Day Seven: Himeji - Osaka
Catch a Sakura bullet train (not Komada, very slow!) towards Osaka but get off at Himeji.
From the train platform you will be able to see the white walls of Himeji castle soaring into the sky. One of the country's few original feudal castles (unlike many others which are post WWII rebuilds), 400 year old Himeji-jo is both a National Treasure and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 007 fans might also recognise the castle as Tiger Tanaka's ninja training school in You Only Live Twice. You can climb to the top of the 6 story main keep, and explore the gates and baileys that make up the castle grounds. Be aware that this place gets VERY busy in cherry blossom season!
For about 35p more, you can get a combined entry ticket for the castle and nearby Kokoen Gardens, a really lovely stroll through nine separate gardens designed in traditional Japanese styles of the Edo Period, including a beautiful koi pond with a waterfall,a flower garden, a bamboo garden and a garden of pines.
Back at Himeji station, catch the shinkansen another 40 minutes to Shin Osaka, Japan's 3rd largest city and foodie heaven. We couldn't help but think of Blade Runner here, as people hurried through the rainy neon lit streets with see through umbrellas. It has a futuristic, kind of grimy-but-in-a-good-way feel that is totally different to polished Kyoto and Tokyo. Spend the evening exploring Dotonbori street, eating all the good street food. Gyoza, kushikatsu (amazing fried things on sticks , everything from beef to garlic) and Osaka's speciality, Takoyaki (octopus dumplings) were all high on our list. We'd also recommend an after dark 20 minute boat trip down the canal to see all the famous neon signs like the Glica running man.