For those who love Japanese tradition and history, no trip to Japan would be complete without a stop in Himeji, the home of one of Japan’s most famous castles. Himeji Castle, also nicknamed the White Heron castle due to its color and shape, has not only been designated as a national treasure but is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Due to Himeji’s convenient location along the Sanyo Shinkansen (bullet train), it makes for a fantastic day trip from Osaka or Kyoto. Find out what it’s like to spend a day in Himeji and how to get there!
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- Day Trip to Himeji Itinerary
- Getting to Himeji Castle from Osaka or Kyoto
Day Trip to Himeji Itinerary
Himeji Castle (Himeji-Jo)
If you’ve visited other castles in Japan such as Osaka Castle or Okayama Castle, you’ll find that they’re actually reconstructions of the original castles. While the outside of the castles look the same as they did in old, the insides have been completely remolded to be more like a museum.
However, with Himeji Castle, that isn’t the case. It was never destroyed by war or fire, making it one of the few remaining original castles in Japan. Sure, it has museum like exhibits inside, but the interior still has the feel of a castle.
One of the most surprising things to me was how low the ceilings were when going down steps. I’m only 5ft (152cm) tall and even I had to duck on some of the staircases. I couldn’t help but laugh as I imagined soldiers running through the castle during a time of attack and accidentally knocking their heads on the ceiling when going up and down the staircases.
The side pillars (other parts of the castle) also give spectacular views of the main keep and looked just as spectacular on the inside, so make sure to a lot enough time to explore the entire castle, not just the main keep.
The entrance to the castle is a little more expensive than some of the other castles in Japan, but it was worth it to get the “authentic” Japanese castle feel.
Just a short walk from Himeji Castle is Kokoen Garden. Full of ponds, bridges, stone paths, and traditional Japanese buildings, you’ll find that the beauty of the garden matches the beauty of the nearby castle.
There are several different sections of the garden divided by various walls, making it a great place to just roam and follow whatever path you happen to come across. It’s also a great way to get lost. I found that out the hard way. However, I didn’t mind getting lost in such a beautiful place.
Getting to Himeji Castle from Osaka or Kyoto
Get to Himeji from Osaka
If you have the Japan Rail (JR) Pass, you’ll find it super easy to get to Himeji Station from Osaka Station since the two main train routes are both operated by the Japan Rail company.
The quickest way to get from Osaka to Himeji is to take the shinkansen (bullet train). The Sanyo Shinkansen can be taken from Shin-Osaka station to Himeji station. With the JR Pass, you can ride this shinkansen train for free and arrive in about 30 minutes.
The other option is the JR Tokaido-Sanyo line. This train can be picked up from either Osaka Station or Shin-Osaka station and will arrive at Himeji station in about one hour.
Get to Himeji from Kyoto
The fastest route is by the Sanyo Shinkansen. Of the different bullet trains, the Nozomi (super express) bullet train will get you from Kyoto station to Himeji station the fastest (in about 45 minutes). However, the Nozomi bullet train is not covered by the Japan Rail Pass.
For JR pass holders, your best bet is to take the Kodama (normal/local) bullet train on the Sanyo Shinkansen line to Shin-Osaka station and then transfer to the Sakura (express) bullet train.
The cheaper (but longer) route is by the JR Tokaido-Sanyo line. It takes about an hour and a half to get to Himeji station from Kyoto station, but is about ¥2000 less than the bullet train.
Get to Himeji Castle from Himeji Station
At Himeji station, if you exit out of the center of the station, you’ll find yourself on the main road (Otemae-dori Street) that leads straight to Himeji Castle. It’s about a mile from the station to the castle, which can be walked in about 25 minutes. Alternatively, you can catch a bus and be there in about 15 minutes.