Himeji is the second-largest city after the Port City of Kobe and is home to arguably one of the most beautiful surviving feudal castles in Japan. It can easily be reached in under an hour from either Osaka or Kyoto, so makes a great day trip destination. You’ll also find the beautiful Koko-en Gardens, as well as Mount Shosha and several other museums and galleries.
- Visa – As a British National I was exempt from requiring a visa to visit Japan for less than 90 days, however, some nationalities will require a visa. For the most up to date information visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan
- Immunisations – some are required, check out my go-to website for up to date information: https://nathnac.net
- Safety – Just like London, Himeji is a very safe place to visit. You should use usual common sense, around protecting valuables to avoid pick-pocketers, and staying safe at night.
- Currency – Japanese Yen
- Language – Japanese
Himeji makes an excellent day trip from Osaka and is very easy to reach by train on either the Tokaido or Sanyo Shinkansen Lines, taking around an hour. I always use Hyperdia.com to check the latest train times to plan my travels in Japan. You can also reach Himeji from Tokyo, however, the journey will take you around 3 hours so a little unrealistic to visit as a day trip.
Himeji is great for just a day trip as all of the attractions can easily be seen in a day, however, if you’d like to take your time and leisurely explore the area there are several accommodation options located close to the main train station. I always check out booking.com for the latest deals and offers to find accommodation to suit my budget.
During my visit to Himeji, I focused on visiting Himeji Castle and the nearby Koko-en Garden, both of which are within walking distance of the train station. Pretty much 15 minutes in a straight line as you exit the station and you’ll find yourself at the entrance to Himeji Castle.
Himeji Castle is quite a large complex and coupled with visiting the nearby Koko-en Garden, this was a lovely leisurely day, exploring castles and gardens and soaking up the history. Himeji Castle dates back to around 1333 when Akamatsu Norimura built a fort on top of Himeyama hill. The fort was dismantled and rebuilt as Himeyama Castle in 1346 and then remodelled into Himeji Castle two centuries later, it received further reconstruction and development until it became the castle you see today.
Walk around the grounds and enjoy the different views of this dazzling White Castle. You can also visit inside the castle which has been restored to its original state. There are lots of steep steps to climb throughout the castle and it is quite simple inside with only the odd one or two exhibits (quite unlike Osaka Castle).
This garden is just a short walk away out of the castle gates and along the main footpath. You can purchase a combination ticket to visit both sites (which I recommend, as you receive a small discount). Opened in 1992 the garden has only recently been constructed, but the plants and trees have become quite well established now.
The garden is made up of nine separate, walled gardens designed in various styles of the Edo Period. Among the green spaces are the garden of the lord’s residence which features a pond with a waterfall, a tea garden where visitors can enjoy traditional Japanese Green Tea in a tea ceremony house, a pine tree garden, a bamboo garden and a flower garden.
If you have more time
I chose to enjoy a leisurely slow-paced day just focusing on visiting the castle and gardens and then making my way back to Osaka, however, if you have more time I would recommend visiting Mount Shosha, and the Himeji City Museum of Art.
Mount Shosha is another recommended sight to visit in Himeji. It’s a little side trip from the main attraction of the castle and gardens and takes around 30 minutes via bus and ropeway to journey to the Shosha Mountains. When you arrive you’ll find the site of Engyoji, an atmospheric temple complex with a history of over 1000 years. There are several historic buildings and temples on the site which are very beautiful and die tot he mountain location quite preserved and rich with history. This is why the location has been used several times over the years for film production, with arguably the most famous film, ‘The Last Samurai’ being filmed here.
Himeji City Museum of Art
The Himeji City Museum of Art is also worth a look if you have more time. I always enjoy visiting art galleries on my travels, and this gallery is situated just next door to Himeji Castle. There are various exhibitions on show which change throughout the year. For more information on admission fees and opening hours, please visit the official website here.
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my day trip to Himeji and it has given you some inspiration for your own travels in Japan. if you have any queries or questions please feel free to contact me, or use the comments section below.
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