Himeji’s main advantages for visitors are its small size and the location of its main attractions, which are all relatively close to the train station. This small city is the second most populated of the prefecture with 530,000 inhabitants, and is recognized for its castle that looks like a magnificent white heron.
Even if the castle’s popularity holds much more weight than the rest of the city among tourists, and even more since its renovation in 2015, it is more interesting to spend a full day there to discover other charming places in Himeji, between Chogoku mountains in the north and the Seto Sea in the south.
On the road from the train station and the castle, there are many arcades and stores spread throughout, including Miyuki Dori commercial street, similar to those seen in big cities of Japan such as Osaka or Hiroshima. Some boutiques are local, but most are souvenir stores with the same items from one to another, and usually quite expensive.
Kokoen garden can be visited at the same time as the feudal structure, as it is located right next door. Consisting of 9 Japanese gardens, the promenade can be enjoyed on a total of 8.5 acres of greenery, perfectly cut and maintained since its public opening in 1992.
Only a few minutes away from the castle by foot, the Fine Arts Museum can be recognized by its architecture, a former military compound with red brick walls, and renowned for its contemporary art, including from France and Belgium. Amateurs can continue their visit towards the literature center of Himeji, in a quiet neighborhood, which has the peculiar attraction of an observatory on its upper floor.
By going outside of the city, on the northeast of the train station and up on a hill, Nagoyama cemetery offers a beautiful panoramic view on Himeji. It is home to a 38 meter high Buddhist tower, which can be seen from the surroundings and is, from a religious point of view, a stupa (rock dome home of Buddha ashes). These latter where offered by India as a symbol of peace.
Up north, climbing Mount Shosha ends on the magnificent Engyo-ji temple, which is not very wel-known to foreign tourists, and therefore still mystical and relaxing for those taking a break there. Himeji is often used as a historical place for filming Japanese and foreign movies. At the end of the day, we recommend tasting a local sake, a specialty of the city.
How to get to Himeji
By JR train:
- from Kyoto, less than an hour (Shinkansen)
- from Osaka, a good hour ("special rapid")
- from Shin-Osaka, half an hour (Shinkansen)
- from Kobe, a quarter of an hour (Shinkansen)
- from Hiroshima, one hour (Shinkansen) with a change in Okayama
Location reachable with the JRP : order your Japan Rail Pass (from ~US$ 271)
How long / when to visit
Plan a whole day
Pleasant all year round, ideal during cherry blossoms season