacock farm, go to the olive garden, go to KANKAKEI (the 2nd highest point on the island where you can overlook the surrounding valley and island), visit the monkey park, go fishing/swimming/boating, visit the lighthouse, and more! the people on this island are very friendly and if you want to hitchhike around the island it is possible (and i think safe). however if you don't want to do that, you can bring your car over from himeji via the ferry (starting at 4790 yen and up depending on the size of your car) or you can buy a 2 day bus pass for 2550 yen that takes you around the whole island (you can opt to pay per way if you don't want to get the pass). i don't think there is a hostel on the island, but there are a few hotels. i stayed at one of the japanese ryokans-sorry i don't remember the name of it. it depends on what you want to do on the island but a 1-2 day trip is good. it's not a big island, but it's a good place to visit if you want to get away from the city. SHODOSHIMA is very rural and very country.
View From Top of Main Tower: The red brick building below used to be a depot for the Japanese Army during WWII. Now it is the municipal art museum. The white building to the left is Prefectual Historical Museum.
If you've enough time you can visit the HYOGO PREFECTUAL MUSEUM OF HISTORY: The museum has good displays of all castles in Japan & those in the world too! I was told you can also try on a suit of samurai armour or a kimono here! How about it? It's only 5 mins walk from the castle!
This view of Himeji was taken from the top of the donjon. Himeji can be visited as a day trip from Kyoto & the castle is about 10 minutes walk from the station. You can easily find the castle, just walk along Otemae-dori & you'll soon see it.
We spent a night in Shodoshima in a wonderful Ryokan, Tachebana Inn, right on the water. We took the ferry from Takematsu, and our son rented a car on the island.
For more viewings of Sakura, please visit my travelogues in Kyoto, Osaka & Tokyo pages. Lots of photos of Sakura!