As soon as you step off the train in Himeji the stunning white Castle comes into view. The day we visited was a particularly special one as it was the first day the Castle had opened to the public after years of restoration work. The grounds of the Castle had a particularly festive atmosphere with Japanese families picnicking in the and men dressed up as Samurai warriors, happy to pose with stupid English tourists!
The Castle itself was stunning; a glorious white façade, set perfectly against a blue spring sky. The fact that soft pink cherry blossom decorated the trees surrounding the building made it look like a castle in fairytale. I enjoyed the tour of the inside of the Castle rather less than viewing the exterior; it is fair to say crowd control had not been mastered by those in charge and the 'tour' involved a melee of Japanese tourists squeezing through a series of very low ceilinged turreted rooms. The view from the top made the whole experience worth it though!
After Himeji we took the train to Kobe, home of the world's best beef, with one intention: to eat Kobe in Kobe! We did, and the experience did not disappoint. In typical Japanese style the restaurant the inter-web recommended to us, Royal Mopr, had an inauspicious entrance. We entered via an anonymous lift and small passageway into a dark velvet clad room. We were greeted by a smartly clad waiter and shown to two chairs in front of a grill behind which stood a chef in his whites, ready to cook our chosen piece of Kobe to our liking.
And OH MY GOSH, it was incredible. The beef was melt in your mouth delicious. Although it sounds strange it had the richness of cream and when paired with the wasabi and grilled garlic with which it was served it was just divine. One of the best food experiences of our trip (and possibly my life). As you can see below it was a very happy end to the first part of our time in Japan.