Step out of the train station at Himeji, a midsized Japanese city in Hyogo Prefecture about 80 kilometers from Osaka, and one thing grabs the eye.

Himeji Castle, a centuries-old fortress once home to the great Japanese unifier Toyotomi Hideyoshi, is the best surviving example of such structures from the Warring States period, many of which were destroyed in air raids during World War II. In 1993, the castle became Japan’s first UNESCO World Heritage site — for readers of a different generation, it might be better known as the location of Tiger Tanaka’s training school in the 1967 James Bond movie "You Only Live Twice."

Recently, Himeji Castle has grabbed attention for a different reason. Hideyasu Kiyomoto, the mayor of the city of half a million, generated international headlines last month when he suggested that foreign tourists ought to pay more — about four times more — than the ¥1,000 ($6.20) the castle currently charges for admission.