There are many castles in Japan but only 12 castles that are considered “original” and Himeji Castle is one of them also the most beautiful castle in Japan. Anyone who is visiting Kansai – Hiroshima region should include Himeji in Hyogo Prefecture.
From Osaka to Himeji took about an hour and a half by car and by Shinkansen, it takes 30-40 mins. We are on our way to Hiroshima and we made a detour to Himeji to check out the icon of the city, the Himeji Castle. We parked our car near the train station and the “shotengai”/shopping streets of Himeji.
If you are taking the train, you will see Himeji Castle once you come out of the station. It can be seen from afar as it is located in the hilltop.
Walk along Otemaedori street as it is the main street of Himeji town and as you walk towards the castle, the castle appears to look bigger. Both of the sidewalks are wide for pedestrians so it is pretty comfortable to walk.
As you walk you can see some interesting bronze statues created by the leading sculptors of Japan.
During my visit, there is a festival for the special kids in the square of Otemaedori Street.
White Heron Castle
Himeji Castle is voted as one of the most beautiful castles in Japan as the whole building is in white color, pretty unique. It also has another name called White Heron Castle due to its color and perches on the edge of the situated location just like a heron.
At the entrance, there are some bonsai plants.
Autumn Flower in Japan – chrysanthemums
In autumn you get to see the flower of this season displaying everywhere; at the temples & castle entrance, chrysanthemums are one of the common flowers which represent autumn.
Original Main Pillars
Some of the original main pillars which were made from Japanese cypress.
- Adult 1000yen (USD 9.10) & Children 300yen (USD2.70)
- Including garden: Adult 1040 yen (USD9.45) & Children 360yen (USD3.30) You may want to add in a little more fees to see the Japanese garden.
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Himeji Castle was the first in Japan to be registered as a UNESCO Cultural World Heritage in 1993 as well as designated as a National Treasure in 1951.
The roof was printed with beautiful details such as flowers & butterfly print.
The interior of the castle is made from wood including the wooden floor so visitors are not allowed to wear shoes to walk on the wooden floor. Visitors are given a plastic bag to hold shoes and walk around with the plastic bag.
Must Visit Castle in Japan
As you can see, it is very crowded especially during public holiday and weekends as this is one of the must-visit castles in Japan.
On top of the rooftop of some temples or castle, you can usually spot Shachihoko 鯱鉾 or shachi 鯱 is an animal in Japanese folklore with the head of a tiger and the body of a carp. It was believed that this animal could cause the rain to fall so it protects the building from fire. I have also seen a pair of Shachihoko (fishtails in gold) at the Todaiji temple in Nara.
Beautiful Skyline at the top of the castle
There are stairs to the highest point of the castle and the staircase can be very narrow and steep. At the top, you will be rewarded with the beautiful skyline of Himeji city.
Himeji Castle has never experienced any damage
Most castle I have visited has been experiencing some sort of damage such as fire and earthquakes but Himeji Castle has never experienced any severe damage from the natural disasters which is quite unusual.
James Bond Movie – You Only Live Twice
Himeji Castle is also the movie scene for James Bond Movie, “You Only Live Twice” released in 1967. In the film, Bond visits the castle which houses a ninja training center but in real life, the castle is a tourist destination. You also spot some tourists dress in ninja costumes for free photo shoots.
Japanese famous director Akira Kurosawa also shoot a few of his films here; “Ran” and “Kagemusha”.
Another interesting feature of Himeji Castle is it has a unique defense that many other Japanese castles do not have. That path maze to the main keep has many “dead ends” as this is to prevent the attackers from entering.