Himeji Castle is one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites in Japan and is a must see if you are travelling around the Kansai region. Himeji Castle was one of my optional half day trips that I had on my list while staying in Osaka and I’m glad I decided to go, it’s not often you get to experience history by walking through an original castle from the Feudal period.
How to get to Himeji Castle
My plan was to arrive early to beat the crowd as I only had half a day to spend here before I have to leave to my lunch reservation in Kobe. I ensured I had a Shinkansen reservation made the day before as the seats could sell out on busy dates. The train ride only took 30 minutes from Shin-Osaka station to Himeji Station, and the walk to the entrance of Himeji Castle from the station was an easy straight path that took roughly 30 mins.
Leaving the station, you can already see the massive castle towering in the background of the busy street. You know you are close when you cross a bridge that runs over the outer moat of the castle.
The entrance gates is further in across a large field within the outer walls. This is a great time for a photo opportunity as you get a clear shot of the castle. This is also the nearest you can get to the castle without paying any money.
I decided to get the tickets that combine the Himeji Castle entrance and the Koko-en Garden right beside it, as it was only a little more money. As soon as you enter the castle, you are required to remove your shoes into provided plastic bags and wear “booties” on your feet. This makes sense as they do not want to dirty the inside of the castle as it’s one of the very few castles left in Japan that is still the original and not re-constructed like Osaka Castle. Be careful not to slip while you walk up the steep stairs!
The castle has multiple floors, with each floor serving a different purpose – I advise everyone to read the signs on each floor to learn the history of the castle and why each floor is special. I really enjoyed the authenticity while walking through the castle, you can really sense the history of the castle and how people lived back then. Also the view of Himeji city was beautiful from the highest floor of the castle.
Eventually you will go back down the stairs to the first floor, put on your shoes, and walk back outside to the courtyard where you can capture a very picturesque view of the castle
After taking hundreds of pictures, we decided its time to head back out and go to the Koko-en Garden. The garden entrance is not connected to Himeji Castle, you will have to head back out to the main street and walk 5 minutes west.
Koko-en Garden is beauitful! One of the best maintained gardens that I have ever seen. You can take a picture from any angle and it will still end up being postcard worthy. We spent an hour in this garden as there are different areas to visit, each having it’s own unique theme. The best is still the first area with the big pond, but the other areas are worth checking out quickly if you have time.
In total, we spent around 4 hours of the morning visiting Himeji Castle and Koko-en Garden. It was definitely worth the side trip and I highly suggest visiting Himeji Castle if you have half a day to spare.