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Himeji Castle day trip guide – Japan

Himeji Castle - view from the street.

Himeji Castle – view from the street.

A bit of history of Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle is located in the center of Himeji City, about 130km from Kyoto and about 650 km from Tokyo, Japan.

Himeji Castle dates back to 1333, when Akamatsu Norimura built a fort on top of Himeyama Hill. The fort however was later dismantled and was rebuilt as Himeyama Castle in 1346. Two centuries later it was then remodelled and is now known as the Himeji Castle. In 1581, Himeji Castle underwent significant remodelling where a three-story castle keep was added to its structure by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. (Read more on the history of the castle at Wikipedia,)

Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle is also know as Shirasagijo – the White Heron Castle, due to its white outer walls which is covered with white plaster. The reason for using white plaster is that it is fireproof. In December 1993 it became the nation’s first World Cultural Heritage site. After 5 1/2 years of restoration work on the 17th century castle it was reopened in March 2015. Some people said after restoration, the castle got a bit whiter than before but I think they have done a great scrubbing on the tiles 🙂 There was a section still under minor restoration, the Nishi-no-Maru (West Bailey) was suppose link to the main keep but it was blocked while we were there.

Entrance to the castle ground.

Entrance to the castle ground.

Our day trip

We took the 8 am Hikari 493 Shinkensen from Kyoto to Himeji City. A return trip per person cost ¥5,270 (approx AUD$57) however it will be free if you hold  a Japan Rail Pass. The bullet train ride took about 56 mins to get there, so we enjoyed a breakfast (food and drinks purchased at the station) on the way there.

When exiting the station, there are signs everywhere to assist you in the correct exit to Himeji Castle. As we got out of the main Central exit, there is a tourist information center on the left. It will answer all your questions about Himeji Castle. You can either walk to the Castle, take a bus loop or rent a bike. We chose to walk as we wanted to explore the city more.

Himeji Castle at Central Exit.

Himeji Castle at Central Exit.

Himeji information center.

Himeji information center.

Himeji JR Station.

Himeji JR Station.

Himeji City street.

Himeji City street.

Himeji City street map.

Himeji City street map.

Fortunately for us, we chose a perfect sunny day with blue skies. It may still be rather cool in May, so we suggest that you bring a light jacket with you.

The walk from the station to the castle took about 20 mins, depending on your walking speed and amount of time you stop to take photos 🙂

Himeji City street.

Himeji City street.

The city is easy to walk, the streets are clean and safe. It appears as thought the month of May seems to be rather popular with school excursions in Japan. Everywhere we visited there is always a bus load of school kids visiting the attractions and Himeji Castle was no exception.

School kids walking towards Himeji Castle.

School kids walking towards Himeji Castle.

There is a Himeji Castle Guide Map, an arrow-marked route around the castle. I do recommend that you head straight to the Main Keep first. The mistake I made was spending too much time taking photos around the ground and followed the marked route. By the time I got to the Main Keep there was a long queue to get into the castle.

Himeji Castle Guide Map.

Himeji Castle Guide Map.

The castle was packed inside with tourists. It was too hard to take photos or admire the structure of the castle, it was too hectic for me. No doubt the castle was amazing. As we climbed up into the higher floors the stairs got steeper and steeper. (Girls please don’t wear short skirts – Not recommended). At the top of the castle there is a shrine and an incredible view of the city.

Photos and videos taken at Himeji Castle

Weapon racks.

Weapon racks.

Tourist queuing to get in.

Tourist queuing to get in.

Tourist queuing to get up.

Tourist queuing to get up.

The Shrine.

The Shrine.

View from the top of the Castle, looking back at Himeji JR Station.

View from the top of the Castle, looking back at Himeji JR Station.

Must visit castle!

Himeji Castle and the castle ground are amazing. You don’t need to join a tour as it was easy to get there by JR rail. A day trip to Himeji Castle should be sufficient. You will need at least a minimum of 2 hours to walk around the castle. Give yourself more time to take photos and enjoy the history of the castle. It is a must visit castle in Japan!

Himeji Castle.

Himeji Castle.

Top 20 most popular castles in Japan revealed for 2016 according to TripAdvisor

1. Himeji Castle (Hyogo)
2. Matsumoto Castle (Nagano)
3. Kumamoto Castle (Kumamoto)
4. Inuyama Castle (Aichi)
5. Nijo Castle (Kyoto)
6. Matsuyama Castle (Ehime)
7. Bitchu Matsuyama Castle (Okayama)
8. Matsue Castle (Shimane)
9. Hikone Castle (Shiga)
10. Nakagusuku Castle Ruins (Okinawa)
11. Katsuren Castle Ruins (Okinawa)
12. Takeda Castle Ruins (Hyogo)
13. Nakijin Castle Remains (Okinawa)
14. Shuri Castle (Okinawa)
15. Kochi Castle (Kochi)
16. Azuchi Castle Ruins (Shiga)
17. Osaka Castle (Osaka)
18. Zakimi Castle Ruins (Okinawa)
19. Maruoka Castle (Fukui)
20. Tsuruga Castle (Fukushima)

Get there and around

  • From Himeji Station, the castle can be reached within 20 minutes walk or 5 minute bus or taxi ride.
  • Loop bus cost ¥$100 for adults and ¥$50 for children.
  • You can rent a bike free (must fill in application form) from the Himeji city tourist information center (Went side of JR Himeji station central concourse). No reservation.

Hours and fees

  • September 1st to April 26th  – 9:00 to 16:00 (Gate closes at 17:00)
  • April 27th to August 31st – 9:00 to 17:00 (Gate closes at 18:00)
  • Closed days on December 29th and 30th
  • Adults ¥1040
  • Children ¥360

Himeji Castle and Kokoen located right next to the castle cost 1,300 yen when you buy the ticket separately. If you buy the common ticket, it is 1,040 yen, which is 260 yen cheaper.

Himeji waiting time report

Useful links

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