Wondering about Hotel Monterey vs Dormy Inn for one night in May. Thanks
Hotel Monterey is brand new, if that makes a difference. In addition to reviews on TripAdivisor, check out booking.com and other similar web sites.
Both good hotels close to the station. The main practical difference between the two is that Monterey is north of the station on the castle side; that's where the majority of the shops, restaurants, etc. are located. Dormy is a block south of the station and will be a little quieter. There's food on that side of the station; Wagura in particular is a bit pricey but very nice.
Let me know if you need any guidance on activities in the area!
If you have time, there are three main things to see in Himeji: Mt. Shosha, Kokoen, and, of course, the castle. It's easy to do all three in a day. Shosha takes some time, but it is a beautiful place; it's 45 minutes by bus/cable car to the top, and I usually spend a couple of hours wandering around the temples and shrines. You can also walk up/down if you're so inclined.
Kokoen and the Castle can be done as a combo ticket, and they are next to each other. Kokoen usually takes me 30-60 minutes, depending on how much is in bloom and what my mood is.
If you don't have time for Shosha, you could do a walk around the castle. This is especially good if you wake up early. There's a small hill just west of the castle called Otokoyama. There are a couple hundred steps up, but the views of the castle are incredible; my profile picture was taken from there. Sunrise in particular is excellent from that hill - the sun rises behind the castle from that perspective. There's also a nice park behind the castle, with a massive play structure, benches to sit on, and space to move around. I usually suggest a circumnavigation of the castle to get the full perspective. Go down the Senhime Path which is just west of Kokoen (left, as you face the castle). Then keep walking around, exploring the temples and shrines as well as the park. If you're interested in Otokoyama, I can give you detailed instructions.
When you arrive, even if it's evening I suggest visitng Piole (http://www.piole-himeji.jp/en/). This is a large shopping center. Inside are a couple of places with great castle views. One is Nana's, a green tea shop; think Starbucks, but instead of coffee the drinks are made with matcha (geren tea). On the floor above is a Starbucks. Both have seating with views directly down the street to the castle, which will be all lit up at night. Inside Piole are also some good restaurants; the Sanyo Department store across the street is another good place to find some food, though your hotel will be able to suggest some local places to go.
Thx again, getting so excited