Kansai’s Little Feudal City
Himeji is a small city of Hyogo prefecture, located in the Kansai region, 60 kilometers west of Kobe. Its marvelous white castle recently renovated is famous for being one of the last wooden castles on the archipelago. It is the major attraction of this this touristic destination.
Himeji’s main advantages for visitors are its small size and the location of its main attractions, all within walking distance from the train 🚅 station.
A city dominated by an original castle
This small city is the second most populated in the prefecture with 530,000 inhabitants and is renowned for Himeji-jo, its original great castle 🏯 that reminds of a magnificent white heron and is one of the most beautiful authentic castles of Japan.
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 can be interesting to spend a full day in discovery of the other charming places in Himeji, between Chugoku mountains in the north and Seto Inland Sea in the south.
Nice additional visits at the foot of the keep
Shopping arcades and stores spread along the way from the train station to the castle, including Miyuki Dori shopping street, in a similar fashion as in other large cities of Japan such as Osaka or Hiroshima. Some boutiques are local, but most are souvenir stores selling the same items throughout, and usually at a quite expensive price.
Kokoen garden can be visited at the same time as the feudal structure, as it is located right next to it. 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’ walk from the castle, the Himeji City Museum of Arts displays the characteristic architecture of a former military compound with red brick walls. It is renowned for its contemporary art exhibitions, including artworks from France and Belgium. Amateurs can continue their visit towards Himeji City Museum of Literature, in a quiet neighborhood, which features an observatory on its upper floor with a view on the city.
On the heights of the city
Walking towards the outer limits of the city, on the north-east of the train station, Nagoyama Buddhist Cemetery, spreading up on a hill, offers a beautiful panoramic view on Himeji. It is home to a 38-meter-high Buddhist tower, which can be seen from the surroundings. This tower with religious meaning is a stupa, in other words a dome structure sheltering some of Buddha’s ashes. The latter where offered by India as a symbol of peace.
Up north, the climb on Mount Shosha leads to the magnificent Engyo-ji temples complex. Not widely known among foreign tourists yet, the place still retains a mystical and relaxing atmosphere enjoyed by those taking a break there.
Himeji is often used as a historical setting for filming Japanese and foreign movies. At the close of day, we recommend tasting a local sake 🍶, a specialty of the city.