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Himeji Castle - History, Scenic Highlights And Access

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Himeji Castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and national treasure located close to Osaka and Kyoto. We detail its history, highlights and how to get there.

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What Is Himeji Castle?

Himeji Castle, a Japanese national treasure registered as a UNESCO World Heritage site, is located in Himeji, Hyogo Prefecture. The castle is about a kilometer away from Himeji Station. Since tourists coming from Osaka and Kyoto by train can reach Himeji in about an hour, it is possible to explore the castle and the Himeji area on a day trip around the Kansai area.

With an exterior so white it seems to shine, Himeji Castle boasts great popularity with Japanese and international tourists for its elegant appearance. For this article, we have compiled historical information about the castle, notable highlights, and how to get there.

Table Of Contents:

1. The History Of Himeji Castle And Its Other Names
2. Basic Information About Himeji Castle
3. Himeji Castle Highlights
4. Himeji Castle Seasonal Events (Seeing Flowers And Fall Foliage)
5. Getting To Himeji Castle From Himeji Station (via bus or taxi, or on foot)

The History Of Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle

The castle has had several structural alterations since construction began in 1346, leading to its current appearance. Himeji Castle underwent reconstruction at various points since the 1950s, which brought it to its present-day state. However, the main keep that was erected in 1609 still stands today, which gives the castle even greater historical value.

A World Heritage Site

Himeji Castle was registered as Japan’s first World Heritage Site in December of 1993. Some of the reasons given for its certification were:

・Its elegant exterior, made with white mortar
・The design’s integration of all sorts of Japanese wooden construction techniques
・The well-balanced arrangement of the castle buildings

Also Known as the “White Heron Castle” (Shirasagi-jo)

There are various theories about how “The White Heron Castle” got its nickname, but the simplest explanation is that Himeji Castle’s shining white structure looks like the eponymous Japanese bird.

While other places like Osaka Castle may have white walls, Himeji Castle’s exterior almost gleams, giving it a noticeably elegant facade. Not just a pretty building, the castle also serves as a formidable fortification, and there is no end to the line of visitors who come to see the White Heron Castle’s charms.

Matsumoto Castle (or the Crow Castle) in Nagano is the complete opposite of Himeji Castle, with an all-black exterior.

Even More Beautiful After Repairs

The repairs to Himeji Castle’s main castle tower finally finished in spring 2015.

The large-scale repair project took five and a half years to complete, and the newly-painted walls and roof shine with a new brightness. The beautiful castle presents a perfect photo opportunity, so take a picture in the courtyard when you visit Himeji.

Basic Information About Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle is open all year round, except on December 29th and 30th.

Operating hours in spring (4/27-8/31): 9:00 - 17:00 (gates close at 18:00)
Operating hours in other seasons: 9:00 - 16:00 (gates close at 17:00)
Admission: 1000 yen for adults, 300 yen for children (elementary, JHS and SHS students)

Queue Tickets During Peak Times

The Himeji Castle grounds, and the keep in particular, can get very crowded during sakura season, summer vacation, Silver Week and other peak travel periods. For that reason, tower queue tickets are handed out to visitors before entry. 15,000 tickets are handed out before the daily cutoff. Without getting a queue ticket, you cannot go inside the keep, though you can still tour the grounds. If you absolutely must see the keep interior, go early in the morning.

Himeji Castle Highlights

Himeji Castle

Beginning with the keep, the largest building on the grounds, Himeji Castle features various highlights like the massive Hishinomon Gate and the Nishinomaru Garden. Nishinomaru Garden offers a prominent view of the keep, making it a perfect photo spot. Check out our Over 400 Years Of History - Himeji Castle, The Pride of Japan article for more information.

Himeji Castle Seasonal Events

Himeji Castle Hanami (Sakura Viewing)

Himeji Castle

With approximately a thousand trees of several varieties, including Yoshino cherry trees and weeping cherry trees, Himeji Castle was selected as one of the top 100 places to see sakura in Japan. The pink petals look very pretty set against the backdrop of white castle walls.

Himeji Castle Foliage Watching

Himeji Castle

Koko Garden, adjacent to Himeji Castle, is a famous place to see the fall foliage. After the sunset, the garden is illuminated, placing the autumn leaves in contrast with Himeji Castle in the background.

Projection Mapping

In recent years, Himeji Castle has put on projection mapping shows in early December. Nishinomaru, the O-Kiku water well, Bizenmaru, the Sangoku Moat and other spots around the castle are the stage for original projection mapping performances that feature people connected to the castle and aspects of its history. You can enjoy vivid dramatic scenes through the magic of 3D.

From Himeji Station to Himeji Castle

Himeji Castle

This explains how to get to the castle from Himeji City’s main hub, Himeji Station.

By Bus

Catch a Shinki Bus from the north exit of Himeji Station and get off at Himeji-jo Otemon-mae. It takes three minutes and costs 100 yen. From the bus stop, it’s a five minute walk to the castle.

On Foot

If you have some time, walk over to the castle on foot. You can see the castle clearly from the north exit, so just walk straight down the main street toward it. The stroll is about a kilometer, and takes roughly 20 minutes.

By Taxi

Get a taxi from the stand by the south exit. It will take about ten minutes and can cost from 740 to 970 yen.

** This article is current as of January 2016.

Written by

Previous experience as an editor at a women's media company in Japan. I lived in Australia for a while and joined MATCHA after returning to Japan. In charge of editing, promoting sponsored content, and creative direction. I love watching Western TV series.
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