The replica of Himeji Castle (Called "mini-Himeji") was created by Hiroyasu Imura as a hobby. He used many pictures and history books to aid him in the construction of this impressive model of Himeji Castle. His replica includes the original grounds around the dungeon, which no longer exist in Himeji today. If you are lucky enough to visit when he is at home, he enjoys talking with visitors about the castle and how he created it. He was not at home when I went.
The replica is very impressive and well worth a visit however, it is difficult to reach without a car or local guide. For the average tourist with little time in Japan, it may be too far off the beaten path to visit, but for someone who resides in Japan or simply has a strong desire to visit, you could take a taxi. It may be pricey, but because the castle is located at the creator's house, it is in a residential area, so getting here by car is the best option. For Japanese, it is a popular place to visit. It's never very crowded, but there is almost always one car stopped here to see the castle!
Because the castle is outside of his residence, it does not cost anything to visit the castle.
Sarutahiko Shrine is dedicated to a monkey god and one who is also the god of the way.
According to Japanese mythology, long ago the gods decided to descend from the Heavens to Earth. Sarutahikonomikoto was already living there. As celestial Amenouzumenomikoto (whose name in kanji means the terrible female of the heavens) arrived she met Sarutahiko. She decided that he was no threat and sent him to aid other gods on their way to Earth as well. Among them was Niniginomikoto (Ninigi for short). From this folklore were developed many dances performed mostly by women (called Sarumenokimi (monkey women)) for Shinto ceremonies. Monkeys represented in both Shinto and Buddhism in varies temples and shrines in Japan are viewed as agents against demons. The word saru actually means monkey in Japanese and it also means to expel.
Well, that makes for an interesting story, doesn't it.
Below is a website that provides a wealth of information on Japanese folklore relating to Shinto, Buddhism, and other belief systems:
Now about the shrine, the shrine is a really nice one and doesn't seem to be as popular as Ise's main shrines (Naiku & Geku).
The shrine also has a pair of shishi lion-dogs standing guard. The lion-dogs were believed to have had magical power and able to keep evil spirits away. These are commonly seen in Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan.
The sacred Wedded Rocks are in an inlet 8 km away from Ise in Futami town. They are joined together with a straw rope called 'shimenawa' which is changed once a year in a Shintoist ceremony. There are 27 'meoto-iwa' rocks in Japan, not only on the sea but also on rivers or mountains.
Alright, I have no idea where this is, but it has an amazing view. (In another picture) Truly off the beaten path, and if you know where this is, email me.