Back in February, when I heard I had received the Critical Language Scholarship, the first thing I knew I needed to do was find out more about my host city, Himeji. I had never even heard of Himeji before I found out I would be living there for two months! So, here is a little bit of what I’ve gathered.
Himeji is a city located in Hyogo Prefecture (兵庫県), in the Kansai region (関西地方) of Japan. It’s located on Japan’s main island, Honshu (本州).
What Himeji is most well-known for is it’s incredibly well-preserved Feudal-era castle, Himeji Castle (姫路城 ひめじじょう). It is also called 白鷺城 (しらさぎじょう), meaning “White Heron Castle” because of it’s ethereal white-colored outer walls. Although Himeji was extensively bombed by the U.S. during World War II, the castle managed to remain unscathed (despite the fact that the rest of Himeji was leveled), and is incredibly beautiful to see today. It is considered to be one of Japan’s most beautiful castles, and is the best preserved example of Medieval castle architecture in all of Japan. From what I’ve gathered, although Himeji isn’t a hugely popular destination for foreign visitors, Japanese people travel domestically to see Himeji Castle, especially when the cherry blossoms are in bloom. It is apparently a popular day trip if you’re already going to a nearby large city, like Kobe, Kyoto or Osaka. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to see the castle while I’m in Himeji this year because it’s undergoing a massive restoration and preservation effort. It’s covered up by a big tent-like structure until 2015. Bummer! However, apparently it is possible to buy a pass and see part of the castle on the inside, and maybe even see the artisans at-work in the preservation process.
Other than information about the famous castle, I’ve actually had a pretty hard time finding additional detailed information about what Himeji is really like. After many internet searches, as well as leafing through a dozen Japan travel guidebooks, I haven’t come up with much, other than enthusiastic descriptions of how beautiful the castle is. The mountainous areas surrounding Himeji apparently make for great hikes, and have many small shrines and temples along the way. But other than that, I haven’t been able to turn up much. During the CLS program I’ll be partnered up with a native Japanese student at the University I’ll be attending, my “language buddy,” who will not only help me improve my conversation skills, but also help me find my way around Himeji. I’m also pretty sure that we’ll have an extensive orientation, during which we’ll probably learn a TON about Himeji and it’s history.
I’m really excite to get my first look at Himeji, in person. I wish I could just be there right now!