“What are your three favorite things about Himeji Castle,” I ask my guide, Ayumi Miyazaki, an elegant middle-aged lady, as we slurp down tempura soba in the dungeons of Himeji Station in Hyogo Prefecture, prior to walking the 15 minutes up the main drag to the town’s famous fortress.

“It’s impossible to tell you here,” she splutters. “You have to see it. You have to walk it. You have to behold the magic of this castle.” Then she takes a rapid series of short breaths and adds: “I’m sorry. I get very excited when I talk about the castle.”

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