Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Kobe
Population
5,550,742

Himeji Castle

Hyogo Prefecture is home to one of Japan’s most beautiful castles, Himeji Castle. It is such a fantastic example of ancient Japanese architecture, that it often tops lists as one of the must-see sites in Japan.

In fact, it’s one of the Top 3 premier castles in Japan, along with Kumamoto Castle and Matsumoto Castle. Himeji Castle is so cool it has even been a filming location for James Bond! Of course, it not only tops the list for these reasons, but its long-and-interesting history is fun to delve in while visiting the ancient fortress.

Himeji Castle in Hyogo, Japan

Himeji Castle at dusk.

Himeji Castle history

Perched atop a hill in the middle of the town, Himeji Castle’s white exterior and graceful facade have earned it the nickname of “White Heron Castle”, as it resembles a bird taking flight.

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Himeji Castle
Himeyama hill has been the site of Himeji Castle since 1333. Originally a fort built by the samurai Akamatsu Norimura, it was later redesigned as a castle in the late 1300s. By 1581, the feudal lord Totoyomi Hidoyoshi had built a three-story castle keep on the site. In the early 1600s, the great warrior Ikeda Terumasa redeveloped this keep into the large castle complex that can be seen today.

Himeji Castle has since remained standing for over 400 years — which is no small feat, considering that many Japanese castles were destroyed in the Meiji period. It has withstood bombings during World War II, and natural disasters, such as the great Hanshin earthquake in 1995.

In 1993, Himeji Castle was listed as a world heritage site and today can be visited year-round, with only two closing days on the 29th and 30th of December. Plus, after a large-scale restoration completed in 2015, the castle is now more beautiful than ever.

An erial view of Himeji city from Himeji Castle. Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is in the city of Himeji.

Hyogo, Japan – April 3, 2016: aerial view of Himeji city from Himeji castle in Hyogo. Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is in the city of Himeji.

The castle structure

Himeji Castle is the largest castle in Japan, with over 80 original buildings with numerous walkways and courtyards connecting them. Access to the outer bailey, or courtyard, is free to the public. In fact, every spring, the grounds are filled with blooming cherry blossoms and people enjoying hanami (cherry blossom viewing). You must pay to see the inner keep.

Main tower of the Himeji Castle in Japan

The ain tower of Himeji Castle was named a UNESCO world heritage site after restoration and reopening.

Inside the main keep (also known as daitenshu), you can explore all six floors. One of the highlights is the “thousand-mat room” on the first floor, which consists of 300 tatami mats. On this floor, the walls are filled with weapon racks (bugukake in Japanese) where you can admire old guns, matchlocks and spears. Another highlights are the third and fourth floors, with “stone-throwing platforms” (ishiucidana), which warriors used to defend the castle.

Himeji Castle, Hyogo Japan during cherry blossom season.

Take a ride around the moat of Himeji Castle with beautiful cherry blossoms.

Surrounding the castle is a moat, where you can ride in a traditional Edo-period boat, though it is an extra cost. Next to the castle is a traditional Japanese garden, called Kokoen, where you can enjoy a tea ceremony.

Access to the gardens is only ¥40 extra, when you purchase a ticket to Himeji Castle and is well worth checking out. On the weekends, it does it crowded but you may also get to see samurai or two, with volunteers sometimes donning armor and entertaining visitors.

Come to Himeji Castle to experience the largest castle in Japan and to discover the secrets of defensive systems of the feudal period.

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Trivia

Himeji Castle

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Things To Know

Hours and fees

Opening hours vary throughout the year with last access into the inner keep finishing an hour before closing time. From April. 27 to Aug. 31 to 9 a.m to 4 p.m. From Sept. 1 to April 26. to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Closing days are on Dec. 29 and 30. | Ticket price is ¥1000 per adult OR ¥1040 with access to Kokoen.

How To Get There

Address

68 Honmachi, Himeji, Hyōgo Prefecture 670-0012, Japan

By train

Take a JR line from Osaka station or Kyoto station toward Himeji station. The castle will be visible upon exiting Himeji station, however, the walk to the castle takes about 20 minutes.

Himeji station is on the Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen route. From Tokyo station, it takes approximately three hours to reach Himeji station.

By bus

A direct highway bus runs between Himeji station and Osaka International airport (KIX). It takes approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes, and the drop off/pick up point is near Himeji station.

From Himeji station, take any bus departing from stops 6, 7, 3, 9 or 10. All these buses will stop at Himeji Castle, with announcements made in English for when you should get off.

Alternatively, a castle loop bus is available, stopping at Himeji Castle, as well as museums in the area. It costs ¥100 per ride. You can also buy a ¥300 all-day pass. Riding this bus allows you a 20 percent discount on tickets to Himeji Castle and Kokoen Garden.

Where To Stay

Engakudo
  • Yanagi-machi 8-2 Himeji-Shi, Hyogo 670-0023
  • 8.1/10
  • 0.4 km
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Tsukino Akari (Adult Only)
  • Yamanoi-cho 108 月のあかり Himeji-Shi, Hyogo 670-0021
  • 8.3/10
  • 0.6 km
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Himeji 588 Guest House
  • Honmachi 68 Honmachi Shopping Avenue Himeji-Shi, Hyogo 670-0012
  • 8.2/10
  • 0.7 km
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Hotel Wing International Himeji
  • Wata-Machi 132 Himeji-Shi, Hyogo 670-0921
  • 8.1/10
  • 0.8 km
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