If you are using JR pass, you can get there pretty quickly! Go to the JR office in Kyoto Station (look for the Green Window to your left as you enter the Karasuma side of the station) and ask for a train schedule, or ask them to tell you which train to catch and get a reserved seat (no charge if you're using JR rail pass).
Yes, you can do it easily in the time you have. Go for it, you will not regret it! Himeji is the most beautiful example of a Japanese castle you will ever see.
Thank you for your very helpful advice.
You'll easily make your 17.00 departure. You'll really enjoy himeji it's a great day out.
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