Himeji Castle Tour: Ish Meets Japan

If you’re flying to Japan to enjoy the cherry blossoms, Himeji is one place that you need to squeeze into your itinerary. Also known as the White Heron Castle, the beautiful white structure is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is the largest and most popular castle in all of Japan.

The castle can be reached via train from Osaka, which is a good home base if you are exploring the picturesque Kansai region (Osaka, Kyoto, Kobe, Mie, Nara, Wakayama, Hyōgo, Shiga).

Read Also:  Kyoto Cherry Blossom Tour Guide 

Upon exiting the station, one can see the Himeji Castle looming over the entire area. With hardly any other buildings around, the beautiful castle dominates the skyline even from a kilometer away. Heading from the station to the castle grounds is a pleasant walk through vibrant shopping stalls and restaurants.

The Castle looms over the skyline as tourists explore the town
Saw this cute Hello Kitty Cafe on the way to Himeji Castle
Tried the udon soup in this low-key joint and was totally floored! Great value for money and extremely yummy!
Food stalls selling giant yakitori, okonomiyaki, takoyaki and other street food can be enjoyed just outside the castle grounds.

While the place will likely be crowded, the massive expanse of the castle grounds will always leave some space to relax and enjoy the scenery.

As you approach the castle, the sheer size of the grounds will become apparent. Once you cross the bridge to access one of the gates, you will see that the castle is still far away. Don’t fret, The garden is as much of an experience as the castle itself.

Tourists crossing the moat via a bridge that leads to the gates.
Cherry blossoms all over the gardens.
Even the ground is awash with flower petals.

The garden surrounding the castle will be full of cherry blossoms. The ground itself will be littered with fallen flower petals. If you got tired from walking up from the station, join the tourists who sit down for a small picnic before or after exploring the main castle keep.

The best way to photograph the majestic castle is also from afar, just inside the castle gates. From here, You can capture the beauty of the stark white structure and frame it with the beautiful cherry blossoms.

Closer to the main keep, you will need to join a fairly fast moving queue. This line goes around the many defensive twists and turns leading up to the castle. There will be moats, steep walls and narrow walkways that were designed to deter enemies who are trying to invade the castle.

The main gate leading up to the castle keep.
Narrow walkways leading up to the castle.
Tourists in queue for a chance to enter the main keep.

Once inside, the tour takes you through the restored interior. There isn’t much furniture inside since much of the space is taken up by the walkways for tourists.

The building shows traditional tatami rooms used even by Japanese Royalty. Despite the intricacy of the exterior, the interior of the castle is fairly underwhelming. However,  top windows offer breathtaking views of the grounds.

View fro the top floor of Himeji Castle

Once you exit the main keep, there is a small courtyard at the back where you can relax and enjoy the view up close to the structure.

View from the back.

After your tour, you can continue to explore the castle grounds. It’s also time to enjoy the stalls outside which sell traditional Japanese street food. The colorful souvenir shops along the streets make it a pleasant stroll to and from the castle.

Kids enjoying the stalls outside the gates.
Shopping arcade spanning the length of the street from the station to the castle.
Tourists taking photos

Train Acces:
1. Shinkansen — 30 to 45 minutes (Shin-Osaka Station) Fare: 3130 yen
2. JR Special Rapid train — 1 hour (direct access from Osaka/Umeda) / Fare: 1490 yen
3. Hanshin-Sanyo Railway Limited Express from Umeda — 95 minutes /  Fare 1280 yen

Entrance Fees:
1000 yen (castle only)
1040 yen (castle and nearby Kokoen Garden)

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