Himeji’s main advantage for visitors is its size, quite small, and the location of its main attractions, all relatively close to the train station. This small city, the second most populated of the prefecture with its 530,000 inhabitants, is recognized for its castle looking like a magnificent white heron.
Even if the castle’s popularity weights much more 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 of Himeji, between the Chogoku mountains in the North and the Seto Sea in the South.
On the road from the train station and the castle, many arcades and stores spread, 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, usually quite expensive.
Kokoen garden can be visited at the same time as the feudal structure, as it is located right next door. Made 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 few minutes away from the castle by foot, the Fine Arts museum can be recognized by its building, a former military compound with red brick walls, and renowned for its contemporary arts, 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 last floor.
By going outside of the city, on the North East of the train station and up on a hill, Nagoyama cemetery also offers a beautiful panoramic view on Himeji. It is home to a 38 meters 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, Mount Shosha climbing ends up on the magnificent Engyo-ji temple, yet not very known from 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 might taste 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$ 265)
How long / when to visit
Plan a whole day
Pleasant all year round, ideal during cherry blossoms season