About a 10-minute drive from the Himeji West IC on the Sanyo Expressway, an old European castle rises up from the surroundings, only dwarfed by Mt. Mineai.
The goal of today’s excursion is Taiyo Park, which is about 45,000 m2, about three times the size of Tokyo Dome. It is divided into two areas: The Stone Area, which showcases stone architecture and statues from around the world; and the Castle Area, which visitors can get to via a monorail. This park is both grand, and surprisingly witty!
From Pyramids to Terracotta Soldiers: The Stone Area
Right by the entrance to the Stone Area is the Paris’ Arc De Triomphe – the symbol of French victory in the war. Behind the arch is the Incan Sun Pyramid.
Statues from around the world are found on both sides of the path: Moai heads, the Mexican sun god, Incan ruins, Mexican jaguar-clad humans, and The Statue of Liberty.
Awaiting inside are 1000 soldiers from the mighty Terracotta army of the Chinese Qin Dynasty. Even the excavation site is included in this full-scale recreation of the army, which was made with the help of the Terracotta army curator.
I have no idea why, but these two soldiers are having a chat on The Great Wall (Hehehe…)…
In front of these Japanese stone lanterns and temples stands a sign showing the way to the pyramid. Quite global!
The Pyramid, the Sphinx and even Tutankhamun’s golden mask are found inside. The set is complete. Is it just me, or does the Sphinx’ face look slightly western!?
Each with a seemingly different expression, here is the tightly-packed sea of 500 Rakan statues.
The Tiananmen Square Gate? Well, at least a replica of the post-reconstructed Chinese original. Am I even still in Hyogo?
The Castle Area with its very own Neuschwanstein Castle – The White Swan Castle
The White Swan Castle, a replica of Germany’s Neuschwanstein Castle, can be found on a hilltop that is accessible by monorail. The castle stretches over 7 floors and has 3D trick-art installed throughout.
Serious About Welfare
“When I first got here, I thought it had been made by someone rich as a hobby, but I was wrong. The founder, Mr. Monguchi, was the kind of person who never even bought a watch or wallet for himself,” says park director Mr. Daiki Urakubo. “Mr. Monguchi wanted to help people in need, so he spared no expense creating this park. For me this was unheard of. That’s why I came here.”
The Taiyo Welfare Group manages the park. Inside, there are welfare facilities, and the disabled who reside there also help with the park work. The residents of the park are not ‘confined’ here; the whole world is their playground.
The park is not only a fun around-the-world trip, it’s also about welfare in all it’s seriousness.
Today, I’ve only managed to introduce a small slice of this huge park, so I’m certain that if I go again I will discover something new and interesting. If you are on your way to Himeji Castle and are interested in history and/or travel, why don’t you take a quick detour and visit Taiyo Park? You won’t be disappointed!
Address: Uchikoshi 1342-6, Himeji City, Hyogo Prefecture
Open: 9:00〜17:00 (Last entrance 16:30)
Closed: No regular holidays
Setouchi Finder Photo-writer: Chiaki Sawasaka
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Refreshed Hakuro-jō : Himeji Castle (Hyogo)
by Madoka Hori
Chiaki Sawasaka Born in Okayama Prefecture. Returned home in 2010. I used to work as a systems engineer, but since coming back, I have been working on producing local magazines, organization advertising, and organization management. I love discovering stunning natural phenomena that stops me in my tracks, and warmhearted people filled with kindness. I’m going to do my best to write about and convey interesting information on the good places, good people, and good things in and around Okayama.
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