We visited Himeji Castle with our two teenagers. We were told by our hotel in Kyoto as well as JR rail staff that we shouldn't visit because of the extensive renovation currently obscuring the exterior of the castle. We went anyway after reading Trip Advisor reviews, and are very glad we did. While you can't take any priceless pictures of the castle, you can learn a great deal about it, and do so very up close via the renovation exhibit. The renovation has essentially enclosed the castle in an immense outer building, and a minimal extra ticket gains admission to this building and its displays. The day we went was very hot, and it was a great treat that the building was air conditioned! We also asked for an English speaking guide which I would also recommend. He said he would usually take 1 1/2 hours to complete the tour, but we asked him to do it in one hour so we could make our return train to Kyoto -- and we finished right on time. These volunteer guides are quite generous with their time and knowledge, and it was well worth having Iwai San explain many of the castle features to us. Don't let the renovations keep you away from Himeji-jo!
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