Discovering the City of Himeji


To say that it is Japan's most spectacular castle seemed like a sweeping declaration.  But with almost every article describing it as such, I thought the Himeji Castle was worth a visit during our trip.

And it was.  Because more than the castle, it was the whole city that charmed us and made us wish we could stay longer.  But since we had limited time, we just made do of that one day we had to explore the second largest city in the Hyogo Prefecture.

How to travel between Osaka and Himeji

While Himeji is quite far from Osaka, it's pretty easy to go to.

From the Osaka Station, board the JR Railway Line (Special Rapid Train) heading towards Himeji.  Since it takes about an hour to get there, you can actually take a nap during the train ride.  And before you know it, voila.  You're there.  (For more options on how to get to Himeji from various points, click here.)



TIP
There are departures for Himeji every 15 minutes.  But before boarding any train, it would be best to look for an English-speaking train official and confirm if the train at the platform is already the one that's Himeji-bound.  You don't want to end up on the other side of the Kansai region!
TRAIN FARE FROM OSAKA TO HIMEJI
(via the JR special rapid train)
Y1,490 (USD 12.34)

*As of posting date, USD 1 = Y120.73



Free bicycle rental

The best way to go around city?  By bicycle!  More so if you're traveling to Japan on a budget because you can borrow it...FOR FREE!

Once you exit the train JR Himeji station, look for the Himeji Tourist Information Center which should be on your left.  When you enter, proceed to the counter and tell them that you will be borrowing a bicycle for the day.  They will then ask you to fill up a form and then provide you a number card.



Upon exiting the Tourist Information Center, proceed to the sidewalk on the right side.  Just go straight following the direction of the main road until you see this sign:



Go down and you will reach the basement parking for bikes.  Just present you number card to the person-in-charge and then you can get your bike for the day.



Not that you need more proof, but this "bicycle escalator" just shows how much Himeji (and the whole of Japan for that matter) is bike-friendly.

The Japanese, they think of everything!


Reaching the Himeji Castle

The castle's really not hard to miss.  The moment you step out onto the streets, its elegant white structure will immediately be in your line of sight.


The way to the castle itself is pretty pleasant and interesting.  I love how wide the roads and spacious the sidewalks are.

Pedestrian and bike-friendly sidewalks.
His and hers.




And you know a place is really photogenic when you're not even inside yet and you're already having your photo taken.

The obligatory tourist shot outside the castle grounds.

The Himeji Castle

The weather was a bit gloomy that day.  But even in the absence blue skies, the castle's beauty stood out.




What's even more fascinating is that during World War II, Himeji was targeted by an air raid by the United States.  767 tons of incendiary bombs were dropped on the city.  None of them ever hit the castle.*

"Himeji Castle (姫路城, Himejijō), also known as White Heron Castle (Shirasagijo) due to its elegant, white appearance, is widely considered Japan's most spectacular castle for its imposing size and beauty and its well preserved, complex castle grounds. The castle is both a national treasure and a world heritage site." (Read more here.)

The way to the castle is like a labyrinth, with every corner a photo opportunity.




TRIVIA
The Himeji Castle has just undergone a five-year restoration and was closed to the public for and was just reopened last April 2015.  The roof tiles were replaced and the outer walls were repainted to restore the castle’s elegant appearance.

The inside of the castle is pretty bare.  And if you're already quite tired from the walk to the entrance, you might be discouraged to go up all six floors to reach the main keep.




The main keep.

But I do encourage you to go on up because you will be rewarded by this view of the city.




Going out, you will be directed to the back exit which will lead you to a huge garden.  From this side, the castle doesn't look quite as imposing but, nevertheless, just as beautiful.




OPERATING HOURS
Hours 9:00 to 17:00 (until 18:00 from late April through August)
Admission ends one hour before closing
Closed December 29 and 30

FEES
Castle only = Y 1,000 (USD 714)
Castle + Kokoen Garden Y 1040 (USD 743)

Around the city

Because we only had one day to go around and it was already raining, we skipped the Kokoen Garden (which is typically visited by tourists in tandem with the Himeji Castle) and went straight to our next stop: the Himeji market.

From the castle, go back to the main road and you may enter the market through the sidewalk (the same sidewalk where the entrance to the underground bicycle parking is located).

If you're buying gifts to bring home, then this is the right place for you.  You will never run out of options with its rows...




And rows...




...and rows of stores selling local trinkets and merchandise.




We even came across this Hello Kity Cafe.





We would've wanted to cover more of the kilometer-long market but our hunger overpowered our desire to shop.  So after buying a couple of items, we settled in at this nice little restaurant and had our fill of Japanese cuisine.





So if you're looking to complete your list of places to visit in Japan, particularly in the Kansai Region, definitely add Himeji in your itinerary.  I also read that this city is very pretty during spring with cherry blossoms beautifying the castle grounds.  And that is my cue to say: We're definitely coming back :)





*https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Himeji,_Hy%C5%8Dgo#History

Comments

  1. Hello, Koryn, nice to see your smiles. This is a wonderul post and guide how to travel around Himeji City and its Castle. Your photos are fantastic as always; I think not so good weather gave a dreamy touch to them to show the gentle and soft aspect of the city. Himeji is about two hours’ train ride from Nara by changing trains. I’d like to return to go up to the top.

    Yoko

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  2. I miss reading your blog posts mother! Buti you have time to update na :)

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  3. I loved the castle! was there some 8 years ago...the best part was our free english-speaking guy, a retired Japanese gentlemen who did an amazing tour with us for few hours, we then invited him for lunch!!! happy u enjoyed it to!

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  4. hi may i ask where do you park the bicycle in the himeji castle and the himeji market? Do you tour around the castle with the bicycle?

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    Replies
    1. Hi Ms Hong! Sorry for the late reply :)

      At the Himeji Castle, there is a designated parking area for bicycles within the premises. At the Himeji market, we had to bring the bike while we explored the market grounds. We actually biked inside the market premises as bikes are allowed to go through.

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  5. Hello! I will visit Himeji soon with some friends, and this entry has been of great help to us. I have a doubt about the bicycle rental, just like Ms Hong. Do we need locks to leave the bicycles during the visit?

    Thank you in advance!

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    Replies
    1. Hi Locke Cole! Sorry for the late reply, I didn't notice the comments notification right away. The bicycles have locks on them so you wouldn't have to worry :)

      Delete

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